A Brief History of Our Deadly Addiction to Nitrogen Fertilizer | Mother Jones April 21, 2013Posted by sandyclaus in Food Culture, Politics.
Our future doesn’t have to be drenched in vast quantities of synthetic nitrogen, with all its liabilities both subtle and spectacular. A 2012 Iowa State University study found that by simply shifting to more diverse crop rotations, Midwestern farmers could radically reduce their reliance on added nitrogen while maintaining current levels of overall food production. Another recent study by Cornell researchers found similar crop rotations also reduced nitrogen runoff.
Yet instead of weaning us from from our huge reliance on nitrogen, federal and state agencies are underwriting the construction of new plants and the expansion of old ones. Meanwhile, federal farm and “renewable fuel” policies continue to prop up corn—in 2013, the USDA expects farmers to plant the most since 1936: 97.3 million acres, covering an area nearly the size of California. We won’t be kicking our nitrogen habit anytime soon.