A simple model for assessing ammonia emission from ammoniacal fertilisers as affected by pH and injection into soil

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Atmospheric Environment, Volume 42, p.4656-4664 (2008)




Ammonia (NH3) volatilisation following the application of ammoniacal fertilisers and liquid manure to agricultural land is a significant source of atmospheric NH3, which not only poses a risk to the environment, but may also result in a loss of plant available nitrogen (N). This study examined the potential for reducing NH3 emission through acidifying an ammoniacal solution and by injecting the solution. The combination of the two technologies was studied and a model for predicting the most optimal treatment was developed. In the laboratory, ammonium (NH4 +) hydroxide (aqueous NH3) was dissolved in water (pH 11) and injected into a loamy sand soil. The NH3 emission was measured with a dynamic chamber technology. Injecting the solution to 10mm below the soil surface reduced NH3 emission by 10% compared to surface application, and injection to 30mm reduced emission by 20% compared to surface application. Acidifying the ammoniacal solution by adding sulphuric acid and reducing pH to 10 reduced the emission by 60% at a 10mm injection depth and 90% at 30mm compared with non-acidified and surface-spread ammoniacal solution. The results show that there is an important interaction of pH and injection depth and that there is a need for models predicting a combined effect. This type of model could contribute to reduce cost and energy (traction force) by providing the optimal combination of acidifying and injection depth that gives a specific reduction in NH3 emission, which in this study was reducing pH to 10 and inject the fertiliser to 30mm below surface. This study showed that relatively simple models can predict the NH3 emission from injected ammoniacal fertilisers, but that there is still a need for developing algorithms that predict the effect of pH, including the pH buffering capacity of the fertiliser and the soil.