Nitrogen Pollution Costs Europe Billions Per Year

A five year study in Europe determined that the costs of using nitrogen fertilizers significantly outweigh the benefits, costing billions of dollars worth of damage.

Nitrogen pollution costs Europe between 70 and 320 billion euros ($100bn-$460bn) per year in its impact on health and the environment, according to a major European study launched in Britain on Monday.

[…]

The first European Nitrogen Assessment, the result of a five-year research programme, found that the costs represented more than double the benefits for the continent’s agriculture sector.

The ENA was to be launched Monday at a five-day international conference in Edinburgh.

The study was carried out by 200 experts from 21 countries and 89 organisations, who came up with recommendations on how to reduce the amount of nitrogen in water, the air, the earth and ecosystems.

The solutions, as you might expect, involve going back to more traditional and effective ways of fertilizing the soil.  Nitrogen pollution, especially when it enters rivers as runoff, is particularly nasty.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Environment, Food, Quick Takes
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Alex… dude. There’s no such thing as pollution. Have you been reading Daily Kos again?

  2. rjs says:

    benefits accrue to the users, screw everyone else…

  3. Herb says:

    “involve going back to more traditional and effective ways of fertilizing the soil.”

    Monsanto should consider getting into the Terra preta business.

  4. JKB says:

    Okay, let’s try this. Only anyone who participated or thinks this report is correct, eats last. They are out of their ever loving minds if they think that the impact of nitrogen fertilizer is worse than its benefits. And, they apparently are ignorant of what happens when you use “traditional” fertilizer to achieve the same productivity.

    The answers are exactly what farmers are doing, targeted, measured application based on real time testing using GPS location technology. And the installation of nitrogen capturing vegetation to filter run off.

    Not to mention, I’m sure these are the very same idiots who would be complaining about the fragrance of nature if they ever were around a field that had “traditional” fertilizer applied.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    They are out of their ever loving minds if they think that the impact of nitrogen fertilizer is worse than its benefits.

    Oh, well, a five year, multi-country study vs your arbitrary assertion backed by no evidence? Gee, you’ve totally convinced me….

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    And, they apparently are ignorant of what happens when you use “traditional” fertilizer to achieve the same productivity.

    I live on a 200 hundred acre, no-till, contour planted grain farm. We use a 4T/acre organic fertilizer spread (poultry if you must know). Over the 5 year gradual switchover from synthetic nitrogen, we have seen a consistent 10-15% yield increase each year.

    But please, tell me how my actual production facts are wrong and your screed is correct.

  7. matt says:

    The answers are exactly what farmers are doing, targeted, measured application based on real time testing using GPS location technology. And the installation of nitrogen capturing vegetation to filter run off.

    Where in hell are they doing that? I don’t know a single farmer that goes to that kind of effort in Illinois. Sure they use GPS to pretty much self guide the tractors and such but no one does what you speak of. Is this an European thing?

  8. matt says:

    Neil Hudelson : Good to see a modern farmer around here.

    When I was involved in the farm business we actually used manure from the hogs and cattle..

  9. mantis says:

    I’m guessing JKB won’t be back to respond. He dug himself a pretty deep hole of stupid with that one comment.

  10. Southern Hoosier says:

    The Amish lifestyle epitomizes sustainability. The Christian community dresses plainly and reject modern technology, including electricity, preferring to live solely off the land. They use horse and buggies to travel around and often rely on telephone booths for contact, rather than on landlines or cell phones.

    But no one is perfect. The Achilles’ heel of the Amish farmers is their manure management.

    http://news.discovery.com/earth/amish-farmers-play-a-large-role-in-polluting-the-chesapeake.html
    This stories blames organic fertilizer, instead of synthetic fertilizer for polluting.