Modelling ammonia losses after field application of biogas slurry in energy crop rotations

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Over the past few years the number of biogas slurries, which are generally used as nitrogen fertilisers, have seen a steady increase in Germany. A mechanistic ammonia volatilisation model was developed to predict the ammonia losses of these slurries when applied to bare soil, maize, wheat and rye grass canopies. Data for model development were collected from several field measurements carried out at two locations in Northern Germany between the years of 2007 and 2008. Additionally, the behaviour of the slurries on and in the soil was investigated through the use of infiltration pot experiments. The model includes three main compartments: slurry, atmosphere and soil. The soil compartment model is relatively simple, as the slurry infiltration, nitrification and ploughing dislocation into the soil determined in the experiments showed quantitatively no significant differences between the tested slurries (mono-fermented, co-fermented and pig slurry) and soils (sand soil and loamy sand). Hence, instead of a complex soil model, stable reduction factors, as derived from the experiments, were implemented in the model. Simulated ammonia emissions were statistically compared (root mean square error (RMSE), modelling efficiency (ME), linear regression) to the observed emissions. All evaluations showed an acceptable model performance (RMSE=1.80 kg N ha -1), although there were a few number of anomalies which could not be modelled in an adequate way. A model sensitivity analysis showed that temperature and slurry pH value are the main drivers of NH 3 volatilization in the model. Following a change of +1°C or of +0.1 pH unit ammonia volatilization will increase by about 1% and 1.6% of the applied total ammoniacal nitrogen, respectively. We were able to show that a simple model approach could explain most factors of ammonia volatilization in biogas crop rotations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)29-47
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2012