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Spring-thaw represents a significant source for nitrous oxide (NO) emissions from fertilized croplands in temperate regions. In this study, we present surface NO fluxes, soil-profile NO concentrations at 5, 15, 30 and 60 cm depths along with the abundance of nitrifiers and denitrifiers over the winter and spring-thaw periods in an arid, drip- fertigated cotton field, which had received spring application of 240 kg N ha as urea alone (Urea), polymer-coated urea (ESN), and urea plus urease and nitrification inhibitors. Nitrous oxide emissions from December to April were generally unaffected by fertilizer treatments with a cumulative average of 186 g N ha, accounting for 39% of the annual NO emissions. Emission peaks occurred at spring-thaw and coincided with increasing soil-profile NO concentrations at all depths, suggesting the burst in NO fluxes was due to new NO production, rather than a physical release of NO trapped in the soil profiles over winter. The abundance of nitrifier and denitrifier genes changed over the winter and spring-thaw periods but was not affected by fertilizer treatments from the previous spring, suggesting the abundance of NO-producing microorganism was more controlled by environmental conditions than N sources applied in the previous spring. The daily NO flux rate from December to April was positively correlated with soil temperature, water-filled pore space, and denitrifying enzyme activity, but not with the gene copy number of AOA, AOB, narG, nirS, nirK and nosZ, indicating that variation in the abundance of these genes was not contributing to the NO emissions. These results suggest that NO emissions in spring-thaw are substantial for drip-fertigated croplands in the arid regions and should be considered in the annual budgets. The environmental factors such as soil temperature and moisture are likely more important than the copy-numbers of NO-producing functional genes in driving the variability in spring-thaw emissions.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: The Science of the total environment
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