• Open Access

Nitrogen fertilizer and landscape position impacts on CO2 and CH4 fluxes from a landscape seeded to switchgrass



This study was conducted to evaluate the impacts of N fertilizer and landscape position on carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) fluxes from a US Northern Great Plains landscape seeded to switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). The experimental design included three N levels (low, 0 kg N ha−1; medium, 56 kg N ha−1; and high, 112 kg N ha−1) replicated four times. The experiment was repeated at shoulder and footslope positions. Soil CO2 and CH4 fluxes were monitored once every 2 weeks from May 2010 to October 2012. The CO2 fluxes were 40% higher at the footslope than the shoulder landscape position, and CH4 fluxes were similar in both landscape positions. Soil CO2 and CH4 fluxes averaged over the sampling dates were not impacted by N rates. Seasonal variations showed highest CO2 release and CH4 uptake in summer and fall, likely due to warmer and moist soil conditions. Higher CH4 release was observed in winter possibly due to increased anaerobic conditions. However, year to year (2010–2012) variations in soil CO2 and CH4 fluxes were more pronounced than the variations due to the impact of landscape positions and N rates. Drought conditions reported in 2012, with higher annual temperature and lower soil moisture than long-term average, resulted in higher summer and fall CO2 fluxes (between 1.3 and 3 times) than in 2011 and 2010. These conditions also promoted a net CH4 uptake in 2012 in comparison to 2010 when there was net CH4 release. Results from this study conclude that landscape positions, air temperature, and soil moisture content strongly influenced soil CO2 fluxes, whereas soil moisture impacted the direction of CH4 fluxes (uptake or release). However, a comprehensive life cycle analysis would be appropriate to evaluate environmental impacts associated with switchgrass production under local environmental conditions.