Nitrogen is fundamental to agriculture but has a tremendous effect downstream on human health and the environment. While it has fuelled increases in food yields over decades, it has also led to high nitrate loads in our water supply, eutrophication in the Mississippi and ‘dead zones’ in the Gulf of Mexico, air pollution, loss of soil organic matter and soil degradation.

Chaired by Barbara Gemmill-Herren, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, this session examines some of the positive and negative externalities of nitrogen and explores some of the changes we need to make to reduce fertiliser dependency. Speakers include Jana Compton, US Environmental Protection Agency, presenting data on the cost of nitrogen use in the US; Sonja Brodt, UC Davis, discussing the quantities and impacts of nitrogen use in California; Professor Laurie Drinkwater, Cornell University, explaining how legumes can contribute to agricultural sustainability and reduce nitrogen fertiliser use; Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works, offering a response from the perspective of water treatment issues in Iowa; and Mark Muller, McKnight Foundation, responding with reflections based on his work on the Mississippi River Program.

Click on the following speakers to view their presentation slides for this session: Jana Compton, Sonja Brodt, Laurie Drinkwater, Bill Stowe.

Photograph: AgriLife Today

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