National Geographic on Fertilizer

The latest issue of NG arrived and in it was an article “Feast or Famine: The Flow of Nitrogen” describing fertilizer usage and sources.  While the focus of the article was worldwide, it included examples and pictures specific to the US.

Worldwide, usage is highest in China and India.  The article profiled farmers in these areas that used as much as 530 lbs/ac of nitrogen on their crops – more than two times typically needed by the most nitrogen hungry plants.

The US, third in nitrogen usage, has more arable land than China and India and, consequently, less pressure to produce more on its arable land.  Most of US nitrogen hotspots, however, are east of the Mississippi leading to the challenges associated with eutrophication which we face in NC.

As NG often does, they had an informative info-graphic on sources of both synthetic and organic nitrogen.  A little over half the N applied to crops is considered “excess” and remains in the environment, leaches out, or runs off to waterbodies.  That portion is the challenge for society to control to keep waters like those found on the NC’s Crystal Coast healthy for fishing and recreating.

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