Nature

Reactive Nitrogen Emissions From Agriculture Pose a Grave Threat to Health and Climate

Dynamic nitrogen emissions from agriculture are priced economically, and they pose serious threats to the public due to air pollution and climate change.

The cost of reactive nitrogen species produced in American croplands is quantified in a research conducted by environmental experts at Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering.

Dangers of agricultural gas emissions

California In Third Consecutive Year Of Drought

(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In a study led by associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Daniel Cohan and graduate student Lina Luo, nitrogen oxide, ammonia, and nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized soils are measured over three years (2011, 2012, and 2017) and their effects on air quality, human health, and the climate are contrasted by region, as per ScienceDaily.

The study revealed cumulative yearly losses from ammonia were substantially higher overall at $72 billion than those from nitrogen oxides ($12 billion) and nitrous oxide ($13 billion), even though seasonal and geographical consequences varied among kinds of emission.

A measure of the harm caused by air pollution is the rise in mortality and illness as well as the value of statistical life, whereas a measure of the harm caused by climate change is the dangers to crops, property, ecosystem services, and human health.

The agriculturally intensive areas of California, Florida, and the Midwest incurred the biggest societal costs as a result of air pollution caused by ammonia and nitrogen oxides upwind of urban areas. After fertilizers are sprayed in the spring, emissions of both pollutants reach their height.

According to a research published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology, future analyses of how farming techniques impact reactive nitrogen emissions should take into account air pollution, human health, and climate.

We frequently discuss how greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane contribute to climate change, but according to Luo, nitrous oxide has nearly 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Nitrogen is crucial for crop growth, according to Cohan, but the study demonstrates that air quality management and climate policy have largely ignored the determinants that influence agricultural emissions, even as the EPA considers tightening air quality standards and the Biden administration works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to him, federal authorities have concentrated on reducing emissions from industry and transportation, leaving agriculture as the country’s main source of harmful nitrogen pollutants, a situation made worse by climate change and increased crop output.

After monitoring nitrogen oxide emissions for a while, the team realized they couldn’t only concentrate on them, according to Cohan. They have to take into account the variety of emissions that are produced by soils.

Read more: How is Climate Change Impacting Agriculture Commodity Prices?

Agricultural sector emissions

The cultivation of crops and cattle for food contributes to emissions in a number of different ways, as per EPA.

Numerous agricultural soil management techniques can increase the amount of nitrogen in the soil and cause nitrous oxide emissions (N2O).

Application of synthetic and organic fertilizers, development of nitrogen-fixing crops, drainage of organic soils, and irrigation techniques are specific actions that contribute to N2O emissions from agricultural areas.

Just over 50% of the greenhouse emissions from the agriculture industry are attributable to soil management.

Methane (CH4) is a byproduct of the natural digestive processes of livestock, particularly ruminants like cattle.

Enteric fermentation is the term for this process, which accounts for more than 25% of the emissions from the agriculture industry.

Emissions of CH4 and N2O are also influenced by how cattle manure is handled.

The quantity of these greenhouse gases produced varies depending on how manure is treated and stored.

Manure management accounts for around 12 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the Agriculture economic sector in the United States.

Related article: UN Dialogue Cites Pinduoduo’s Work in Bringing Agriculture into The Digital Economy

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