Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
AgriGenomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Dangerous Nitrogen Pollution could be Halved

Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Bookmark and Share
The most important fertilizer for producing food is, at the same time, one of the most important risks for human health: nitrogen.

Chemical compounds containing reactive nitrogen are major drivers of air and water pollution worldwide, and hence of diseases like asthma or cancer. If no action is taken, nitrogen pollution could rise by 20 percent by 2050 in a middle-of-the-road scenario, according to a study now published by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Ambitious mitigation efforts, however, could decrease the pollution by 50 percent. The analysis is the very first to quantify this.

“Nitrogen is an irreplaceable nutrient and a true life-saver as it helps agriculture to feed a growing world population – but it is unfortunately also a dangerous pollutant,” says Benjamin Bodirsky, lead-author of the study. In the different forms it can take through chemical reactions, it massively contributes to respirable dust, leads to the formation of aggressive ground-level ozone, and destabilizes water ecosystems. Damages in Europe alone have been estimated at around 1-4 percent of economic output, worth billions of Euro. About half of these nitrogen pollution damages are from agriculture. This is why the scientists ran extensive computer simulations to explore the effects of different mitigation measures.

Both farmers and consumers would have to participate in mitigation

“It became clear that without mitigation the global situation may markedly deteriorate as the global food demand grows,” says Bodirsky, who is also affiliated to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Colombia (CIAT). “A package of mitigation actions can reverse this trend, yet the risk remains that nitrogen pollution still exceeds safe environmental thresholds.”

Only combined mitigation efforts both in food production and consumption could substantially reduce the risks, the study shows. Currently, every second ton of nitrogen put on the fields is not taken up by the crops but blown away by the wind, washed out by rain or decomposed by microorganisms. To reduce losses and prevent pollution, farmers can more carefully target fertilizer application to plants’ needs, using soil measurements. Moreover, they should aim at efficiently recycling animal dung to fertilize the plants. “Mitigation costs are currently many times lower than damage costs,” says co-author Alexander Popp.

“For consumers in developed countries, halving food waste, meat consumption and related feed use would not only benefit their health and their wallet,” Popp adds. “Both changes would also increase the overall resource efficiency of food production and reduce pollution.”

“Health effects of nitrogen pollution more important than climate effects”

“The nitrogen cycle is interwoven with the climate system in various ways,” Hermann Lotze-Campen points out, co-author of the study and co-chair of PIK’s research domain Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities. Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, on the one hand is one of the major greenhouse gases. On the other hand, nitrogen containing aerosols scatter light and thereby cool the climate. And as fertilizing nutrient, nitrogen enhances the growth of forests which binds CO2. “Currently the health effects of nitrogen pollution are clearly more important, because the different climate effects largely cancel out,” says Lotze-Campen. “But this may change – hence limiting nitrogen would have the double benefit of helping our health today and avoiding climate risks in the future.”


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,100+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
World’s Largest Coral Gene Database
‘Genetic toolkit’ will help shed light on which species survive climate change.
A Peachy Defense System for Seeds
ETH chemists are developing a new coating method to protect seeds from being eaten by insects. In doing so, they have drawn inspiration from the humble peach and a few of its peers.
Roundup Impacts Gene Expression
Study published on the impact of low-dose toxicity of Roundup weed-killer on gene expression profiles.
Meaningful Part of Maize Genome Defined
FSU-Cornell team show that a small percentage of the maize genome is responsible for 40 percent of a plant’s trait diversity.
Plant Stem Cell Discovery Points to Increased Yields
Braking signals from the leaves tell stem cells to stop proliferating.
Plasma Dose Improves Agricultural Crop Harvests
Researchers at Japan have developed a technique to improve crop yields by treating seeds prior to planting with a safe dose of plasma radiation.
TGAC Installs Largest SGI UV 300 Supercomputer for Life Sciences
The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) partners with Global HPC hardware giant SGI to address the most complex problems in genomics analysis.
Carrot Genome Uncovered
Carrot genome paints picture of domestication, could help improve crops.
Flowering Regulation Mechanism Discovered
Monash researchers have discovered a new mechanism that enables plants to regulate their flowering in response to raised temperatures.
Nanoparticles Present Sustainable Way to Grow Food Crops
Nanoparticle technology can help reduce the need for fertilizer, creating a more sustainable way to grow crops such as mung beans.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,100+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,500+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!