“Large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer lead to nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere“
Well if this is only about “greenhouse” then forget about it, that’s a major “Who cares?” and rightly so. Now, if you can cost-effectively improve efficiency then that is a horse of an entirely different color.
In 2011, corn was planted on more than 92 million acres in the U.S., helping the nation continue its trend as the world’s largest exporter of the crop.
Corn is a nitrogen-loving plant. To achieve desired production levels, most U.S. farmers apply synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to their fields every year.
Once nitrogen fertilizer hits the ground, however, it’s hard to contain and is easily lost to groundwater, rivers, oceans and the atmosphere.
“That’s not good for the crops, the farmers or the environment,” says Phil Robertson, a scientist at Michigan State University and principal investigator at the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site.
KBS is one of 26 such NSF LTER sites across the United States and around the globe in ecosystems from forests to coral reefs.
Nitrogen lost to the environment from agricultural fields is nitrogen not used by crops, Robertson says. “This costs farmers money and degrades water and air quality, with significant health, biodiversity and downstream economic effects.”
Farmers already manage fertilizer to avoid large losses. But, to reduce losses further, it currently costs more money than the fertilizer saves.