Using Nitrogen for “Mo Fo Lo Po”

John DavisAg Group, Agribusiness, Nitrogen, Soil

amsocietyofagronomyNitrogen is an important element in agriculture, and managing the nutrient’s levels in soils has been the focus of much attention for a while. This news release from the American Society of Agronomy says recently a group of scientists, industry representatives, farmers, and government and non-government organization members met to discuss managing nitrogen on farms with the goal of “Mo Fo Lo Po:” more food, low pollution.

Eric Davidson, a professor and scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, led the effort to publish findings from the meeting in the Journal of Environmental Quality.

“Society needs to feed about 9.5 billion people by 2050, yet maintain healthy soil and water resources,” says Davidson. “Fortunately, the ‘Mo Fo Lo Po’ goal is easy to articulate and understand.” The knowledge and technology are there. But new investments and partnerships in knowledge-based agriculture will be required. “This includes consideration of the socio-economic factors that affect farmer decision making.”

The use of synthetic or organic nitrogen to feed an expanding population can have consequences by pollution. Some forms of nitrogen are lost to groundwater and surface water, contributing to algal blooms. Other forms are lost to the air, and can contribute to greenhouse gases. Neither society nor farmers want these unintended consequences. Yet the world needs more food for a growing population.

“Our group had several findings,” adds Charles Rice, professor at Kansas State University and the co-coordinator of the conference. “Farmers get most of their information about fertilizer management from crop advisers. Partnerships are needed in many areas.”

The group says collaborations between government extension and crop advisers could help get up-to-date information to farmers, advancing the adoption of innovative and more nitrogen-efficient crop and animal production systems. Results of these improved practices on the farm will potentially mean less pollution flowing to both downstream and downwind environments.