Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

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
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 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ 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 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

The Secret Behind the Power of Bacterial Sex
Migration between different communities of bacteria is the key to the type of gene transfer that can lead to the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance, according to researchers at Oxford University.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Seeking the Right Prescription in Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance
Researchers at the University of Oxford have received funding to look at ways to improve the prescribing of antibiotics.
Monday, November 23, 2015
£17M Project Launched to Develop HIV Vaccine
A new €23 million (£17 million) initiative to accelerate the search for an effective HIV vaccine has begun.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Blocking the Transmission Of Malaria Parasites
Vaccine candidate administered for the first time in humans in a phase I clinical trial led by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, with partners Imaxio and GSK.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Mini DNA Sequencer’s Data Belies its Size
A miniature DNA sequencing device that plugs into a laptop and was developed by Oxford Nanopore has been tested by an open, international consortium, including Oxford University researchers.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Microbe Artwork Shows The Limits Of Antibiotics
An Oxford University research fellow has been creating art using bacteria found in the human gut and harvested from faecal samples.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Funding Boost for Diabetes Research
Programme of research could be a game-changer for people with Type 1 diabetes and insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetes.
Friday, July 24, 2015
Ebola Vaccine Trial Begins in Senegal
A clinical trial to evaluate an Ebola vaccine has begun in Dakar, Senegal, after initial research started at the Jenner Institute, Oxford University.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
New Insight into Recombination and Sex Chromosomes
Not only does the platypus have some odd physical features, an updated version of its genome has also underscored the unusual genetic characteristics that it harbors.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Protein Clue To Sudden Cardiac Death
A protein has been shown to have a surprising role in regulating the 'glue' that holds heart cells together, a finding that may explain how a gene defect could cause sudden cardiac death.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Oxford Vaccine Group Begins First Trial of New Ebola Vaccine
Oxford University doctors and scientists are starting the first safety trial of an experimental preventative Ebola vaccine regimen being developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen).
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
New Vaccine Generates Strong Immune Response Against Hepatitis C
A new hepatitis C vaccine has shown promising results in an early clinical trial at Oxford University, generating strong and broad immune responses against the virus causing the disease.
Friday, November 07, 2014
Investment In Cancer Research At Oxford University
Centre for Molecular Medicine to focus on cancer genomics and molecular diagnostics, through a partnership with the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute.
Friday, October 24, 2014
A-maize-ing Double Life of a Genome
Study findings could help current efforts to improve existing crop varieties.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Genetic Tracking Identifies Cancer Stem Cells in Patients
The gene mutations driving cancer have been tracked for the first time in patients back to a distinct set of cells at the root of cancer – cancer stem cells.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
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
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos