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Evaluation of a Simple, Small-Plot Meteorological Technique for Measurement of Ammonia Emission: Feasibility, Costs, and Recommendations

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

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 61(1): 103-115. (doi: 10.13031/trans.12445) @2018
Authors:   Simon Vilms Pedersen, Ester Scotto di Perta, Sasha D. Hafner, Andreas S. Pacholski, Sven G. Sommer
Keywords:   ALPHA samplers, Ammonia emission, AbLS, bLS method, DTM method, IHF method, Labor cost, Passive ammonia samplers, Wind tunnels.

Abstract.

Ammonia emission reduces the reliability and nitrogen (N) fertilizer efficiency of animal manure and mineral fertilizers applied to fields. The loss of ammonia to the atmosphere is frequently compensated for by costly over-application of N fertilizers. New technologies to reduce ammonia emission are regularly developed, and their efficacy needs to be tested using accurate methods. To date, a major obstacle to many available emission measurement techniques is the requirement of large plot sizes of homogeneous surface characteristics, which particularly is a challenge to the number of plot-level replicates that can be carried out on a field providing uniform surface characteristics throughout. The objectives of this research were to test three different methods for measuring NH3 flux when applied to small plots (<315 m2) by comparison with conventional micrometeorological methods and to determine the labor intensity and expenses related to the respective methods in their entirety. The integrated horizontal flux (IHF) method and the ZINST method were used with passive flux Leuning samplers as micrometeorological reference methods. As examples of conventional small-plot emission measurement techniques, wind tunnels measuring gas-phase ammonia using ALPHA passive diffusion samplers and a flux chamber method using Dräger tubes for measurements of ammonia concentration (DTM) were used. As an inexpensive alternative small-plot method, we studied the feasibility of applying ALPHA passive diffusion samplers and battery-driven cup anemometers at ZINST height on small source areas (<315 m2), coupled with a backward Lagrangian stochastic (bLS) dispersion model to calculate emission fluxes (referred to as the AbLS method). When exposure duration was appropriate and weather conditions were not extreme, tests showed no significant difference in NH3 emission fluxes measured with AbLS, compared to those obtained with IHF and ZINST using Leuning samplers. However, the AbLS method did not give reliable emission measurements in periods with high wind speeds and heavy rain. It was also shown that the AbLS method provided valid results when reducing the plot radius from the standard 20 m to 10 m, or even 5 m, provided that the ALPHA samplers were exposed for at least 5 or 6 h. Emission from 200 kg urea-N ha-1 was between 20 and 30 kg N ha-1 in the two trials. The cost for one study running for one week using the ZINST or bLS methodology, including equipment for four plots and eight measurement intervals, was $2785 if horizontal fluxes were measured using the ALPHA samplers, compared to $12,301 using the Leuning samplers and $13,928 using gas washing bottles. Using the DTM flux chamber method once is a little more expensive than using the AbLS method, but less expensive if the cost of purchasing the equipment is distributed over five studies in five years. Using wind tunnels is as costly as measuring emissions with the Leuning samplers or gas washing bottles using the bLS or ZINST method.

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