Skip to main content Accessibility help

The nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide increases mineralization–immobilization turnover in slurry-amended grassland soil

  • M. ERNFORS (a1) (a2), F. P. BRENNAN (a1) (a3) (a4), K. G. RICHARDS (a1), K. L. MCGEOUGH (a5), B. S. GRIFFITHS (a1) (a6), R. J. LAUGHLIN (a5), C. J. WATSON (a5), L. PHILIPPOT (a3), J. GRANT (a7), E. P. MINET (a1), E. MOYNIHAN (a1) and C. MÜLLER (a8) (a9)...


Nitrification inhibitors are used in agriculture for the purpose of decreasing nitrogen (N) losses, by limiting the microbially mediated oxidation of ammonium (NH4 +) to nitrate (NO3 ). Successful inhibition of nitrification has been shown in numerous studies, but the extent to which inhibitors affect other N transformations in soil is largely unknown. In the present study, cattle slurry was applied to microcosms of three different grassland soils, with or without the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide (DCD). A solution containing NH4 + and NO3 , labelled with 15N either on the NH4 + or the NO3 part, was mixed with the slurry before application. Gross N transformation rates were estimated using a 15N tracing model. In all three soils, DCD significantly inhibited gross autotrophic nitrification, by 79–90%. Gross mineralization of recalcitrant organic N increased significantly with DCD addition in two soils, whereas gross heterotrophic nitrification from the same pool decreased with DCD addition in two soils. Fungal to bacterial ratios were not significantly affected by DCD addition. Total gross mineralization and immobilization increased significantly across the three soils when DCD was used, which suggests that DCD can cause non-target effects on soil N mineralization–immobilization turnover.


Corresponding author

* To whom all correspondence should be addressed. Email:


