HomeScience and TechnologyHealthReducing Nitrogen Use Key...

Reducing Nitrogen Use Key To Human And Planetary Health: Study

Better management of nitrogen-rich fertilisers through alternating crops, optimising use and other measures can yield huge environmental and health benefits, but must boost food production at the same time, researchers warned Wednesday.

Reducing nitrogen pollution from global croplands is a “grand challenge,” the group of international researchers said in a study in Nature outlining a dozen urgently-needed reforms.

The intensive use of chemical fertilisers helped fuel the four-fold expansion of the human population over the last century, and will be crucial for feeding 10 billion people by 2050.

But the bumper crops of what was once called the Green Revolution have come at a terrible cost.

Today, more than half the nitrogen in fertilisers seeps into the air and water, leading to deadly pollution, soil acidification, climate change, ozone depletion and biodiversity loss.

“Given the multiple health, climate and environmental impacts of reactive nitrogen, it has to be reduced in all the mediums such as air and water,” lead author Baojing Gu, a professor at Zhejiang University, told AFP.

The benefits of doing so far outstrip the costs, he added.

The world is naturally awash in nitrogen, which is critical for the survival of all life on Earth, especially plants.

Nearly 80% of Earth’s atmosphere is nitrogen, albeit in a gaseous form (N2) of little direct use to most organisms.

It is made available to plants when microbes that live within plants or soils turn it into ammonia through biological nitrogen fixation.

This process funnels some 200 million tonnes of nitrogen into the soil and oceans every year.

Various forms of the element are eventually transformed and find their way back into the atmosphere with the help of bacteria, especially in wetlands, and after leaching into the oceans or being burned.

But this natural “nitrogen cycle” has been massively imbalanced by the use of some 120 million tonnes of chemical fertiliser each year, according to the study.

Less than half of that input is actually absorbed by plants, with the rest seeping into the environment and causing a constellation of problems.

Researchers led by Gu analysed over 1,500 field observations from croplands around the world and identified 11 key measures to decrease nitrogen losses while still enhancing crop yields.

One such method is crop rotation where a variety of crops are planted on the same plot of land, optimising the flow of nutrients in the soil.

The benefits of slashing agricultural nitrogen pollution are some 25 times higher than the implementation costs of about $34 billion, they found.

For China and India — whose extensive and intensive use of fertiliser make them the world’s top nitrogen polluters — that cost would be about $5 and $3 billion, respectively.

Nearly half-a-trillion dollars in avoided costs are spread across reduced premature deaths from air pollution, less damage to ecosystem services and increased crop yields.

But the proposed measure could have a negative impact on the fight against climate change.

“Basically, the impact of nitrogen management on climate change is neutral, or slightly damages the climate due to the reduction of carbon sequestration in ecosystems,” Gu told AFP.

Even with outsized benefits, advanced nitrogen management has up-front costs that would be beyond the reach of many smallholder farmers without the backing of strong government policies.

A nitrogen-credit-system, for example, could subsidise farmers who adopt advanced nitrogen management techniques, drawing from the economic benefits of reduced nitrogen pollution and increased food supply.

To initiate this virtuous circle, a financial budget could be secured by taxing food consumers or enterprises that use farming for commercial food production, or by taxing polluting activities and products.

Most Popular

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More from Author

Study Narrows Down Long COVID Symptoms To Just 7

Long COVID, the medical mystery that continues to boggle the minds...

Depressed Young Adults Likely To Develop Heart Disease And Vice-Versa

Young adults or people in the 18-25 age group are at...

More Women Are Dying From ‘Preventable’ Cervical Cancer: Study

More older women have succumbed to cervical cancer in recent years,...

Read Now

Study Narrows Down Long COVID Symptoms To Just 7

Long COVID, the medical mystery that continues to boggle the minds of scientists and medical researchers, comes with an extensive list of symptoms. But a new study narrowed down the 47 reported symptoms to just seven. Published in the journal Open Forum Infectious Disease, the study by the...

Depressed Young Adults Likely To Develop Heart Disease And Vice-Versa

Young adults or people in the 18-25 age group are at risk of suffering two serious health issues: depression and heart disease. A new study found a “two-way street” relationship between depression and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in younger adults. According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine...

Obesity Found To Cause Alzheimer’s-Like Condition; Weight Loss Reduces Risk

Obese people are at risk of suffering a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease. But this can be countered by healthy weight loss. A McGill University study published Tuesday in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease presented a correlation between obesity-associated neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s. Using data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging...

More Women Are Dying From ‘Preventable’ Cervical Cancer: Study

More older women have succumbed to cervical cancer in recent years, even though the condition is  preventable. A new study from the University of California, Davis found a spike in older women suffering from late-stage cancer. And since they develop the disease at an older age, their chances...

Befitting response given to every ‘misadventure’ from LoC to LAC: President Murmu

NEW DELHI: President Droupadi Murmu on Tuesday said the government has been laying constant emphasis on modernising the military as it firmly believes...

NIA files chargesheet against IS operative for conspiring to recruit youth for terror activities in India

NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday filed a chargesheet against an accused in a case related to a conspiracy hatched...

First-Of-Its-Kind $1 Glove Can Detect Fetal Positions To Aid Precarious Births

An ingenious innovation of a smart glove that costs less than $1 has been created with the aim to aid clinicians during birth. The study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Global Women’s Health, engineered the device to help healthcare staff in finding the fetal position and the...

Study Finds Threatened Sharks Being Served In Fish Fillets

The ultimate British dish--fish and chips--have takers all over the world. However, the fish served in the dish might actually be an endangered shark species.A recent study, published in the journal Food Control, found shocking samples of endangered shark species in several fish filets served at more...

Coffee With Milk Has Strong Anti-Inflammatory Effect: Study

An ardent proponent of the benefits of black coffee? You might have to change allegiance, as a new study has found coffee with milk has synergistic properties that increase its anti-inflammatory effect.The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that the antioxidants from coffee combined...

All-Party Meet ahead of Budget Session held

STATE TIMES NEWS New Delhi: The government on...

This Is How Many Adult Americans Are Addicted To Junk Food

More older adults in the United States have become addicted to processed food, according to a recent University of Michigan poll. The school’s National Poll on Health Aging presented alarming findings in its January-February 2023 issue, saying that based on the latest data, 1 in 8 adults over...

Bengaluru colleges ban use of ChatGPT, the AI agent that writes assignments

At a time when the use of AI tools has grown exponentially, plagiarism is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for universities. RV University in Bengaluru has recently taken steps to curb the use of such tools, particularly ChatGPT, by banning it altogether. The move is supported by...