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Volume 9, Issue 2 p. 227-231
Technical Report

Effect of Air-filled Porosity, Nitrate Concentration, and Time on the Ratio of N2O/N2 Evolution During Denitrification1

J. LeteyN. ValorasAviva HadasD. D. Focht

D. D. Focht

Professor of Soil Physics, Staff Research Associate, Post-graduate Research Soil Scientist (on leave from the Inst. of Soils and Water, ARO, The Volcani Center, BET, Dagan, Israel), and Associate Professor of Soil Science, respectively.

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First published: 01 April 1980
Citations: 57

Contribution of the Dep. of Soil and Environ. Sci., Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521. The research was supported by Grant GI-34733X of RANN of the Natl. Sci. Found.


Nitrous oxide evolution from soils may contribute to partial destruction of the ozone layer in the stratosphere. Knowledge on factors affecting the N2O/N2 evolution ratio from soils is important in properly accessing the hazard associated with N2O evolution. Soils were wet to various air-filled porosities with 400 ppm 15N-labeled NaNO3 solution or to 5% air-filled porosity with various nitrate concentrations. The treated soils were incubated in closed containers in the laboratory and periodically checked for N2O and N2 evolution. The incubation flasks were opened and brought to equilibrium with the atmosphere after each gas sampling. All samples which were sufficiently wet to cause denitrification had an initial high N2O evolution rate which decreased and approached zero with time. Dinitrogen gas evolution rate was initially low but increased after 3 to 4 days. The N2O/N2 ratio was initially high (infinity in some cases) and decreased rapidly with time. Except for the three lowest initial nitrate treatments, there was relatively high nitrate concentration throughout the incubation period; thus the decrease in the ratio could not be attributed to low nitrate concentration during the latter part of incubation. At a given time during the early stages of denitrification, the N2O/N2 evolution ratio increased with increased initial nitrate concentration. The ratio eventually became zero even under highest nitrate treatment. It is proposed that the enzyme dissimilatory nitrate reductase develops rapidly after anoxic conditions are initiated, and that the enzyme dissimilatory nitrous oxide reductase develops only after a period of time following anoxic conditions.