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Toward Modeling of Nitrous Oxide Emissions Following Precipitation, Urine, and Feces Deposition on Beef Cattle Feedyard Surfaces

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 63(5): 1371-1384. (doi: 10.13031/trans.13847) @2020
Authors:   David B. Parker, Kenneth D. Casey, Kristin E. Hales, Heidi M. Waldrip, Byeng Min, Erin L. Cortus, Bryan L. Woodbury, Mindy Spiehs, Beverly Meyer, William Willis
Keywords:   Beef cattle, Greenhouse gas, Manure, Nitrous oxide, Urine, Precipitation.


Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas emitted from feedyard pen surfaces.

Experiments were conducted to quantify nitrous oxide emissions from precipitation, urine, and feces.

Nitrous oxide emissions from urine were about 30% of those from equal amounts of precipitation.

Regression equations were developed for empirical modeling of emissions.

Abstract. The amount of moisture deposited annually as urine (~320 mm) and feces (~95 mm) on typical semi-arid Texas beef cattle feedyard pens is considerable compared to the regional 470 mm mean annual precipitation. Precipitation is a primary factor affecting nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from manure, but specific effects of urine and feces deposition are unknown. The objectives of this research were to (1) quantify N2O emissions following precipitation, urine, and feces deposition on a dry feedyard manure surface, and (2) develop equations for future empirical modeling of these emissions. Four experiments (Exp.) were conducted using recirculating flux chambers to quantify N2O emissions. Exp. 1 had treatments (TRT) of water (W), artificial urine (AU), and two urines collected from beef cattle fed high-quality forage (FU) or corn-based concentrate (CU). Exp. 2 had TRT of W, AU, and two feces levels (Fx1 and Fx2). In Exp. 3, N2O emissions were quantified from fresh feces pats. In Exp. 4, the effect of rainfall pH on N2O emissions was evaluated. Results from Exp. 1 showed that the W TRT had the highest mean cumulative N2O emission, while AU, FU, and CU ranged from 31.0% to 70.0% of W on an equal volume-applied basis. There was little correlation between N2O emissions and urine or water nitrogen (N) content. In Exp. 2, W again had the highest cumulative N2O. Cumulative N2O emissions expressed per unit of water added were 29.0, 3.8, 4.5, and 5.1 mg N kg-1 water added for W, AU, Fx1, and Fx2, respectively. In Exp. 3, fresh feces pats emitted no direct N2O, but N2O originated from the dry manure beneath the feces pat due to wetting. In Exp. 4, the highest N2O emissions occurred at pH 5 and pH 8, with lower emissions at pH 6 and pH 7. This research has shown that the addition of moisture to the pen surface from urine and feces contributes considerably to N2O emissions as compared to precipitation alone. The following recommendations were developed for future empirical modeling purposes: (1) N2O emissions from urine should be calculated as 32.7% of those emissions from the equivalent mass deposition of water, and (2) N2O emissions resulting from the mass of water in feces should be calculated as 15.6% of those emissions from the equivalent mass deposition of water.

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