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Nitrogen pollution can be cut by half: Experts

Posted on May 14 2014 | IANS

New York, May 14 : With combined efforts by farmers and consumers, the risk of nitrogen pollution could be cut down by half, researchers said.

"Nitrogen is an irreplaceable nutrient and a true life-saver as it helps agriculture to feed a growing world population - but it is unfortunately also a dangerous pollutant," said Benjamin Bodirsky of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Colombia (CIAT).

In the different forms it can take through chemical reactions, it massively contributes to respirable dust, leads to the formation of aggressive ground-level ozone, and destabilises water ecosystems.

Only combined mitigation efforts both in food production and consumption could substantially reduce the risks, the study showed.

Currently, every second ton of nitrogen put on the fields is not taken up by the crops but blown away by the wind, washed out by rain or decomposed by microorganisms.

To reduce losses and prevent pollution, farmers can more carefully target fertiliser application to plants' needs, using soil measurements.

Moreover, they should aim at efficiently recycling animal dung to fertilise the plants.

"For consumers in developed countries, halving food waste, meat consumption and related feed use would not only benefit their health and their wallet but would also increase the overall resource efficiency of food production and reduce pollution," said study co-author Alexander Popp.

The scientists ran extensive computer simulations to explore the effects of different mitigation measures.

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