On-farm nitrogen management practices have global reverberations

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An international team of scientists has strengthened our understanding of how better fertilizer management could help minimize nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions while still achieving high crop yields in the new publication: Meta-analysis of yield and nitrous oxide outcomes for nitrogen management in agriculture. This research was conducted through a meta-analysis, where the results of multiple scientific studies were statistically combined.

To meet the world’s growing demand for food, farmers need fertile soil. Nitrogen, an essential element in plant fertilizer, can have extremely deleterious effects on the environment when not managed effectively. Numerous studies have confirmed that improving nitrogen use in agriculture is key to securing a food secure future and environmental sustainability.

“Society needs nuanced strategies based upon tailored nutrient management approaches that keep nitrogen balances within safe limits,” said Tai M Maaz, researcher at University of Hawaii at Manoa and lead author of the study.

When farmers apply nitrogen fertilizer to their crop, typically only 30-40% of it is taken up by the plant and the rest is lost the the environment. One byproduct is  nitrous oxide (N2O), one of the most potent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, especially those derived from nitrous oxide emissions.

Although farmers are now commonly told to practice fertilizer rate reduction, or simply put, to apply less fertilizer, there are cases where that strategy is either not possible or not advisable.

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