J12.5 Gaseous nitrogen emissions from Australian cattle feedlots

Thursday, 31 May 2012: 4:45 PM
Press Room (Omni Parker House)
O. T. Denmead, The University of Melbourne, Canberra, ACT, Australia; and D. Chen, D. Rowell, Z. Loh, D. W. T. Griffith, T. Naylor, M. Bai, and S. McGinn

Abstract Agriculture ranks second to stationary energy as a source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia accounting for 16.3% of the national total. It is the main contributor of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). The national inventory notes that the present growth in N2O emissions in Australia is driven in part by increased emissions from the manure of intensively managed livestock. At any one time, 2.4 % of Australia's beef cattle are raised intensively in feedlots. Here, we report emissions from feedlots of the direct greenhouse gas N2O and the indirect greenhouse gases, ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Line-averaged concentrations of N2O and NH3 in the feedlots were measured continuously in campaigns of approximately 10 days in summer and winter at two feedlots in each of 2007 and 2008, using open–path laser systems and an open-path Fourier transform infrared spectrometer. In 2008, the summer campaign at one feedlot was extended for a further 6 months through autumn and winter by using a closed path chemiluminescence analyser to measure concentrations of NH3 and NOx. Emissions of the various gases were inferred through a software package, WindTrax (Thunder Beach Scientific), which simulates trajectories of “particles” backwards from the sensor using a backward Lagrangian stochastic dispersion model. Fluxes are calculated from the numbers of particle touchdowns inside and outside the source area.

The overall mean of the N2O emissions and its standard deviation were 1.30 ± 1.65 kg N2O-N/ha.d. The corresponding figures for NH3 were 95 ± 36 kg NH3-N/ha.d, and for NOx, 1.20 ± 0.58 kg NOx-N/ha.d. Mosier et al. (1998) suggest that about 1 % of the NH3 and NOx released into the atmosphere is eventually converted to N2O after deposition. Using that figure and the above emission data, we estimate a net contribution of N2O to the atmosphere from Australian cattle feedlots through emissions of NH3, NOx and N2O itself of 0.42 Mt CO2-e, 75 % of which comes from the indirect greenhouse gases NH3 and NOx. These direct and indirect N2O emissions are substantial, more than 60% in terms of CO2-e of the emissions of CH4 from feedlots. Further whole-year studies are needed. As well, the ecological impact of the 99% of the deposited N remaining after emission as NH3 and NOx requires investigation.

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