Nitrogen is not the only cause of the greenhouse effect
Nitrogen-based fertilizers are regarded as the main cause of greenhouse gases emissions resulting from agricultural activity. It is impossible for farmers to cease using fertilizers, but they can reduce the impact of their activity on the environment by limiting energy consumption and efficient fertilization. This will make it possible to cut greenhouse gases emissions to the atmosphere considerably.
CO2 is half of the story
Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane, chlorofluorocarbons and ozone. Carbon dioxide is the main culprit in the creation of the greenhouse effect, as this compound constitutes 50% of the gases which are emitted to the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels are burnt.
It is estimated that 9 to 11 % of the greenhouse gases in the world come from agricultural activity. The main sources are nitrogen compounds in fertilizers, methane coming from compost production and cattle grazing, and the carbon dioxide produced by burning the fuel used by agricultural vehicles. Greenhouse gases emissions are being systematically reduced by the enterprises which manufacture nitrogen-based fertilizers.
Taking care of the environment
Technological progress in the chemical industry impacts the natural environment. In 1900, 400 gigajoules of energy were required to produce a ton of nitrogen, but by 2005 the figure had fallen to below 50 gigajoules! This means that less fuel is used and a smaller quantity of greenhouse gases is produced. The modern production methods implemented in nitrogen works make it possible to reduce the impact on the natural environment to a meaningful extent.
Nitrogen for the environment
Nitrogen-based fertilizers make it possible to boost the yield per hectare, reducing the cost of production, including the cost of fuel. We also need to keep in mind that the chief source of carbon, the main nutrient for the plants, is CO2.. By absorbing this gas, plants counteract the growth of its quantity in the atmosphere.
The higher the yield, the more plants may absorb the carbon dioxide produced by agricultural activity. This activity makes it possible to absorb 11 tonnes of CO2, which will be used to build the biomass of plants. This is five times more than the carbon dioxide emitted during the production, transport and application of nitrogen-based fertilizers.
The vehicles and equipment used in agriculture may also help reduce greenhouse gases emissions. Those machines use conventional fuels, whose burning frees up CO2 to the atmosphere. If the equipment is used in the proper manner and the most modern solutions are used, far less carbon dioxide is produced.
Skillful dosing of nitrogen is of huge importance. Excessive quantity of the fertilizer leads to the emission of nitric oxides to the atmosphere and makes the soil more acidic, reducing the quantity of the yield.
Apart from fertilizer manufacturers, the farmers also have a role to play in the reduction of greenhouse gases emission from agriculture. They may reduce the quantity of CO2 produced by controlling the chemical parameters of soil and by fertilizing with nitrogen-based products in a professional way. This requires training the farmers and encouraging the move towards sustainable farming.