Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Nitrogen

23 September 2020

This report from the UK charity the Soil Association examines how disruption to the nitrogen cycle can damage the climate, biodiversity and human health. It proposes replacing widespread use of synthetic fertilisers with agroecological use of nitrogen-fixing legumes and manure from grass-fed livestock. 

26 August 2020

This paper analyses thousands of nitrogen policies from 186 countries. It finds that environmental nitrogen policies are not well integrated across various domains (such as water and air pollution) and that many agricultural policies encourage the use of nitrogen fertilisers, prioritising food production over environmental protection.

12 May 2020

This opinion paper calls for organisers of scientific meetings to adhere to 12 principles to minimise the environmental impacts of the meetings, as outlined in the Cercedilla Manifesto. The principles cover food, transport and careful planning of remote meetings so that they are effective for all participants. The paper emphasises that nitrogen pollution is an often-neglected aspect of food sustainability.

10 March 2020

This article from Civil Eats examines how the rise of both plant-based diets and regenerative agriculture practices have encouraged more farmers in the United States to grow pulses such as lentils, peas and chickpeas. As pulses become more popular with US consumers, a smaller fraction of the US pulse harvest is exported to other countries.

28 January 2020

This paper finds that over ten billion people could be fed within the constraints of four planetary boundaries (biosphere integrity, land-system change, freshwater use, and nitrogen flows), if the food system undergoes a “technological-cultural U-turn”.

7 January 2020

This paper from the UK’s Institute of Development Studies analyses how the project N2Africa: Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa has contributed to development outcomes in Ghana and Ethiopia. 

22 October 2019

This paper outlines the main sustainability challenges linked to nitrogen, including inadequate access to nitrogen fertiliser in some parts of the world and excessive fertiliser application in other areas, leading to water pollution, algal blooms and risks to human health. The paper argues that solving nitrogen problems would have co-benefits for other sustainability issues such as hunger, air, soil and water quality, climate and biodiversity.

8 October 2018

Rice cultivation emits methane and nitrous oxide, which are both more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Policies to reduce methane emissions from rice farming generally recommend using intermittent (as opposed to continuous) flooding. However, intermittent flooding could produce much higher nitrous oxide emissions than continuous flooding, according to a recent paper.

12 December 2017

The planetary boundaries concept provides a theoretical upper limit on human activity which the planet is able to sustain without major perturbation to the current ‘Earth system’. Previously, nine planetary boundaries (PBs) have been proposed and recently Steffen et al. (2015) have updated these boundary definitions and assessed the current state of the position of human activity with respect to each boundary. In this article, researchers from a number of food, climate change, agricultural and environmental research institutions around the world build on this work by assessing the impact of agriculture on each PB status, based on a detailed literature review of the available research.

13 November 2017

This paper presents the findings of a food systems model that considers how specific agronomic characteristics of organic agriculture could be harnessed so as to enable it to play a greater role in sustainable food systems.

13 July 2017

In this short perspective piece, researchers from the Netherlands, USA and the UK critically assess the COP21 4 per 1000 initiative, which seeks to increase global yearly agricultural soil organic carbon sequestration by 4‰ (= 0.4%, or 1.2 billion tonnes). The authors argue that as soil organic matter (SOM) also contains nitrogen (N), with a C-to-N ratio always approaching 12, this will require the sequestration of an extra 100 million tonnes of N per year, and they question the feasibility of achieving this. 

7 June 2017

This paper proposes a solution to the problems associated with the high inefficiencies and indirect detrimental environmental impacts caused by reactive nitrogen use in agriculture.The researchers suggest that land-based agriculture could be bypassed and that Haber Bosch derived nitrogen could be used directly for reactor based microbial protein production. The advantages of microbial protein production are summarised, as are the opportunities and technical challenges for large-scale production. The authors emphasise that, aside from the scientific innovation required, the main challenge to address is obtaining acceptability from regulators and consumers.

31 January 2017

This paper examines high-resolution, crop-specific GHG emissions and GHG intensity estimates which are derived using a method that couples biophysical models with novel 5-arc-minute resolution data.

15 December 2016

In this paper, the authors present an analysis of the nitrogen cycle in the agricultural production system of 12 world regions. From these results, they go on to suggest improvements in nitrogen use by changing the role of human diet, international trade and local production.

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