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      Managing nitrogen for sustainable development.

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          Abstract

          Improvements in nitrogen use efficiency in crop production are critical for addressing the triple challenges of food security, environmental degradation and climate change. Such improvements are conditional not only on technological innovation, but also on socio-economic factors that are at present poorly understood. Here we examine historical patterns of agricultural nitrogen-use efficiency and find a broad range of national approaches to agricultural development and related pollution. We analyse examples of nitrogen use and propose targets, by geographic region and crop type, to meet the 2050 global food demand projected by the Food and Agriculture Organization while also meeting the Sustainable Development Goals pertaining to agriculture recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Furthermore, we discuss socio-economic policies and technological innovations that may help achieve them.

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          Most cited references 70

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          Solutions for a cultivated planet.

          Increasing population and consumption are placing unprecedented demands on agriculture and natural resources. Today, approximately a billion people are chronically malnourished while our agricultural systems are concurrently degrading land, water, biodiversity and climate on a global scale. To meet the world's future food security and sustainability needs, food production must grow substantially while, at the same time, agriculture's environmental footprint must shrink dramatically. Here we analyse solutions to this dilemma, showing that tremendous progress could be made by halting agricultural expansion, closing 'yield gaps' on underperforming lands, increasing cropping efficiency, shifting diets and reducing waste. Together, these strategies could double food production while greatly reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture.
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            Global food demand and the sustainable intensification of agriculture.

            Global food demand is increasing rapidly, as are the environmental impacts of agricultural expansion. Here, we project global demand for crop production in 2050 and evaluate the environmental impacts of alternative ways that this demand might be met. We find that per capita demand for crops, when measured as caloric or protein content of all crops combined, has been a similarly increasing function of per capita real income since 1960. This relationship forecasts a 100-110% increase in global crop demand from 2005 to 2050. Quantitative assessments show that the environmental impacts of meeting this demand depend on how global agriculture expands. If current trends of greater agricultural intensification in richer nations and greater land clearing (extensification) in poorer nations were to continue, ~1 billion ha of land would be cleared globally by 2050, with CO(2)-C equivalent greenhouse gas emissions reaching ~3 Gt y(-1) and N use ~250 Mt y(-1) by then. In contrast, if 2050 crop demand was met by moderate intensification focused on existing croplands of underyielding nations, adaptation and transfer of high-yielding technologies to these croplands, and global technological improvements, our analyses forecast land clearing of only ~0.2 billion ha, greenhouse gas emissions of ~1 Gt y(-1), and global N use of ~225 Mt y(-1). Efficient management practices could substantially lower nitrogen use. Attainment of high yields on existing croplands of underyielding nations is of great importance if global crop demand is to be met with minimal environmental impacts.
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              Transformation of the nitrogen cycle: recent trends, questions, and potential solutions.

              Humans continue to transform the global nitrogen cycle at a record pace, reflecting an increased combustion of fossil fuels, growing demand for nitrogen in agriculture and industry, and pervasive inefficiencies in its use. Much anthropogenic nitrogen is lost to air, water, and land to cause a cascade of environmental and human health problems. Simultaneously, food production in some parts of the world is nitrogen-deficient, highlighting inequities in the distribution of nitrogen-containing fertilizers. Optimizing the need for a key human resource while minimizing its negative consequences requires an integrated interdisciplinary approach and the development of strategies to decrease nitrogen-containing waste.
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                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                [1 ] Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.
                [2 ] Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.
                [3 ] Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Frostburg, Maryland 21532, USA.
                [4 ] Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.
                [5 ] Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), 75116, Paris, France.
                [6 ] Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Developpement (CIRED), 94736 Nogent-sur-Marne, France.
                [7 ] Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.
                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Nature
                1476-4687
                0028-0836
                Dec 03 2015
                : 528
                : 7580
                nature15743
                10.1038/nature15743
                26595273

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