Helping farmers around the globe apply more-precise amounts of nitrogen-based fertilizer can help combat climate change.
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.
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.
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!
Researchers discover natural product that could lead to new class of commercial herbicide
16.07.2018 | UCLA Samueli School of Engineering
Advance warning system via cell phone app: Avoiding extreme weather damage in agriculture
12.07.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V.
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.07.2018 | Life Sciences
18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine