Enhanced-efficiency fertilizers are not a panacea for resolving the nitrogen problem

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Li, T., Zhang, W., Yin, J., Chadwick, D. R., Norse, D., Lu, Y., Liu, X., Chen, X., Zhang, F., Powlson, D. S. and Dou, Z. 2018. Enhanced-efficiency fertilizers are not a panacea for resolving the nitrogen problem. Global Change Biology. 24 (2), pp. e511-e521.

AuthorsLi, T., Zhang, W., Yin, J., Chadwick, D. R., Norse, D., Lu, Y., Liu, X., Chen, X., Zhang, F., Powlson, D. S. and Dou, Z.
Abstract

Abstract Improving nitrogen (N) management for greater agricultural output while minimizing unintended environmental consequences is critical in the endeavor of feeding the growing population sustainably amid climate change. Enhanced-efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) have been developed to better synchronize fertilizer N release with crop uptake, offering the potential for enhanced N use efficiency (NUE) and reduced losses. Can EEFs play a significant role in helping address the N management challenge? Here we present a comprehensive analysis of worldwide studies published in 1980–2016 evaluating four major types of EEFs (polymer-coated fertilizers PCF, nitrification inhibitors NI, urease inhibitors UI, and double inhibitors DI, i.e. urease and nitrification inhibitors combined) regarding their effectiveness in increasing yield and NUE and reducing N losses. Overall productivity and environmental efficacy depended on the combination of EEF type and cropping systems, further affected by biophysical conditions. Best scenarios include: (i) DI used in grassland (n = 133), averaging 11% yield increase, 33% NUE improvement, and 47% decrease in aggregated N loss (sum of NO3-, NH3, and N2O, totaling 84 kg N/ha); (ii) UI in rice-paddy systems (n = 100), with 9% yield increase, 29% NUE improvement, and 41% N-loss reduction (16 kg N/ha). EEF efficacies in wheat and maize systems were more complicated and generally less effective. In-depth analysis indicated that the potential benefits of EEFs might be best achieved when a need is created, for example, by downward adjusting N application from conventional rate. We conclude that EEFs can play a significant role in sustainable agricultural production but their prudent use requires firstly eliminating any fertilizer mismanagement plus the implementation of knowledge-based N management practices.

Year of Publication2018
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Journal citation24 (2), pp. e511-e521
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1111/gcb.13918
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
NERC - Natural Environment Research Council - Centre for Ecology Hydrology - CEH
Funder project or codeUK - China Virtual Joint Centre for Improved Nitrogen Agronomy (CINAG)
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online03 Oct 2017
Publication process dates
Accepted21 Sep 2017
PublisherWiley
Copyright licensePublisher copyright
Grant IDBB/N013468/1
ISSN1354-1013

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