Use of a systems synthesis approach to model nitrogen losses from dairy farms in south-west England
Nitrogen (N) budgets were determined for six typical, moderately intensive dairy farms in south-west England. Proportionately, only 0·12–0·17 of the N input to the farms was recovered in agricultural products, leaving annual N surpluses equivalent to 249–376 kg N ha−1. A sequence of models (MANNER, NCYCLE and SUNDIAL) was used, together with the estimated N balance of the dairy cows and standard ammonia emission factors, to estimate N losses for each farm. Total estimated losses were equivalent to 137–220 kg N ha−1 year−1. Leaching accounted for 0·26–0·45 of the total loss, ammonia volatilization for 0·27–0·39 and denitrification for 0·17–0·36. When residual N from manure applications was included, there appeared to be an annual accumulation of soil N, equivalent to 66–158 kg N ha−1 when averaged over the whole farm area. The amounts of N lost by leaching, volatilization and denitrification, and accumulated as soil-N, were determined by a combination of farm properties, including N input, soil type, drainage, characteristics of the manure produced and type of fertilizer. The sum of estimated losses and change in N retained on the farm was between 0·85 and 1·11 of the N surplus (input minus output) determined from the farm budget. This suggests that losses and the change in soil-N were underestimated on some farms and overestimated on others (by up to −50 and +23 kg N ha−1 respectively). Much of the discrepancy between estimates and the surplus was attributed to difficulties of fully integrating inputs and outputs between the different models and stages of the modelling procedure.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2005