Hide All
Amberger, A. (1989). Research on Dicyandiamide as a nitrification inhibitor and future outlook. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 20, 19331955.
Bååth, E. & Anderson, T.-H. (2003). Comparison of soil fungal/bacteria ratios in a pH gradient using physiological and PLFA-based techniques. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 35, 955963.
Bjarnason, S. (1987). Immobilization and remineralization of ammonium and nitrate after addition of different energy sources to soil. Plant and Soil 97, 381389.
Chien, S. H., Prochnow, L. I. & Cantarella, H. (2009). Recent developments of fertilizer production and use to improve nutrient efficiency and minimize environmental impacts. Advances in Agronomy 102, 267322.
Cox, G. M., Gibbons, J. M., Wood, A. T. A., Craigon, J., Ramsden, S. J. & Crout, N. M. J. (2006). Towards the systematic simplification of mechanistic models. Ecological Modelling 198, 240246.
De Boer, W. & Kowalchuk, G. A. (2001). Nitrification in acid soils: micro-organisms and mechanisms. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 33, 853866.
De Boer, W., Folman, L. B., Summerbell, R. C. & Boddy, L. (2005). Living in a fungal world: impact of fungi on soil bacterial niche development. FEMS Microbiology Reviews 29, 795811.
Di, H. J. & Cameron, K. C. (2004). Treating grazed pasture soil with a nitrification inhibitor, eco-n™, to decrease nitrate leaching in a deep sandy soil under spray irrigation – a lysimeter study. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 47, 351361.
Di, H. J. & Cameron, K. C. (2005). Reducing environmental impacts of agriculture by using a fine particle suspension nitrification inhibitor to decrease nitrate leaching from grazed pastures. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 109, 202212.
Di, H. J. & Cameron, K. C. (2006). Nitrous oxide emissions from two dairy pasture soils as affected by different rates of a fine particle suspension nitrification inhibitor, dicyandiamide. Biology and Fertility of Soils 42, 472480.
EU (2000). Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy. Official Journal L 327, 173.
Frostegård, A., Petersen, S. O., Baath, E. & Nielsen, T. H. (1997). Dynamics of a microbial community associated with manure hot spots as revealed by phospholipid fatty acid analysis. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 63, 22242231.
Galloway, J. N. & Cowling, E. B. (2002). Reactive nitrogen and the world: 200 years of change. AMBIO 31, 6471.
Gioacchini, P., Nastri, A., Marzadori, C., Giovannini, C., Antisari, L. V. & Gessa, C. (2002). Influence of urease and nitrification inhibitors on N losses from soils fertilized with urea. Biology and Fertility of Soils 36, 129135.
Guiraud, G., Marol, C. & Thibaud, M. C. (1989). Mineralization of nitrogen in the presence of a nitrification inhibitor. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 21, 2934.
Guo, Y. J., Di, H. J., Cameron, K. C., Li, B., Podolyan, A., Moir, J. L., Monaghan, R. M., Smith, L. C., O'Callaghan, M., Bowatte, S., Waugh, D. & He, J.-Z. (2013). Effect of 7-year application of a nitrification inhibitor, dicyandiamide (DCD), on soil microbial biomass, protease and deaminase activities, and the abundance of bacteria and archaea in pasture soils. Journal of Soils and Sediments 13, 753759.
Hart, S. C., Stark, J. M., Davidson, E. A. & Firestone, M. K. (1994). Nitrogen mineralization, immobilization and nitrification. In Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 2 Microbiological and Biochemical Properties (Eds Weaver, R. L., Angle, S., Bottomley, P., Bezdiecek, D., Smith, S., Tabatabai, A., Wollum, A., Mickelson, S. H. & Bigham, J. M.), pp. 9851018. Madison, WI, USA: Soil Science Society of America.
Inselsbacher, E., Wanek, W., Strauss, J., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S. & Müller, C. (2013). A novel 15N tracer model reveals: plant nitrate uptake governs nitrogen transformation rates in agricultural soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 57, 301310.
Juma, N. G. & Paul, E. A. (1983). Effect of a nitrification inhibitor on N immobilization and release of 15N from nonexchangeable ammonium and microbial biomass. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 63, 167175.
Kelliher, F. M., Clough, T. J., Clark, H., Rys, G. & Sedcole, J. R. (2008). The temperature dependence of dicyandiamide (DCD) degradation in soils: a data synthesis. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 40, 18781882.
Kuzyakov, Y., Friedel, J. K. & Stahr, K. (2000). Review of mechanisms and quantification of priming effects. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 32, 14851498.
Laughlin, R. J., Stevens, R. J. & Zhuo, S. (1997). Determining nitrogen-15 in ammonium by producing nitrous oxide. Soil Science Society of America Journal 61, 462465.
Laughlin, R. J., Rütting, T., Müller, C., Watson, C. J. & Stevens, R. J. (2009). Effect of acetate on soil respiration, N2O emissions and gross N transformations related to fungi and bacteria in a grassland soil. Applied Soil Ecology 42, 2530.
Linn, D. M. & Doran, J. W. (1984). Effect of water-filled pore space on carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide production in tilled and nontilled soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal 48, 12671272.
Mahmood, T., Ali, R., Latif, Z. & Ishaque, W. (2011). Dicyandiamide increases the fertilizer N loss from an alkaline calcareous soil treated with 15N-labelled urea under warm climate and under different crops. Biology and Fertility of Soils 47, 619631.
Mcgeough, K. L., Laughlin, R. J., Watson, C. J., Müller, C., Ernfors, M., Cahalan, E. & Richards, K. G. (2012). The effect of cattle slurry in combination with nitrate and the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide on in situ nitrous oxide and dinitrogen emissions. Biogeosciences Discussions 9, 91699199.
Montzka, S. A., Dlugokencky, E. J. & Butler, J. H. (2011). Non-CO2 greenhouse gases and climate change. Nature 476, 4350.
Müller, C. & Clough, T. J. (2013). Advances in understanding nitrogen flows and transformations: gaps and research pathways. Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge FirstView Article, 1–11. DOI:
Müller, C., Rütting, T., Kattge, J., Laughlin, R. J. & Stevens, R. J. (2007). Estimation of parameters in complex 15N tracing models by Monte Carlo sampling. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 39, 715726.
Müller, C., Laughlin, R. J., Christie, P. & Watson, C. J. (2011). Effects of repeated fertilizer and cattle slurry applications over 38 years on N dynamics in a temperate grassland soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 43, 13621371.
Nakajima, Y., Ishizuka, S., Tsuruta, H., Iswandi, A. & Murdiyarso, D. (2005). Microbial processes responsible for nitrous oxide production from acid soils in different land-use patterns in Pasirmayang, central Sumatra, Indonesia. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 71, 3342.
Nannipieri, P., Ascher, J., Ceccherini, M. T., Landi, L., Pietramellara, G. & Renella, G. (2003). Microbial diversity and soil functions. European Journal of Soil Science 54, 655670.
O'Callaghan, M., Gerard, E. M., Carter, P. E., Lardner, R., Sarathchandra, U., Burch, G., Ghani, A. & Bell, N. (2010). Effect of the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide (DCD) on microbial communities in a pasture soil amended with bovine urine. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42, 14251436.
Paul, J. W. & Beauchamp, E. G. (1989). Biogeochemical changes in soil beneath a dairy cattle slurry layer: effect of volatile fatty acid oxidation on denitrification and soil pH. In Nitrogen in Organic Wastes Applied to Soils (Eds Hansen, J. A. & Henriksen, K.), pp. 261270. San Diego, USA: Academic Press.
Richardson, D., Felgate, H., Watmough, N., Thomson, A. M. & Baggs, E. M. (2009). Mitigating release of the potent greenhouse gas N2O from the nitrogen cycle – could enzymic regulation hold the key? Trends in Biotechnology 27, 388397.
Ros, G. H. (2012). Predicting soil N mineralization using organic matter fractions and soil properties: a re-analysis of literature data. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 45, 132135.
Rütting, T. & Müller, C. (2007). 15N tracing models with a Monte Carlo optimization procedure provide new insights on gross N transformations in soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 39, 23512361.
Stevens, R. J. & Laughlin, R. J. (1994). Determining nitrogen-15 nitrite or nitrate by producing nitrous oxide. Soil Science Society of America Journal 58, 11081116.
Turowski, M. & Deshmukh, B. (2004). Direct chromatographic method for determination of hydrogen cyanamide and dicyandiamide in aqueous solutions. Analytical Letters 37, 19811989.
United Nations (1998). Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Bonn, Germany: United Nations.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (2013). National Soil Survey Handbook. Title 430-VI. Washington, DC: USDA & NRCS.
Williamson, J. C., Menneer, J. C. & Torrens, R. S. (1996). Impact of dicyandiamide on the internal nitrogen cycle of a volcanic, silt loam soil receiving effluent. Applied Soil Ecology 4, 3948.
Zaman, M., Saggar, S., Blennerhassett, J. D. & Singh, J. (2009). Effect of urease and nitrification inhibitors on N transformation, gaseous emissions of ammonia and nitrous oxide, pasture yield and N uptake in grazed pasture system. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 41, 12701280.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide increases mineralization–immobilization turnover in slurry-amended grassland soil

  • M. ERNFORS (a1) (a2), F. P. BRENNAN (a1) (a3) (a4), K. G. RICHARDS (a1), K. L. MCGEOUGH (a5), B. S. GRIFFITHS (a1) (a6), R. J. LAUGHLIN (a5), C. J. WATSON (a5), L. PHILIPPOT (a3), J. GRANT (a7), E. P. MINET (a1), E. MOYNIHAN (a1) and C. MÜLLER (a8) (a9)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.