Friday, September 2, 2011

Nitrogen pollution from fertilizers continues to grow

It is impossible to imagine our modern agriculture and food production without the nitrogen fertilizers. Friends on one side nitrogen fertilizers are also foes on other side, mostly in form of negative environmental impact.

Some scientists even refer to nitrogen pollution as "the biggest environmental threat that nobody has heard of." There are plenty of truth in these words because people usually think about either air or water pollution when discussing the pollution issue, neglecting the growing problem of nitrogen pollution.

There has to be much bigger public awareness regarding the nitrogen pollution issue in order to force world leaders to take a global action to control the levels of nitrogen pollution. Very few people recognize nitrogen pollution as serious environmental issue and this ignorance could cost us dearly in years to come.

The scientists believe that the main reason why nitrogen pollution remains mainly unrecognized environmental issue is its lack of visibility because nitrogen fertilizers remain invisible in our soil, water and air.

Nitrogen pollution can lead to serious environmental and health issue such as unhealthy air, unsafe drinking water, dead zones in the ocean, disruptive effect on nearby ecosystems in form of reduced biodiversity and even negative impact on climate change (in form of greenhouse gas nitrous oxide).

Some would say that there is no danger of nitrogen since our air already contains 78% of nitrogen. The difference is that the nitrogen in air is inert unlike the reactive nitrogen used in fertilizers.

Some recent studies have showed that nitrogen-related air pollution alone costs the U.S. well over $10 billion per year in both health costs and reduced crop growth.

How can the world satisfy both environment and modern agriculture? The science will certainly have to work hard on the development of new technologies that would reduce nitrogen's impact.

Farmers also need to become more educated about being more efficient with their fertilizer use and focus on environmental practices that help reduce nitrogen levels.

Nitrogen pollution issue will only grow in size if we choose to be the ignorant about it. The ignorance is certainly not the way to deal with environmental issues of the modern world.

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