Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: United States
UN reports calls for halving nitrogen waste

UN reports calls for halving nitrogen waste

United Nations suggests that agriculture plays a major role in climate change.

One hundred fifty scientists from 35 countries issued a warning on the devastating impact of nitrogen.

These scientists are requesting all countries “…to wake up to the challenge of halving nitrogen waste from all sources globally by 2030.”

The scientists claim nitrogen, which includes anhydrous ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, and nitrous oxide, “…is polluting our air, soil and water, posing a threat to human health, biodiversity, economies, and livelihoods.” They believe “sustainable nitrogen management would help prevent millions of premature deaths, help ensure food security, and simultaneously help protect wildlife and the ozone layer.” The scientists also claim that 80% of the nitrogen we use to grow our crops is wasted.

One statistic got my attention. These scientists estimate worldwide nitrogen losses may be valued at about $200 billion annually.

This study, “Nitrogen - Grasping the Challenge," was released on Oct. 22, 2019. It comes as many of us in agriculture have either injected our anhydrous ammonia in the fall or will be doing so in the spring. Anhydrous ammonia, which virtually all farmers use, is 82% nitrogen. Urea has the highest nitrogen content of all the solid fertilizers at 46%.

The United Nations Environmental Program has an international nitrogen initiative with some 80 project partners. There was a meeting on nitrogen and its “devastating impact” held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Oct. 23-24, 2019. These experts claim there must be more efficient use and application of fertilizers, handling of manure in agriculture, the cutting of food waste and of course, we must avoid excessive meat and dairy consumption by reducing our global production.

A Professor Sutton says “It is vital we make the transition from a linear system of waste to a circular economy for nitrogen to prevent large-scale losses that have an impact on human health, livelihoods and planet earth.”

Because many of you reading this blog have already purchased your anhydrous ammonia or are about to for spring use, you may want to read this attack on nitrogen.

One professor says, "If we want to beat climate change, air pollution, water pollution, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and stratospheric ozone depletion, then a new focus on nitrogen will be vital.”

A new line of attack has now been launched by the United Nations’ Environment Program on one of your most valuable tools. The United Nations’ Nitrogen Campaign will begin promoting public awareness about the challenges posed by agriculture’s use of nitrogen. The United Nations believes there is a lack of citizen awareness and this has limited many actions to the global nitrogen crisis. The goal of the United Nations is to cut in half the amount of nitrogen that is used in farming and other activities. The United Nations believes if its recommendations are implemented farmers around the world can save at least billions annually.  The United Nations believes we are facing a global nitrogen challenge. It believes its new report is a manifesto “…for Science in Action.” The study states that if we cut in half our use of nitrogen, we can solve the water quality issues in our waters. The scientists also state that “If countries wish to keep global temperatures within the 1 or 2 degree C, then this cannot be done without action on nitrogen.”

Without saying it specifically, the United Nations is suggesting once again that agriculture plays a major role in climate change. 

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.