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Nitrogen fertilization and liming increased CO<sub>2</sub> and N<sub>2</sub>O emissions from tropical ferralsols, but not from a vertisol (2023)

Ntinyari W., Reichel R., Gweyi‐Onyango J., Giweta M., Wissel H., Masso C., Bol R., Brüggemann N.

Soil Use and Management, 39 (3), 1125-1139



The application of nitrogen (N) fertilizers and liming (CaCO3) to improve soil quality and crop productivity are regarded as effective and important agricultural practices. However, they may increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There is limited information on the GHG emissions of tropical soils, specifically when liming is combined with N fertilization. We therefore conducted a full factorial laboratory incubation experiment to investigate how N fertilizer (0 kg N ha−1, 12.5 kg N ha−1 and 50 kg N ha−1) and liming (target pH = 6.5) affect GHG emissions and soil N availability. We focussed on three common acidic soils (two ferralsols and one vertisol) from Lake Victoria (Kenya). After 8 weeks, the most significant increase in cumulative carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes compared with the unfertilized control was found for the two ferralsols in the N + lime treatment, with five to six times higher CO2 fluxes than the control. The δ13C signature of soil-emitted CO2 revealed that for the ferralsols, liming (i.e. the addition of CaCO3) was the dominant source of CO2, followed by urea (N fertilization), whereas no significant effect of liming or of N fertilization on CO2 flux was found for the vertisol. In addition, the N2O fluxes were most significantly increased by the high N + lime treatment in the two ferralsols, with four times and 13 times greater N2O flux than that of the control. No treatment effects on N2O fluxes were observed for the vertisol. Liming in combination with N fertilization significantly increased the final nitrate content by 14.5%–39% compared with N fertilization alone in all treatment combinations and soils. We conclude that consideration should be given to the GHG budgets of agricultural ferralsols since liming is associated with high liming-induced CO2 and N2O emissions. Therefore, nature-based and sustainable sources should be explored as an alternative to liming in order to manage the pH and the associated fertility of acidic tropical soils.