The nitrogen economy of rice-livestock systems in Uruguay

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Castillo, J., Kirk, G. J. D., Rivero, M. J., Dobermann, A. and Haefele, S. M. 2021. The nitrogen economy of rice-livestock systems in Uruguay. Global Food Security. 30 (September), p. 100566.

AuthorsCastillo, J., Kirk, G. J. D., Rivero, M. J., Dobermann, A. and Haefele, S. M.

Over many decades there has been a global trend away from mixed farming and integrated crop-livestock systems to more-intensive single commodity systems. This has distorted local and global nutrient balances, resulting in environmental pollution as well as soil nutrient depletion. Future food systems should include integrated crop-livestock systems with tight nutrient budgets. For nitrogen (N), detailed understanding of processes, fluxes – including of gaseous forms – and budgets at a component level is needed to design productive systems with high N use efficiency (NUE) across the full nutrient chain. In Uruguay, a unique rice-livestock system has been practiced for over 50 years, attaining a high production level for rice (mean grain yields > 8 Mg ha 1) and an average level for livestock (120 kg liveweight gain ha 1 y1). The aim of this study was to quantify the components
of the N balance and NUE of this system, so as to understand its long-term sustainability, and draw conclusions for other regions. Analysis of country-level statistics for each component over the last 16 years shows tight N balances of +3.49, +2.20 and +2.22 kg N ha 1 yr 1 for rice, livestock and the whole system, respectively. Based on average values of N retained in edible food products, NUE values were 65.7, 13.2 and 23.1% for rice, livestock and the whole system, respectively. While NUE of livestock was unchanged over the period, NUE of the rice component decreased due to increasing fertiliser use. Further gains in N efficiency are possible by better integrating the system components. Actions to increase system level NUE include raising pasture and livestock
productivity and controlling the increasing use of N fertilisers in rice. Tightly integrated crop-livestock systems can play a significant role in re-shaping global agriculture towards meeting food security, environmental and
socioeconomic sustainability targets.

KeywordsAgricultural systems ; Crop-livestock ; Full nutrient chain ; Nitrogen balance ; Nitrogen use efficiency
Year of Publication2021
JournalGlobal Food Security
Journal citation30 (September), p. 100566
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 1 (WP1) - Optimising nutrient flows and pools in the soil-plant-biota system
S2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 2 (WP2) - Adaptive management systems for improved efficiency and nutritional quality
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
OnlineAug 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted30 Jul 2021
PublisherElsevier Science Bv

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