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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 5, p. 1960-1965
    Received: Aug 10, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): haoxy@agr.gc.ca
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Sorption of Atmospheric Ammonia by Soil and Perennial Grass Downwind From Two Large Cattle Feedlots

  1. Xiying Hao *a,
  2. Chi Changa,
  3. H. Henry Janzena,
  4. George Claytonb and
  5. Brett R. Hilla
  1. a Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Research Center, 5403 1st Ave S., Lethbridge, Alberta, T1J 4B1, Canada
    b Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe Research Centre, 6000 C and E Trail, Lacombe, Alberta, T4L 1W1, Canada


Livestock manure in feedlots releases ammonia (NH3), which can be sorbed by nearby soil and plants. Ammonia sorption by soil and its effects on soil and perennial grass N contents downwind from two large cattle feedlots in Alberta, Canada were investigated from June to October 2002. Atmospheric NH3 sorption was measured weekly by exposing air-dried soil at sampling points downwind along 1700-m transects. The amount of NH3 sorbed by soil was 2.60 to 3.16 kg N ha−1 wk−1 near the source, declining to about 0.25 kg N ha−1 wk−1 1700 m downwind, reflecting diminishing atmospheric NH3 concentrations. Ammonia sorption at a control site away from NH3 sources was much lower: 0.085 kg N ha−1 wk−1 Based on these rates, about 19% of emitted NH3 is sorbed by soil within 1700 m downwind of feedlots. Field soil and grass samples from the transect lines were analyzed for total N (TN) and KCl-extractable N content (soil only). Nitrate N content in field soil followed a trend similar to that of atmospheric NH3 sorption. Soil TN contents, because of high background levels, showed no clear pattern. The TN content of grass, downwind of the newer feedlot, followed a pattern similar to that of NH3 sorption; downwind of the older feedlot, grass TN was correlated to soil TN. Our results suggest that atmospheric NH3 from livestock operations can contribute N to local soil and vegetation, and may need to be considered when determining fertilizer rates and assessing environmental impact.

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