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Long-term test facility for testing of conventional and enhanced efficiency nitrogen fertilisers


Fertiliser nitrogen (N) is a cornerstone input in many intensive agricultural systems including those prevalent in Irish temperate grassland. In the accounting period October 1st 2015 to September 30th 2016 sales of fertiliser N were 339,104 tonnes N nationally (DAFM, 2017). This nutrient addition plays a critical role in yield enhancement but is also susceptible to environmental loss through leaching, denitrification and volatilisation loss pathways. Different N fertiliser have different loss susceptibilities and the arrival of enhanced efficiency fertilisers has provided new opportunities for sustaining yields, enhancing fertiliser efficiency and reducing environmental losses.

Figure 1. A selection of conventional and enhanced efficiency N fertilsiers

Recent research has shown that nitrogen fertiliser selection affects nitrous oxide emissions (Harty et al., 2016), ammonia emissions (Forrestal et al., 2016), yield and N fertiliser efficiency (Forrestal et al., 2017; Harty et al., 2017) in Irish grassland. Development of additives to enhance the efficiency of N fertiliser is continuing apace. Testing of these new options in Irish conditions is an area of critical importance for Irish agriculture as enhanced efficiency N fertilisers provide opportunity to sustain the N inputs which underpin production while reducing environmental loss; potentially helping Irish agriculture to realise the goals of sustainable growth outlined in the Food Wise 2025 strategy 

Figure 2. Ariel view of long-term N fertiliser N testing facility at Johnstown Castle 

Objectives of establishing a long-term N fertiliser testing facility

  • Assessment of the impact of conventional and enhanced efficiency N fertilisers on long-term agronomic performance along with environmental, soil chemical and microbiological factors and function
  • Provision of a facility capable of testing of new N fertilisers for agronomic and environmental parameters

Figure 3. Ammonia, yield, N efficiency, nitrous oxide and leaching test capacity at long-term facility


  • Capitalising on test facility capacity to test sensing and low-power communication technologies

Figure 4. CONNECT Pervasive Nation IoT Low power wide area network platform deployment (top), optical, smart phone and plate meter sensing/measurement (bottom)


  • Patrick Forrestal
  • John Murphy
  • Dominika Krol
  • Gary Lanigan
  • Karl Richards

Location: Teagasc Environmental Research Centre, Johnstown Castle, Wexford.


We acknowledge the core support from Teagasc to support the establishment and maintenance of this long term-facility.


Forrestal, P.J., Harty, M.A., Carolan, R., Watson, C.J., Lanigan, G.J., Wall, D.P., Hennessy, D., Richards, K.G. 2017. Can the agronomic performance of urea equal calcium ammonium nitrate across nitrogen rates in temperate grassland? Soil Use and Management DOI: 10.1111/sum.12341.

Forrestal, P.J., Harty, M., Carolan, R., Lanigan, G.J., Watson, C.J., Laughlin, R.J., McNeill, G., Chambers, B. and Richards, K.G. 2016. Ammonia emissions from urea, stabilised urea and calcium ammonium nitrate: insights into loss abatement in temperate grassland. Soil Use and Management. 32: 92-100.

Harty, M.A., Forrestal, P.J., Watson, C.J., McGeough, K.L., Carolan, R., Elliot, C., Krol, D.J., Laughlin, R.J., Richards, K.G., and Lanigan, G.J. Reducing nitrous oxide emissions by changing N fertiliser use from calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) to urea based formulations. 2016. Science of the Total Environment. 563-564: 576-586.  

Harty, M.A., Forrestal, P.J., Carolan, R., Watson, C.J., Hennessy, D., Lanigan, G.J., Wall, D.P and Richards, K.G. 2017. Temperate grassland yields and nitrogen uptake are influenced by fertilizer nitrogen source. Agronomy Journal. 109: 1-9