Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Agriculture and the Nitrogen Cycle: Assessing the Impacts of Fertilizer Use on Food Production and the Environment

Authors
item Mosier, Arvin - U OF FL, GAINESVILLE
item Syers, J - PHITSANULOK, THAILAND
item Freney, J - CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA

Submitted to: Complete Book
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 2004
Publication Date: September 18, 2004
Citation: Mosier, A., Syers, J.K., Freney, J.R. (eds) 2004. Agriculture and the nitrogen cycle: assessing the impacts of fertilizer use on food production and the environment. Complete Book. Agriculture and the Nitrogen Cycle: Assessing the Impacts of Fertilizer Use on Food Production and the Environment. SCOPE Vol. 65, Island Press, Washington, DC. 296 p.

Interpretive Summary: Nitrogen (N) availability is a key factor in food, feed, and fiber production. Providing plant-available N through synthetic fertilizer in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has contributed greatly to the increased production needed to feed and clothe the increasing human population. Because of greater accessibility to N fertilizer, human activity has greatly altered nitrogen cycling globally and at the scale of large regions. Information about the components of the N cycle has accumulated at a rapid pace in the last decade, especially with regard to processes of transfer in different terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospheric environments. There is a need to synthesize this information and assess the effect of adding additional N to natural and cultivated ecosystems. Improvements need to be made to the currently low efficiency with which fertilizer N is usually used within production systems if we are to continue to meet the global demands for food, animal feed, and fiber and minimize environmental problems. Major uncertainties remain, however, about the fate of fertilizer N added to agricultural soils and the potential for reducing emissions to the environment. Enhancing the technical and economic efficiency of fertilizer N is essential for both agricultural production and protection of the environment. To meet these needs SCOPE (Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment), whose mandate has been to assemble, review, and assess the information available on human-induced environmental changes , has joined forces with the IGBP (International Geosphere{-}Biosphere Programme) to develop the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), which was formed following the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg on August 29, 2002. The INI initiated the assessment that is embodied in the book.

Technical Abstract: This book is an international assessment of the efficiency and consequences of fertilizer N and is a first step in the development of the science base for the INI. It assesses the fate of fertilizer N in the context of overall N inputs to agricultural systems, with a view to enhancing the efficiency of N use and reducing negative impacts on the environment. The book consists of an overview synthesis paper, four papers developed from discussions of cross-cutting issues, an invited paper that assesses current knowledge about the environmental dimensions of fertilizer N, and 13 papers on various aspects of fertilizer N use. The cross-cutting issues relate to the efficiency of fertilizer N use as determined by environmental and management factors, the role of emerging technologies (e.g., genetic enhancement) on the efficiency of fertilizer N use, impacts of N loss on human health and the environment, and societal responses to meeting N needs in different regions. SCOPE publishes this book as the third of a series of rapid assessments of environmental issues. SCOPE’s aim is to make sure that experts meet on a regular basis, summarize recent advances in related disciplines, and discuss their possible significance in understanding environmental problems and potential solutions. The desire is to make this information available in published form within 6 to 9 months of an assessment. The assessment for this book was conducted at a workshop that was held in Kampala, Uganda, in January 2004.

Last Modified: 12/19/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page