© 2015 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Water pulses have a significant impact on nitrogen (N) cycling, making management of N challenging in agricultural soils that are exposed to episodic rainfall. In hot, dry environments, wetting of dry soil during summer fallow causes a rapid flush of organic matter mineralisation and subsequent nitrification, which may lead to N loss via nitrous oxide emission and nitrate leaching. Here we examined the potential for the nitrification inhibitor nitrapyrin to decrease gross nitrification at elevated temperature in soils with contrasting soil organic matter contents, and the consequent effects on ammonia oxidiser populations. Soil was collected during summer fallow while dry (water content 0.01 g g-1 soil) from a research site with two management treatments (tilled soil and tilled soil with long-term additional crop residues) by three field replicates. The field dry soil (0-10 cm) was wet with or without nitrapyrin, and incubated (20 or 40 °C) at either constant soil water content or allowed to dry (to simulate summer drying after a rainfall event). Gross N transformation rates and inorganic N pools sizes were determined on six occasions during the 14 day incubation. Bacterial and archaeal amoA gene abundance was determined on days 0, 1, 7 and 14. Nitrapyrin increased ammonium retention and decreased gross nitrification rates even with soil drying at 40 °C. Nitrification was likely driven by bacterial ammonia oxidisers, as the archaeal amoA gene was below detection in the surface soil layer. Bacterial ammonia oxidiser gene abundances were not affected by nitrapyrin, despite the decrease in nitrifier activity. Increased soil organic matter from long-term additional crop residues diminished the effectiveness of nitrapyrin. The present study highlights the potential for nitrapyrin to decrease nitrification and the risk of N loss due to mineralisation of soil organic matter under summer fallow conditions.