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

What You Eat Determines Your ‘Nitrogen Footprint’

Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Researchers have calculated that beef generates about twice as much nitrogen as pork, and almost three times as much as chicken or fish.

Scientists at Oxford, Lancaster, and Virginia universities have produced a web-based tool that allows anyone living in the UK to see their own ‘nitrogen footprint’.

It asks users to put in information so the tool can calculate the likely effect that the food that they eat or the transport they take has on the environment in terms of nitrogen pollution.

Scientists have warned that reactive nitrogen pollution is already a major environmental problem that is causing significant damage to air and water quality across the UK. Nitrogen runoff from farms and man-made effluents are largely responsible for algal blooms that affect river systems, whilst atmospheric nitrogen pollution is leading to significant losses of biodiversity. Most of the nitrogen pollution arises out of agricultural processes used in the growing of crops or grazing of animals, and a significant proportion of the average UK nitrogen footprint comes from vehicle emissions, they warn.

‘Nitrogen is essential for growing crops for food or high quality grass for cattle, as any farmer knows,’ said Paul Whitehead, Director of the Natural Environment Research Council’s Macronutrient Cycles programme at the University of Oxford. ‘However, the widespread use of nitrogen fertilizer to boost crop production has resulted in a runoff of excess nitrogen from farms into our rivers, lakes and groundwaters.’

The researchers used publicly available data such as national atmospheric data, national land use and farm statistics to make the calculations. The N-Calculator website also makes recommendations for how to lessen your ‘nitrogen footprint’, such as cutting back on road and air travel, choosing renewable energy and, most importantly, altering the balance of the foods contained in your diet.

‘Unlike your carbon footprint, what you eat is the most important factor determining your nitrogen footprint,’ said Dr Carly Stevens of Lancaster University. ‘By altering the amount and type of food that you eat, you can make a big difference to your impact on the environment. The difference in nitrogen levels occurs because of the amount of nitrogen that is lost during the food processing cycles. Simply stated,  the larger the animal, the larger its nitrogen footprint because it takes longer to get to market weight.'

The amount of nitrogen pollution from crop production varies with the amount of fertilizer applied and the efficiency of the crop. Nitrogen losses can also occur during food processing and even through household-level food waste.

Universities are starting to use the tool to show students how one individual can alter and help restore a natural cycle like nitrogen. The researchers suggest that the tool could be used by the wider community, particularly schoolchildren, to explore more sustainable ways of living.

The tool, first developed in the US, has been updated and adapted for UK users by researchers from Lancaster University under a project funded by the NERC Macronutrient Cycles programme at Oxford. The device was originally created by award-winning scientist James N Galloway and his research colleagues, Allison Leach, at the University of Virginia, Albert Bleeker of ECN and Jan Willem Erisman of the Louis Bolk Institute, both of The Netherlands.


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 3,300+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,900+ 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.

Related Content

Massive Helium Discovery a "Game Changer" for Medical Industry
A new development is gas exploration has yielded the discovery of a huge helium gas field, which could help relieve the dwindling supply.
Thursday, July 07, 2016
Organic Farms Not Necessarily Better for Environment
Organic farming is generally good for wildlife but does not necessarily have lower overall environmental impacts than conventional farming, a new analysis has shown.
Friday, September 07, 2012
Scientific News
Soil Nitrogen Age Important for Precision Agriculture
Calculating the age of nitrogen in corn and soybean fields could lead to improved fertilizer application techniques.
Safe CO2 Storage Viable Following Tests
Successful trials in Australia have led to the discovery of an inexpensive method of stored CO2 monitoring underground.
Phosphorous Pollution Remains Major Issue
Phosphorus pollution of lakes is a major problem. Researchers now look to improve the state of the lakes, otherwise freshwater quality will suffer.
Detecting Pesticides, Nerve Gas With an Electronic Nose
Detecting pesticides and nerve gas in very low concentrations? An international team of researchers led by Ivo Stassen and Rob Ameloot from KU Leuven have made it possible.
Carbon Capture Breakthrough
Chemists from the University of York have developed a new, green, CO2 capture system with a focus around reducing large scale emissions.
Massive Helium Discovery a "Game Changer" for Medical Industry
A new development is gas exploration has yielded the discovery of a huge helium gas field, which could help relieve the dwindling supply.
NASA Study Explains Sea Ice Differences at Poles
NASA-led study uses satellite and environmental data to shed light on differences in sea ice formation between Arctic and Antarctic.
Wireless, Wearable Toxic-Gas Detector
Inexpensive sensors could be worn by soldiers to detect hazardous chemical agents.
Tracking The Aluminum Used To Purify Tap Water
Kobe University researchers demonstrate a new analysis method to measure the concentration of aluminium used to purify tap water.
Electronic Sensor Tells Dead Bacteria From Live
The sensor, which measures 'osmoregulation', is a potential future tool for medicine and food safety.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
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
3,300+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,900+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!