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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Combination of cattle urine and dung patches synergically increased nitrous oxide emissions from a temperate grassland under wet conditions

Lombardi, Banira; Alvarado, Patricia Inés; Ricci, Patricia; Buraschi, Lucía María; Viduzzi, Gabriel; Palladino, Rafael Alejandro; Gonda, Horacio; Juliarena, Maria Paula


During grazing, some of the nutrients ingested by cattle are returned to grassland as urine and dung patches and can be lost as greenhouse gases. Sites where cattle congregate are more likely to have overlapping excreta patches favouring enhanced nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. However, there is no consensus about the magnitude of these or simultaneous methane (CH4) emissions or potential mitigation options. This study investigated the effect of combined cattle dung and urine depositions on N2O and CH4 emissions, compared with emissions from separate depositions, under different weather conditions. Local emission factors (EFs) were then calculated for both gases. A quantitative assessment of published studies was also performed to search for N2O emissions drivers. Two field experiments were performed during two 98-day trials under dry and wet conditions in Tandil, Argentina. Treatments included fresh excreta patches of urine (0.75 L), dung (2.50 kg), dung + urine (2.50 kg + 0.75 L) from Holstein dairy cows, and a control (without excreta). Soil and excreta properties were analysed, and N2O and CH4 fluxes from the patches were measured using the static chamber technique. Patches containing dung were shown to be localised CH4 hotspots. Urine applied to soil, and the addition of urine to dung patches had a negligible effect on CH4 fluxes. Urine, dung and combined patches were found to be localised N2O sources. Adding urine to dung patches under wet weather had a significant synergetic effect (threefold increase) on cumulative N2O emissions compared with the theoretical sum of separate excreta patches. Adding urine to dung patches under dry conditions gave an additive effect on N2O. These findings suggest that preventing overlapping excreta patches under wet conditions can help mitigate N2O emissions from temperate managed grazed pastures. The effect of combining excreta patches was also evident in the EF values obtained. That for CH4 was consistent with the default IPCC value (0.75 g CH4 kg−1 VS), while N2O (EF = 0.03–0.39%) was lower than the updated IPCC 2019 value of 0.6%.


Dairy cattle; Grazing cattle; Emission factor; Static chamber; Methane; Excreta

Published in

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
2022, Volume: 340, article number: 108147

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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