Modeling N2O flux from an Illinois agroecosystem using Monte Carlo sampling of field observations

Christina Tonitto, Mark B. David, Laurie E. Drinkwater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We modeled the expected range of seasonal and annual N2O flux from temperate, grain agroecosystems using Monte Carlo sampling of N 2O flux field observations. This analysis is complimentary to mechanistic biogeochemical model outcomes and provides an alternative method of estimating N2O flux. Our analysis produced a range of annual N 2O gas flux estimates with mean values overlapping with results from an intermodel comparison of mechanistic models. Mean seasonal N2O flux was 1-4% of available N, while median seasonal N2O flux was less than 2% of available N across corn, soybean, wheat, ryegrass, legume, and bare fallow systems. The 25th-75th percentile values for simulated average annualized N2O flux rates ranged from 1 to 12.2 kg N ha-1 in the conventional system, from 1.3 to 8.8 kg N ha-1 in the cover crop rotation, and from 0.8 to 9.3 kg N ha-1 in the legume rotation. Although these modeling techniques lack the seasonal resolution of mechanistic models, model outcomes are based on measured field observations. Given the large variation in seasonal N gas flux predictions resulting from the application of mechanistic simulation models, this data-derived approach is a complimentary benchmark for assessing the impact of agricultural policy on greenhouse gas emissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-48
Number of pages18
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009


  • Corn Belt
  • N trace gas
  • Nitrogen
  • Nitrous oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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