60 Percent of Nitrogen in Fertilizers Unabsorbed by Plants, Washed into Rivers and Lakes

GreenTracker| A new paper funded by the National Science Foundation and publoished in the october 8, 2010 edition of Science fears that humans are overloading ecosystems with nitrogen. The primary contributors to escalating nitrogen levels are the burning of fossil fuels and an increase in nitrogen-producing industrial and agricultural activities.

While nitrogen is essential to life as we know it, scientists call it an ‘environmental scourge’ at high levels.There are many ‘issues’ attached to nitrogen, including the reality that as a greenhouse gas, it has 300 times (per molecule) the warming potential of carbon dioxide. Nitrogen oxide also destroys the stratospheric ozone.

This Science Daily overview article offers an informed view of the problem. We zeroed in on the challenges of fertilizer’s which are already under review now only as long-term stressors on the environment, but as short-term depleters of soil nutrients.

The earth saw an 800 percent increase in the use of nitrogen fertilizers from 1960 to 2000. We learn in the Nature article that worldwide, fertilizer is applied inefficiently, with about 60 percent of the nitrogen contained in fertilizer not absorbed by plants as intended, and washed into rivers, lakes, aquifers and coastal areas through the process of eutrophication. Read on at Science Daily.