Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How much fertilizer is too much for the climate?

10.06.2014

Helping farmers around the globe apply more-precise amounts of nitrogen-based fertilizer can help combat climate change.


Phil Robertson, University Distinguished Professor of crop and soil sciences, has led the MSU Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Ecological Research program for more than 20 years.

In a new study published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers provide an improved prediction of nitrogen fertilizer’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural fields.

The study uses data from around the world to show that emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in the soil following nitrogen addition, rise faster than previously expected when fertilizer rates exceed crop needs.

Nitrogen-based fertilizers spur greenhouse gas emissions by stimulating microbes in the soil to produce more nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas, behind only carbon dioxide and methane, and also destroys stratospheric ozone. Agriculture accounts for around 80 percent of human-caused nitrous oxide emissions worldwide, which have increased substantially in recent years, primarily due to increased nitrogen fertilizer use.

“Our specific motivation is to learn where to best target agricultural efforts to slow global warming,” said Phil Robertson, director of MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research Program and senior author of the paper. “Agriculture accounts for 8 to 14 percent of all greenhouse gas production globally. We’re showing how farmers can help to reduce this number by applying nitrogen fertilizer more precisely.”

The production of nitrous oxide can be greatly reduced if the amount of fertilizer crops need is exactly the amount that’s applied to farmers’ fields. Simply put, when plant nitrogen needs are matched with the nitrogen that’s supplied, fertilizer has substantially less effect on greenhouse gas emission, Robertson said.

Iurii Shcherbak, lead author and MSU researcher, noted that the research also informs fertilizer practices in underfertilized areas such as sub-Saharan Africa. “Because nitrous oxide emissions won’t be accelerated by fertilizers until crop nitrogen needs are met, more nitrogen fertilizer can be added to underfertilized crops with little impact on emissions,” he said.

Adding less nitrogen to overfertilized crops elsewhere, however, would deliver major reductions to greenhouse gas emissions in those regions. This study provides support for expanding the use of carbon credits to pay farmers for better fertilizer management. Carbon credits for fertilizer management are now available to U.S. corn farmers.

This paper provides a framework for using this system around the world. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the Electric Power Research Institute. Robertson’s work also is funded in part by MSU AgBioresearch.

Layne Cameron | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/how-much-fertilizer-is-too-much-for-the-climate/

Further reports about: Foundation Lakes MSU crops dioxide emissions farmers fertilizer greenhouse nitrogen nitrous

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Researchers Find Changes in Agriculture Increase High River Flow Rates
29.07.2014 | University of Iowa

nachricht Climate Change Increases Risk of Crop Slowdown in Next 20 Years
29.07.2014 | National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Counting down to FEBS-EMBO 2014 in Paris, France

29.07.2014 | Event News

9th European Wood-Based Panel Symposium 2014 – meeting point for the wood-based material branch

24.07.2014 | Event News

“Lens on Life” - Artists and Scientists Explore Cell Divison

08.07.2014 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists discover genetic switch that can prevent peripheral vascular disease in mice

29.07.2014 | Life Sciences

From Finding Nemo to minerals – what riches lie in the deep sea?

29.07.2014 | Earth Sciences

Physicists unlock nature of high-temperature superconductivity

29.07.2014 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>