Recently, nitrogen fertilizers have come under heat because they contribute to rising climate change.
However, organic fertilizers can also help combat it if used properly.
Global warming and climate changes are a big concern for humans and the planet Earth.
Hence, there is a need to be careful in the use of every product that goes in farming and agricultural products.
This article discusses how fertilizers can impact the environment and lead to a climate crisis.
Keep reading to know how you can use fertilizers responsibly on your agricultural crops to produce a good yield and also protect the environment.
How Nitrogen Fertilizers Affect Climate Change?
Though, another source of nitrous oxide is livestock manure which is an organic fertilizer.
Nitrous oxide, also known as N2O is third in number to contribute to climate changes.
Human activities like agriculture and its use as fertilizer is the largest contributor followed by fossil fuels and biomass burning.
Agriculture and wastewater release up to 4.1 million metric tonnes of N2O.
The total human emissions are 7.3 million metric tonnes hence, agricultural fertilizers contribute more than half of the total human emissions.
The main culprit is nitrogen synthetic fertilizer that farmers spray on food crops to increase the harvest.
Though livestock manure is also increasingly contributing to this rise because of the higher demand for meat and dairy products.
The grazing lands and pastures are increasing to raise livestock animals which also leads to more production of manure.
They are increasing the most across South America, South and East Asia and Africa.
However, it is important to notice that some nitrous oxide emissions are inevitable.
There isn’t an alternative to fertilizers or manure to produce the amount of food they help yield.
However, we can take steps to reduce emissions by changing food consumption habits. Read more on this below.
Use Of Fertilizers Against Climate Change
Fertilizers also help to decrease global warming in two ways.
You may be thinking that what is the link between the use of fertilizers and deforestation.
Well, there certainly is.
People cut forests in search of arable land and fertilizers increase the yield on the existing arable land.
Hence, there is no need to cut more trees in search of cultivable land.
Less deforestation saves forests which are carbon sinks and limits the carbon footprint.
This is very important as the decrease in Greenlands, forests, wetlands and peatlands can contribute up to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, a lack of tree planting and regular deforestation has other environmental impacts like loss of animal habitat and soil erosion.
1 billion hectares of land has already been saved because of sustainable agricultural practices for production and more can follow with proper fertilizer use.
Increase The Ability of the Soil to Store Carbon Dioxide
Carbon sequestration is a process whereby atmospheric carbon dioxide reduces because it is captured and stored.
Fertilizers increase the potential of the soil for carbon dioxide storage.
This happens because they build up the soil’s organic matter.
The soil’s organic matter allows for more nutrients to reach the plant and the plant’s growth results in more absorption of atmospheric Carbon dioxide.
Hence, you need to improve the soil to increase its potential to absorb carbon dioxide.
Soils are essential for sequestration as they can collect up to 300 tons of carbon that is equal to 1100 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Potential increases by using organic nutrients.
Hence fertilizers with plant nutrients either in organic or inorganic form can benefit the soil as well as increase biomass production and crop yield.
The use of cover crops and reduction of tillage can also help increase carbon sequestration.
The world and agricultural industry needs to shift towards efficient and better ways of food production.
Hence the use of the fertilizer should become more efficient to decrease nitrous oxide emissions.
However, the food system needs changes too that decrease the amount of dependence on supply chains that are inefficient while also reducing food wastage.
This includes the meat and dairy supply chain that results in livestock manure emitting nitrous oxide.
Furthermore, it also includes reducing the load of animal agriculture which contributes to the release of three major greenhouse gases, methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.
A major change can be to shift towards plant-based foods.
However, meeting the planetary boundaries and health goals will be a challenge.
Still, this could help reduce the burden that livestock and agricultural practices pose on the environment.
Hence, changing the food system is key to improving the rate of emissions, even if it will be a slower process.
Though, it is vital to remember that the agricultural sector is one of the vulnerable industries to the impact of climate change.
Growing crops requires good soil, suitable climate and water supply and all are at risk.
The temperatures are increasing, the soil is becoming infertile, and water is depleting.
Temperature rise and all this has already affected livelihoods in many areas of the world.
However, the correct use of fertilizers can help decrease these impacts. More on that below!
Best Practices Using Fertilizers to Reduce Climate Change
Fertilizers Use on Specific Site
This approach known as site-specific nutrient management applies the 4R’s principle.
- Applying the Right Fertilizer Source
- At the Right Rime
- On the Right Time
- At the Right Place
Hence, it allows for managing the application of the fertilizer source to attain the environmental and economic and social goals.
This will help increase the efficacy of the product as well as reduce the loss of nutrients in the environment.
The proper use of fertilizers helps plants boost health-wise and become resilient to any climate stress and changes.
If you have healthier plants and soils then they can cope with climate stress and withstand it as they use water efficiently.
Also, the 4r’s principle will help farmers and agriculturists make a good yield in cultivable seasons to compensate for the severe weather conditions.
Conserving with Fertilizer Use
While you use fertilizers that can contribute to nitrous oxide you should try to implement some conservation practices to conserve the soil and increase the soil organic matter.
- Less tillage
- Crop rotation
- Cover Crops
They can increase the resistance of the soil to environmental changes by decreasing erosion of the soil and the evaporation of water.
Furthermore, you can filter the surface of the water using wetlands and stream buffers.
Combine these conservation practices with the right use of fertilizers using the 4R’s principle and 4R’s nutrient stewardship.
This can help increase more yield, maintain the soil humidity and decrease the losses of nutrients in the soil.
Hence, these methods can reduce nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions while using fertilizers.
Moreover, what’s best is that they can still produce a good yield.
Hence remember the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Principle while applying the fertilizer to minimize loss and maximize yield.
Decreasing Emissions Using Fertilizers
You cannot have absolutely zero emissions and losses as fertilizer application and plant growth are natural biological processes.
Though you can try to reduce the greenhouse gases emitting from crops that grow using fertilizers.
While it is of no doubt that fertilizer use does release greenhouse gases, it is also crucial to know that the crop productivity fertilizers increase results in greenhouse gas savings and carbon sequestration.
Statistics show that a 20 percent increase in fertilizer use can contribute to 13 million carbon sequestration and 2 million hectares of land sparing.
Whereas the emissions in comparison are only 0.4 million tonnes.
Hence the efficient use of fertilizers using the 4R’s principle can actually help in carbon sequestration and make increase the yield of crops.
Though carbon emission is a concern, it is also important to note how the growth of plants using fertilizers benefits the environment.
Furthermore, there are also emissions from fertilizers in their production.
Read about them below.
Fertilizer Production Emissions
The greenhouse gas emission from the production of fertilizers is almost negligible.
It only consists of one percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions.
Moreover, it is important to note that the agricultural input across the world would see a whopping decrease of 50 percent without using mineral fertilizers.
Hence, the emissions from their production do not pose a big threat to the environment.
Nonetheless, members of the International Fertilizer Association commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer production.
They continually track their performance regarding energy efficiency and emissions of greenhouse gases.
Climate change and global warming are rapidly increasing.
Hence, there is a need for preparing beforehand and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Fertilizers and animal agriculture do release the three main greenhouse gases.
However, the appropriate use and application of fertilizers can save the environment.
Similarly, the use of organic fertilizers like those sold by Al Ard Alkhadra can help in carbon sequestration of the soil.
Therefore, it is possible to take climate action and reduce emissions by the use of fertilizers.
Additionally, the world should move to more sustainable food systems to reduce the effects of climate change.