Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Nitrogen

17 December 2015

Meat and dairy consumption have increased globally over the past fifty years. As livestock account for 80% of agriculture’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, this article argues that to achieve climate targets, humans need to change their dietary habits.

9 November 2015

On October 28 2015 the European Parliament voted for binding targets on emissions of air pollutants with specific targets set for 2020, 2025 and 2030. The bill originally included ammonia and methane (CH4) among other air pollutants – but the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted to exempt enteric methane emissions (emissions directly from farmed animals) from the bill. Setting targets for enteric methane was instead postponed to 2030, to give the agriculture sector time to adapt.

3 September 2015

This paper reviewed data from six national studies to quantify food waste within the EU and its associated loss of water and nitrogen resources in the EU as well as the uncertainties of these values.

16 July 2015


It is the perfect storm. Limited food, water and energy unequally spread between an expanding population, and a warming climate as the bitter icing on the cake. In all these global challenges nitrogen has a leading role to play.

18 June 2015

A new paper published in Global Change Biology looks into the effects of increasing CO2 levels on protein in crops. The study finds that not only can increased CO2 be a problem for food security through climate change, but it can also directly impact the nutritional value of crops.

29 January 2015

This updated version further develops the Planetary Boundaries concept, which was first published in 2009.  In their original outline of the concept the authors identified nine key global processes and systems that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth System – the interactions of land, ocean, atmosphere and life that together provide conditions upon which our societies depend.  They argued that if these natural processes are disrupted beyond a certain ‘boundary’ point, the consequences could be irreversible and lead to abrupt environmental change, making life on earth very hard for humans.

26 November 2014

Nitrogen is a necessary element for crop and livestock growth, and protein intake is essential for a balanced human diet. This study examines efforts to improve nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in agriculture, and reduce unintended losses of nitrogen (N) to the environment. The paper particularly looks at how it is possible to offset reactive nitrogen (Nr) and achieve so called nitrogen-neutrality.

26 November 2014

A new study from researchers at The Earth Institute of Colombia University and the Woods Hole Research Center says emissions of nitrous oxide could double by the middle of the century if left unchecked. Nitrous oxide is the third biggest contributor to human-induced climate warming after carbon dioxide and methane.

30 July 2014

Ten years after the first Year Book in this series appeared, a special e-book anniversary edition – UNEP Year Book 2014 – presents a fresh look at ten issues highlighted over the past decade.

25 April 2014

This report quantifies how much our food choices affect pollutant nitrogen emissions, climate change and land use across Europe.

6 February 2014

A growing imbalance between phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer use in Africa could lead to crop yield reductions of nearly 30% by 2050, according to a new study from researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

19 December 2013

This paper, which looks at the impact of agricultural intensification on soils across Europe, suggests that differences in the intensity of land use significantly affects soil ecosystems and the services they provide. High intensity arable land use is found to a have lower diversity and biomass of soil organisms than lower intensity arable or permanent grassland, and that this affects the carbon and nitrogen cycles in the environment.

19 December 2013

This interesting paper calculates the a. nitrogen footprint and b. nitrogen investment factor associated with the average production of 12 agricultural commodities in the EU – 6 plant and 6 livestock products (excluding fish and aquatic products).  The nitrogen footprint is defined as the total N losses to the atmosphere resulting from the production of a defined unit of food, while the N investment factor calculates the amount of N input needed to produce a specified amount of N in the food.   Since N is the building block of protein, the latter is a useful way of looking at the issue, particularly when it comes to considering the relative merits of plant (eg. pulses and legumes) versus animal sources of protein.