From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published June 12, 2014 06:30 AM

Using too much fertilizer is bad for crops AND bad for climate!

Using too much fertilizer is a very bad idea. It doesn't help crops, and in fact can be harmful to them. Excess fertilizer runs off and contributes to river and stream contamination and a new study shows that it is bad for the climate too!

But farmers sometimes think that if some is good, more MUST be better!


Helping farmers around the globe apply more precise amounts of fertilizer nitrogen is a great objective that can improve crop yields, reduce pollution, and combat climate change.

That's the conclusion of a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the paper, researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) 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 (N2O), a greenhouse gas produced in 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 carbon dioxide and methane.

Agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of human-caused nitrous oxide emissions worldwide, which have increased substantially in recent years due to increased nitrogen fertilizer use.

"Our motivation is to learn where to best target agricultural efforts to slow global warming," says MSU scientist Phil Robertson. Robertson is also director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) site, one of 25 such NSF LTER sites around the globe, and senior author of the paper.

Image of large truck spreading fertilizer via Shutterstock.

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