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Journal of Soils and Sediments
Vol. 14, No.
5, 2014, Pages: 897-903

Effect of application rate of a nitrification inhibitor, dicyandiamide (DCD), on nitrification rate, and ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and archaea growth in a grazed pasture soil: An incubation study

Yan J. Guo, Hong J. Di, Keith C. Cameron, Bowen Li

Departments of aMolecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Chemistry, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520.



Dicyandiamide(DCD) has been used commercially in New Zealand to reduce nitrate leaching and N2O emissions in grazed pastures. However, there is a lack of information in the literature on the optimum rate of DCD to achieve the environmental benefits while at the same time reducing the cost of the technology. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of DCD application rate on its effectiveness to inhibit ammonia oxidizer growth and nitrification rate in a grazed pasture soil.

Materials and methods

The soil was a Templeton silt loam (Immature Pallic Soil; Udic Haplustepts) collected from Lincoln University Research Dairy Farm with a mixed pasture consisting of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and white clover (Trifolium repens L.) and was incubated alone (control) or with cow urine at 700 kg N/ha with 6 rates of DCD [0, 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10 (applied twice), 15 and 20 kg/ha] in incubation vessels. The incubation vessels were placed randomly in an incubator with a constant temperature of 12°C. During 112 days of incubation, soil subsamples were taken at different time intervals to measure the concentrations of NO3 --N and NH4 +-N and the amoA gene copy numbers of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA).

Results and discussion

DCD applied at all the different rates inhibited nitrification in urine-treated soils, but the effectiveness increased with DCD application rate. In addition, AOB growth and the amounts of nitrate-N in the soil were significantly related to the application rate of DCD. However, AOA population abundance showed no relationship to the application rate of DCD. The DCD rate at which the AOB growth rate and nitrate-N concentration were halved (effective dosage that causes 50 % reduction in nitrification rate, or ED50) was about 10 kg DCD/ha.


These results suggest that DCD applied at relatively low rates still slowed down the nitrification rate, and the current recommended rate of 10 kg DCD/ha for DCD use in New Zealand grazed pastures would result in a 50 % reduction in nitrification rate in this soil. The actual rate of DCD application used would depend on the cost of the product and the environmental and agronomic benefits that would result from its use.


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