A new approach to soil nitrogen.
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient to be able to achieve high crop yields and quality, and so are necessary for feeding the world’s growing population. Nitrogen is an essential element in amino acids / proteins and a key component of chlorophyll – so without nitrogen there cannot be any life.
Nitrogen fertilisers can be applied in many different forms. These nitrogen-based fertilisers can be artificial (including urea, ammonium nitrate) or organic manures (including cattle slurry, pig slurry, digestate from anaerobic digesters).
Not all nitrogen applied as a fertiliser ends up in the crop.
The problem is that often the nitrogen is not stabilised and can be lost to the environment.
This means that:
- The environment is negatively impacted
- Crops can possibly lack sufficient nutrition which then restricts yield and quality
- Farmers are not making the most efficient use of resources – about 50% of applied nitrogen fertilisers are fixed by the crop
Nitrogen (in ammonia, nitrous oxide and nitrates) that is lost from these un-stabilised fertilisers can negatively impact the environment:
- Ammonia is toxic to humans and animals in high concentrations, and is a key component of smog. Ammonia can be carried great distances by the wind; rain can then deposit it into natural ecosystems where it acts as a nitrogen fertiliser and has an undesired effect – some plants respond positively to this fertiliser, others are impaired.
- Nitrous oxide is a potent Green House Gas (GHG) – Nitrous oxide is approximately 300 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide as a GHG, and leads to global warming.
- Nitrates in water can be an issue for water companies as they need to meet guidelines as to the amount of nitrates that is allowed to be supplied in drinking water. Nitrates can also stimulate algal blooms in surface water; which when the algae die, results in oxygen depletion.