Nutrient management in support of environmental and agricultural sustainability

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Whitmore, A. P., Goulding, K. W. T., Glendining, M. J., Dailey, A. G., Coleman, K. and Powlson, D. S. 2012. Nutrient management in support of environmental and agricultural sustainability. Sustainability. 4 (10), pp. 2513-2524.

AuthorsWhitmore, A. P., Goulding, K. W. T., Glendining, M. J., Dailey, A. G., Coleman, K. and Powlson, D. S.

Given that we must farm land in order to eat, the total environmental burden imposed by farming a crop, such as winter wheat in the UK, appears to be close to the minimum given current production techniques. The value of the services other than food production, such as flood water buffering, pollination, carbon storage and so on, that land can provide is relatively large compared with the value in reducing environmental burdens from pesticide use, nutrient pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that might arise by farming less intensively. More land will need to be brought into cultivation in order to provide the same amount of food if the intensity of farming is reduced and the resultant loss of ecosystem services (ES) outweighs the reduction in other burdens. Nevertheless, losses of nutrients, especially nitrogen (N), from agriculture are a serious concern and the current cost of the environmental footprint of agriculture is significant compared with the value of the food it produces. This article examines nutrient burdens and analyses the means by which the total environmental burden might be reduced relative to productivity. These include increasing the efficiency of farming, removing constraints to yield, and establishing multiple uses for land at the same time as farming. It concludes that agronomic measures which improve nutrient capture and which obtain more yield per unit area are valuable means to avoid degradation of environmental quality because both nutrient pollution and land consumption can be avoided.

Keywordssoil; modelling; nutrients; nutrient management; nitrogen use efficiency; crop production
Year of Publication2012
Journal citation4 (10), pp. 2513-2524
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeDelivering Sustainable Systems (SS) [ISPG]
Quantifying Sustainable Systems
Modelling soil physical and biogeochemical processes
Project: 4714
Project: 4932
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online02 Oct 2012
Publication process dates
Accepted24 Sep 2012
Copyright licenseCC BY

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