Ammonia Volatilization from Ammonium or Ammonium-Forming Nitrogen Fertilizers

  • L. B. Fenn
  • L. R. Hossner
Part of the Advances in Soil Science book series (SOIL, volume 1)


Ammonia (NH3) loss is only one of several ways nitrogen (N) can be lost from the plant environment. Nitrogen can leach below the root zone with water, nitrate can be reduced to gaseous forms in anaerobic environments, and NH3 can be lost to the atmosphere when N fertilizer is applied to the soil surface. The intensity of loss from each mechanism depends on water content, temperature, soil texture, form of nitrogen, and other environmental factors. Fertilizer N use efficiency can vary from one environment to another. An agricultural producer can reasonably expect half of the applied N fertilizer to be recovered by the current crop. It is the portion that is unaccounted for in the crop that is addressed by much of the current research. Effective use of applied N by the crop will reduce input cost per unit of product harvested.


Calcareous Soil Urease Activity Ammonia Volatilization Urea Hydrolysis Ammonia Loss 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander, M. 1961. Soil microbiology. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, N.Y.Google Scholar
  2. Avnimelech, Y., and M. Loher. 1977. Ammonia volatilization from soils: Equilibrium considerations. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 41: 1080–1084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beauchamp, E.G., G.E. Kidd, and G. Thurtell. 1978. Ammonia volatilization from sewage sludge applied in the field. J. Environ. Qual. 7: 141–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bhure, N.D. 1970. Nitrogen losses by volatilization from urea applied to forest soils. Can. For. Service. Bi-monthly Res. Notes 26: 30–31.Google Scholar
  5. Blue, W.G., and C.F. Eno. 1954. Distribution and retention of anhydrous ammonia in sandy soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 18: 420–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bray, J.R., and E. Gorham. 1964. Litter production in forest soils of the world. Advances in Ecological Research 2: 101–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bremner, J.M., and L.A. Douglas. 1971a. Decomposition of urea phosphate in soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 35: 575–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bremner, J.M., and L.A. Douglas. 1971b. Inhibition of urease activity in soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 3: 299–307.Google Scholar
  9. Burton, G.W., and J.E. Jackson. 1962. Effect of rate and frequency of applying six nitrogen sources on coastal bermudagrass. Agron. J. 54: 40–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Camire, C., and B. Bernier. 1981. Retention de l’azote et évolution des propriétés d’un humus brut de station de pin gris (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) après application d’engrais azotes. Can. J. For. Res. 11: 51–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chin, W., and W. Kroontje. 1963. Urea hydrolysis and subsequent loss of ammonia. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 27: 316–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chunderova, A.N. 1970. Enzyme activity and pH of soil. Agrokhimiya (USSR) 5: 71–77.Google Scholar
  13. Cole, C.V. 1956. Hydrogen and calcium relationships of calcareous soils. Soil Sci. 82: 141–150.Google Scholar
  14. Delaune, R.D., and W.H. Patrick. 1970. Urea conversion to ammonia in water-logged soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 34: 603–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Denmead, O.T., J.R. Simpson, and J.R. Freney. 1974. Ammonia flux in the atmosphere from a grazed pasture. Science. 185: 609–610.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Denmead, O.T., J.R. Freney, and J.R. Simpson. 1982. Atmospheric dispersion of ammonia during application of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. J. Environ. Qual. 11: 568–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Douglas, L.A., and J.M. Bremner. 1970. Extraction and colorimetric determination of urea in soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 34: 859–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. El-Zohaby, E.M., S.H. Chien, N.K. Savant, P.L.G. Vlek, and A.V. Mokwunye. 1982. Effect of pyrophosphate on phosphate sorption and ammonia volatilization by calcareous soils treated with ammonium phosphates. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 46: 733–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ernst, J.W., and H.F. Massey. 1960. The effects of several factors on volatilization of ammonia formed from urea in the soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 24: 87–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Feagley, S.E., and L.R. Hossner. 1977. Ammonia volatilization reaction mechanism between ammonium sulfate and carbonate systems. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 42: 364–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fenn, L.B., and D.E. Kissel. 1973. Ammonia volatilization from surface applications of ammonium compounds on calcareous soils. I. General Theory. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 37: 855–859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fenn, L.B., and D.E. Kissel. 