Researchers conclude: fertilizer + animal waste + combustion = sooty air

According to one research group, in many developed parts of the world, farming is a huge producer of fine-particulate-matter emissions.

Cow_female_black_white[1]How so? The American Geophysical Union (AGU) states in its press release: “Farms a Major Source of Air Pollution, Study Finds,” explains”: “Emissions from farms outweigh all other human sources of fine-particulate air pollution in much of the United States, Europe, Russia and China, according to new research.”

So, what’s to blame? Combustion emissions in combination with waste from animals along with fertilizers rich in nitrogen – that’s it exactly, according to the AGU.

“The good news is if combustion emissions decline in coming decades, as most projections say, fine-particle pollution will go down even if fertilizer use doubles as expected, according to the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union,” the AGU went on in the release to explain.

“Agricultural air pollution comes mainly in the form of ammonia, which enters the air as a gas from heavily fertilized fields and livestock waste. It then combines with pollutants from combustion—mainly nitrogen oxides and sulfates from vehicles, power plants and industrial processes—to create tiny solid particles, or aerosols, no more than 2.5 micrometers across, about 1/30 the width of a human hair,” the AGU added.

This isn’t the first time fertilizers have been implicated as having a negative contributing effect on the environment.

In “Groundbreaking fertilizer-based anti-air-pollution program launched,” a Nov. 15, 2014 Air Quality Matters blogpost, it is noted, “Already underway is an ambitious agriculture-centric fertilizer-pollution-reducing initiative which aims to improve both air and water quality. …

“And, on this, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) offers considerable background and insight.

“In ‘EDF launches initiative to reduce fertilizer pollution from commodity grain crops: Collaborative effort will improve water quality, cut GHGs and reduce supply chain risk,’ an EDF press release, made quite clear is: ‘Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has launched a new, collaborative initiative to eliminate fertilizer pollution as a major environmental concern in the United States. The effort will engage farmers and businesses throughout the supply chain to transform the way fertilizer-dependent grain crops are grown and sourced,’” it was further revealed.

You can read more here.

With regard to: “Significant atmospheric aerosol pollution caused by world food cultivation” (the study in question), the study’s lead author Susanne Bauer, a Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies atmospheric scientist, at any rate, as pointed out in the concluding two thoughts in the AGU release, had this to say:

“If future industrial emissions do go down, much farm-produced ammonia will end up in the Earth’s troposphere, roughly 2 to 10 kilometers (1 to 6 miles) above the surface, Bauer said. There, lightning and other natural processes may also help create fine particulates, but most of these particles would be trapped by raindrops and harmlessly removed from the atmosphere, she said,” the AGU wrote.

Meanwhile, and as it relates, the author who headed a Nature study done last year seems somewhat skeptical.

“Johannes Lelieveld, lead author of the 2015 Nature study, disagreed: ‘One should be cautious about suggesting that food production could be increased’ without increasing pollution, because that ‘critically depends’ on the assumption that societies will successfully curb industrial emissions, he said. Lelieveld pointed out that even with recent reductions in industrial pollution, most nations, including the United States, still have large areas that exceed the World Meteorological Organization’s recommended maximum of particulate matter,” the AGU stated.

Leave a Comment