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Application of N fertilizer to sugarcane mulches: Consequences for the dynamics of mulch decomposition and CO2 and N2O fluxes

Kyulavski V., Recous S., Garnier P., Paillat J.M., Thuriès L.. 2019. BioEnergy Research, 12 (3) : p. 484-496.

Using organic fertilizers on sugarcane mulches is a potentially interesting substitute for mineral fertilization in terms of economic and environmental impacts. However, no general agreement exists regarding the short-term effect of combining mulching and organic fertilization on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Therefore, we studied different mixtures in the field by combining two amounts of sugarcane mulch (5 and 10 Mg ha-1) with different N fertilizers (urea, pig slurry, and digested sewage sludge). We measured CO2 and N2O emissions shortly after application of the mixtures (0¿14 days) and the mulch decomposition dynamics from 0 to 120 days after application. We hypothesized that the relative amount of N to C modifies the decomposition dynamics and GHG fluxes. The emitted N2O-N and CO2-C were measured using static chambers. Mulch-C decomposition was measured using litterbags. Our results showed that the proportion of mulch-C remaining on the soil on day 120 was not altered by either the type of N fertilizer or the mulch amount. On a shorter time scale (0¿49 days), the different N treatments affected the mulch-C and mulch-N losses and the C:N ratios, indicating a transient interaction between the dynamics of the mulch and the added N. The intensity of N2O-N emission was ranked as pig slurry > urea > digested sewage sludge, underscoring the effect of the physical form of N fertilizer. This work highlights the need to jointly study carbon and nitrogen dynamics and consider both soil carbon and gas emissions to assess the GHG balances of sugarcane farming practices.

Thématique : Fertilisation; Pollution; Chimie et physique du sol

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