1974. Ammonia volatilization from surface application of ammonium compounds on calcareous soils: II. Effects of temperature and rate of ammonium-nitrogen application. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 38: 606–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fenn, L.B. 1975. Ammonia volatilization from surface applications of ammonium compounds on calcareous soils: III. Effects of mixing low and high loss ammonium compounds. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 39: 366–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fenn, L.B., and D.E. Kissel. 1975. Ammonia volatilization from surface applications of ammonium compounds on calcareous soils: IV. Effect of calcium carbonate content. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 39: 631–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fenn, L.B., and R. Escarzaga. 1976. Ammonia volatilization from surface appli¬cations of ammonium compounds on calcareous soils: V. Soil water content and method of nitrogen application. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 40: 537–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fenn, L.B., and S. Miyamoto. 1981. Ammonia loss and associated reactions of urea in calcareous soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 45: 537–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fenn, L.B., R.M. Taylor, and J.E. Matocha. 1981. Ammonia losses from surface- applied nitrogen fertilizer as controlled by soluble calcium and magnesium: General theory. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 45: 777–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fenn, L.B., J.E. Matocha, and E. Wu. 1981a. Ammonia losses from surface-applied urea and ammonium fertilizers as influenced by rate of soluble Ca. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 45: 883–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fenn, L.B., J.E. Matocha, and E. Wu. 1981b. A comparison of calcium carbonate precipitation and pH depression on calcium reduced ammonia loss from surface-applied urea. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 45: 1128–1131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fenn, L.B., J.E. Matocha, and E. Wu. 1982a. Soil cation exchange capacity effects on ammonia loss from surface-applied urea in the presence of soluble calcium. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 46: 78–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fenn, L.B., J.E. Matocha and E. Wu. 1982b. Substitution of ammonium and potassium for added calcium in reduction of ammonia loss from surface-applied urea. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 46: 771–776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fenn, L.B., and J. Richards. 1984. Ammonia loss from urea-acid adducts surface-applied to soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 48:(In Review).Google Scholar
  33. Fenn, L.B., H.L. Malstrom, and E. Wu. 1984. Ammonia losses from surface applied urea as affected by added calcium and fresh plant residues. Soil Sci. 137:(In Review).Google Scholar
  34. Fisher, W.B., and W.L. Parks. 1958. Influence of soil temperature on urea hydrolysis and subsequent nitrification. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 22: 247–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Fox, R.H., and L.D. Hoffman, 1981. The effect of N fertilizer source on grain yield, N uptake, soil pH, and lime requirement in no-till corn. Agron. J. 73: 891–895.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Freney, J.R., J.R. Simpson, and O.T. Denmead. 1981. Ammonia volatilization. In: F.E. Clark and T. Rosswall (eds), Terrestrial nitrogen cycles. Ecol. Bull. (Stockholm) 33: 291–302.Google Scholar
  37. Freney, J.R., and J.R. Simpson. 1981. Ammonia volatilization. In: F.E. Clark and T. Rosswall (eds.), Terrestrial nitrogen cycles. Ecol. Bull. (Stockholm) 33: 291–302.Google Scholar
  38. Gessel, S.P., and A.N. Balci. 1965. Amount and composition of forest floors under Washington conifer forests, p. 11–23. In: M.C.T. Youngberg (ed), Forest-soil relationships in North America. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis.Google Scholar
  39. Gibson, T. 1930. The decomposition of urea in soils. J. Agr. Sci. 20: 549–558.Google Scholar
  40. Gould, W.D., F.D. Cook, and G.R. Webster. 1973. Factors affecting urea hydrolysis in several Alberta soils. Plant and Soil 38: 393–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hargrove, W.L., D.E. Kissel, and L.B. Fenn. 1977. Field measurements of ammonia volatilization from surface applications of ammonium salts to a calcareous soil. Agron. J. 69: 473–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hargrove, W.L., R.A. Rauniker, and B.R. Bock. 1983. Ammonia volatilization from urea in no-tillage. Agron. Abst., p. 170.Google Scholar
