Agronomy and Horticulture, Department of



Samuel E. Wortman

Document Type


Date of this Version



Sustainability 2017, 9, 510; doi:10.3390/su9040510.


Copyright © 2017, the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Open access, Creative Commons Attribution license 4.0.


To prevent nutrient limitations to crop growth, nitrogen is often applied in agricultural systems in the form of organic inputs (e.g., crop residues, manure, compost, etc.) or inorganic fertilizer. Inorganic nitrogen fertilizer has large environmental and economic costs, particularly for low-input smallholder farming systems. The concept of combining organic, inorganic, and biological nutrient sources through Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) is increasingly promoted as a means of improving nutrient use efficiency by matching soil nutrient availability with crop demand. While the majority of previous research on INM has focused on soil quality and yield, potential climate change impacts have rarely been assessed. In particular, it remains unclear whether INM increases or decreases soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions compared to organic nitrogen inputs, which may represent an overlooked environmental tradeoff. The objectives of this review were to (i) summarize the mechanisms influencing N2O emissions in response to organic and inorganic nitrogen (N) fertilizer sources, (ii) synthesize findings from the limited number of field experiments that have directly compared N2O emissions for organic N inputs vs. INM treatments, (iii) develop a hypothesis for conditions under which INM reduces N2O emissions and (iv) identify key knowledge gaps to address in future research. In general, INM treatments having low carbon to nitrogen ratio C:N (2O emissions.