Letters; June 2010; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff Editor; 2 Page(s)
When Less Is More
The global challenge of addressing sustainable use of nitrogen fertilizers is well characterized in “Fixing the Global Nitrogen Problem,” by Alan R. Townsend and Robert W. Howarth.
Where the authors fall short, however, is in considering some of the solutions that agricultural research and innovation offer to address these problems. Conventional breeding and biotechnology are being applied to improve crop utilization of available nitrogen, thus reducing fertilizer demand without sacrificing increased yields. And best practices today, through the use of urease and nitrification inhibitors, minimize off-target movement of nitrogen by reducing evaporation and by maintaining fertilizer nitrogen in the ammonium form, which is less mobile and more efficiently utilized by many crops.