  43. Harper, L.A., V.R. Catchpoole, R. Davis, and K.L. Weir. 1983. Ammonia volatilization: Soil, plant and microclimate effects on diurnal and seasonal fluctuations. Agron. J. 75: 212–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Henzell, E.F. 1971. Recovery of nitrogen from four fertilizers applied to rhodes grass in small plots. Aust. J. Expt. Agr. and Anim. Husb. 11: 420–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hooker, M.L., D.H. Sander, G.A. Peterson, and L.A. Daigger. 1980. Gaseous N losses from winter wheat. Agron. J. 72: 789–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hutchinson, G.L., R.J. Millington, and D.B. Peters. 1972. Atmospheric ammonia: Absorption by plant leaves. Science 175: 771–772.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hutchinson, G.L., A.R. Mosier, and C.E. Andre. 1982. Ammonia and amine emissions from a large cattle feedlot. J. Environ. Qual. 11: 289–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hutchinson, G.L., and F.G. Veits, Jr. 1969. Nitrogen enrichment of surface water by absorption of ammonia volatilized from cattle feedlots. Science 166: 514–515.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ingham, G.T. 1948. Effect of materials absorbed from the atmosphere in maintaining soil fertility. Soil Sci. 70: 205–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. King, L.D. 1973. Mineralization and gaseous loss of nitrogen in soil-applied liquid sewage sludge. J. Environ. Qual. 2: 356–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kissel, D.E., H.H. Brewer, and G.F. Orkin. 1977. Design and test of a field sampler for ammonia volatilization. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 41: 1133–1138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Luebs, R.E., K.R. Davis, and A.E. Laag. 1973. Enrichment of the atmosphere with nitrogen compounds volatilized from a large dairy area. J. Environ. Qual. 2: 137–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. MacRae, I.C., and R. Ancajas. 1970. Volatilization of ammonia from submerged tropical soils. Plant and Soil 33: 97–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mahendrappa, M.K., and E.D. Ogden. 1973. Patterns of ammonia volatilization from a forest soil. Plant and Soil 38: 257–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Malo, B.A., and E.R. Purvis. 1964. Soil absorption of atmospheric ammonia. Soil Sci. 97: 242–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Marion, G.M., and G.R. Dutt. 1974. Ion association in the ammonia-carbon dioxide-water system. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 38: 889–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Marshall, V.G., and D.S. Debell. 1980. Comparison of four methods of measuring volatilization losses of nitrogen following urea fertilization of forest soils. Can. J. Soil Sci 60: 549–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Marshall, V.G., and E.E. McMullen. 1976. Balance sheet of recovered 15N-labelled urea in a pot trial with Pseudosuga menziesii. Can. J. Soil Sci. 56: 311–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Matocha, J.E. 1976. Ammonia volatilization and nitrogen utilization from sulfur coated ureas and conventional nitrogen fertilizers. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 40: 597–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. McDowell, L.L., and G.E. Smith. 1958. The retention and reactions of anhydrous ammonia on different soil types. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 22: 38–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. McGarity, J.W., and M.G. Meyers. 1967. A survey of urease activity in soils of northern New South Wales. Plant and Soil 27: 217–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Mengel, D.B., D.W. Nelson, and D.M. Huber. 1982. Placement of nitrogen fertilizer for no-till and conventional till corn. Agron. J. 74: 515–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Mikkelsen, D.S., S.K. DeDatta, and W.N. Obceniea. 1978. Ammonia losses from flooded rice soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 42: 725–730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Mortland, M.M. 1958. Reactions of ammonia in soils. Soil Sci. 97: 242–247.Google Scholar
  65. Myers, M., and J.W. McGarity. 1968. The urease activity in profiles of five great soil groups from northern New South Wales. Plant and Soil 28: 25–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Nommik, H. 1973. Assessment of volatilization loss of ammonia from surface- applied urea on forest soil by N15 recovery. Plant and Soil 38: 589–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Overrein, L.N. 1968. Lysimeter studies on tracer nitrogen in forest soil: 1. Nitrogen losses by leaching and volatilization after addition of urea-N15. Soil Sci. 106: 280–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Overrein, L.N. 1969. Lysimeter studies on tracer nitrogen in forest soil: 2. Comparative losses of nitrogen through leaching and volatilization after the addition of urea-, ammonium-, and nitrate-N15. Soil Sci. 107: 149–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Overrein, L.N., and P.G. Moe. 1967. Factors affecting urea hydrolysis and ammonia volatilization in soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 31: 57–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Park, N., D.W. Hood, and H.T. Odum. 1958. Diurnal pH variations in Texas bays and its application to primary production estimates. Ints. Mar. Sci. 5: 47–64.Google Scholar
  71. Patrick, W.H., Jr., and M.E. Tusneen. 1972. Nitrogen losses from flooded soil. Ecology 53: 735–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Paulson, K.N., and L.T. Kurtz. 1969. Locus of urease activity in soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 33: 897–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Power, J.F. 1979. Use of slow release N fertilizers on native mixed prairie. Agron. J. 71: 446–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Ponnamperuma, F.N., E. Martinez, and T. Loy. 1966. Influence of redox potential and partial pressure of carbon dioxide in pH values and the suspension effect of flooded soils. Soil Sci. 101: 421–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Prusinkewicz, Z., and J. Jozefkowicz-Kotlarz. 1983. Dynamics of ammonia volatilization from urea applied in fertilization of poor forest soils and the possibility of reducing the nitrogen losses by simultaneous application of potassium chloride. Roczniki Gleboznawcze 33: 19–35.Google Scholar
  76. Rappaport, B.D., and J.H. Axley. 1984. Potassium chloride for improved urea fertilizer efficiency. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 48: 399–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Reddy, K.R., W.H. Patrick, Jr., and R.E. Phillips. 1980. Evaluation of 5 selected processes controlling nitrogen loss in a flooded soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 44: 1241–1246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Redman, F.H., and W.H. Patrick, Jr. 1965. Effect of submergence on several biological and chemical soil properties. Louisiana Agr. Exp. Stn. Bull. 592. 28 pp.Google Scholar
  79. Reithel, F.J. 1970. Ureases, V4, pp. 1–21. In: P.D. Boyer (ed.), Enzymes. Third Edition. Academic Press, New York, New York.Google Scholar
  80. Robinson, E., and R.C. Robbins. 1968. Sources, abundance and fate of gaseous atmospheric pollutants. Report of Stanford Research Institute. No. N71-25-147 National Technical Information Service, U.S. Dept. Commerce, 123 pp.Google Scholar
  81. Rouquette, F.M., Jr., and T.C. Keisling. 1983. Influence of source and rate of nitrogen on coastal bermudagrass forage grown on two soil types. Consolidated Prog. Rpt. 414, p. 153. Forage Research in Texas.Google Scholar
  82. Simpson, J.R. 1968. Losses of urea nitrogen from the surface of pasture soils. Trans. 9th International Congr. Soil Sci. 2: 459–466.Google Scholar
  83. Stratton, F.E. 1969. Nitrogen losses from alkaline water impoundments. J. Sanitary Eng. 95: 223–231.Google Scholar
  84. Sunderman, H.D., A.B. Onken, and L.R. Hossner. 1979. Nitrate concentration of cotton petioles as influenced by cultivar, row spacing, and N application rate. Agron. J. 71: 731–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Terman, G.L., and C.M. Hunt. 1964. Volatilization of nitrogen from surface applied fertilizers, as measured by crop response. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 28: 667–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Terman, G.L. 1979. Volatilization losses of nitrogen as ammonia from surface- applied fertilizers, organic amendments, and crop residue. Advances in Agronomy. 31: 189–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Touchton, J.T., and W.L. Hargrove. 1982. Nitrogen sources and methods of application for no-tillage corn production. Agron. J. 74: 823–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Tucker, T.C. 1968. Absorption of ammonium and nitrate nitrogen by gossypium hirsutum. Agron. Abs., p. 112.Google Scholar
  89. Turner, R.C., and J.S. Clarke. 1956. The pH of calcareous soils. Soil Sci. 82: 337–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Van Slyke, D.D., and G. Zacharias. 1914. The effect of hydrogen ion concentration and of inhibiting substances on urease. J. Biol. Chem. 19: 181–210.Google Scholar
  91. Ventura, W.B., and T. Yoshida. 1977. Ammonia volatilization from a flooded tropical soil. Plant and Soil 46: 521–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Vlek, P.L.G., and E.T. Crasswell. 1979. Effect of nitrogen source and management on ammonia volatilization losses from flooded rice-soil systems. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 43: 352–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Vlek, P.L.G., and J.M. Stumpe. 1978. Effect of solution chemistry and environmental conditions on ammonia volatilization losses from aqueous systems. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 42: 416–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Vlek, P.L.G., and M.F. Carter. 1983. The effect of soil environment and fertilizer modifications on the rate of urea hydrolysis. Soil Sci. 136: 56–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Volk, G.M. 1970. Gaseous loss of ammonia from prilled urea applied to slash pine. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 34: 513–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Watkins, S.H., R.F. Strand, D.S. Bell, and J. Esch, Jr. 1972. Factors influencing ammonia losses from urea applied to northwestern forest soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 36: 354–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Wells, C.G., and C.B. Daney. 1966. Cation-exchange characteristics of forest floor materials. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 30: 399–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Zantua, M.I., and J.M. Bremner. 1976. Production and persistence of urease activity in soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 8: 369–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. B. Fenn
    • 1
  • L. R. Hossner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Soil and Crop SciencesTexas A&M UniversityEl PasoUSA

Personalised recommendations