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Making the climate and agriculture more laughing again

Russia, fertiliser, nitrous oxide and the future of the Green Deal

Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” is the most harmful greenhouse gas after CO2 and methane. Agriculture is the largest source from fertilisers and animal production.
Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” is the most harmful greenhouse gas after CO2 and methane. Agriculture is the largest source from fertilisers and animal production.

Nitrous oxide – good news for Europe, not yet for the world

Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” is the most harmful greenhouse gas after CO2 and methane. Agriculture is the largest source from fertilisers and animal production. The good news for the performance of European agriculture: nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture have been stagnating in Germany and Europe for around 20 years because fertiliser efficiency has increased. The bad news is that fertiliser efficiency worldwide is much worse than in Europe and nitrous oxide emissions are continuing to rise. But even in Germany and Europe, nitrogen efficiency can still be increased significantly, because so far only 50-60% of the fertiliser actually reaches the plant. (Agriculture ‘major driver’ of rise in nitrous oxide emissions over past 40 years)

Better fertiliser management and additives such as nitrification inhibitors can help a lot more to ensure that the fertiliser reaches the plant and is not converted to nitrous oxide by bacteria beforehand.(A round-up of enhanced urea fertilisers and additives) Simply saving fertiliser because of the sometimes high prices does not increase efficiency and reduces the yield.

Fertiliser prices falling again – good news?

The fact that the price of synthetic fertiliser is falling again and there is no longer a shortage sounds good at first. However, this is ultimately due to the dumping prices of Russian nitrogen fertiliser, which is increasingly threatening European fertiliser production. (Shifting Market Landscape)

At the end of the day, nitrogen fertiliser is nothing more than converted natural gas or the hydrogen from natural gas. This is a problem if we become dependent on Russian fertiliser again instead of Russian natural gas. This imported fertiliser is much more harmful to the climate than the fertiliser currently produced in Western Europe because it has a much larger CO2 footprint (Carbon Footprinting in Fertilizer Production) Just as with agricultural products themselves, high environmental standards and fair production opportunities can only be achieved through a very clear import policy with high standards without dumping

Agriculture and climate need effective and fair solutions – real innovation

Hydrogen as such is also an opportunity, however, because hydrogen can also be produced from renewable electricity instead of fossil gas – and can also be stored excellently as liquid ammonia or solid synthetic fertiliser (15 things you need to know about hydrogen). Intensive work is being carried out on further options for producing ammonia and nitrogen fertiliser directly from electricity and atmospheric nitrogen (Green fertilizers could revolutionize agriculture and increase food security and Fertilizing with wind).

As always, individual technical modules are important and necessary, but must also be thought through to the end. For example, green hydrogen or electricity alone will not solve the fertiliser challenge in Europe or worldwide (Making international trade in green hydrogen fair and sustainable). Ultimately, the the atmosphere does not care whether the nitrous oxide was produced from natural gas or green electricity. Fertiliser efficiency and soil health also depend very much on the cultivation method and the local, fully organic fertilisers that can be produced from sunlight using regenerative methods to improve the soil: cover crops.

A lot has already been achieved, but far too often you still see open soil in times of warmth and sufficient sunshine. Nobody would simply switch off their solar system for months on end in conditions like these. Fields often still have considerable photosynthesis potential that can be utilised through interseeding, undersowing and other innovative and precision cultivation concepts (The Case for Regenerative Agriculture in Germany—and Beyond). This will always be an interplay of agricultural technology, plants, optimised nutrient supply and clever and precise field cultivation (Regenerative agriculture).

The only thing that will certainly not occur in this climate-friendly precision agriculture with less nitrous oxide and more fertiliser efficiency are fixed calendar dates and undifferentiable large-scale rules that can be pressed into simple forms. Diversity needs flexibility with clear goals and also clear and simple measurements of performance and success. A great deal of innovation will be needed here too.

Where can crop.zone make a positive contribution?

Just like farmers, crop.zone is also committed to taking responsibility. That is why crop.zone is developing processes that replace non-selective herbicides with electricity, e.g. for green manure control, without leaving any residues (Works like chemistry. But without chemistry.). And green manure can make an important contribution to targeted regenerative fertilisation (sun and atmospheric nitrogen). crop.zone has also actively shown that soil life is not harmed by the use of electricity.

As with chemical treatment, no soil needs to be moved by ploughing or cultivating, so that no additional water evaporates, no humus is mineralised and soil life is not disrupted. crop.zone is also working on system solutions for the cultivation of legumes and, where necessary, their siccation. In this way, we also support regenerative nitrogen fixation from the air as a fertiliser. Together, we must develop methods to reconcile economic viability, food security, fair access to soils, climate protection and biodiversity. This is not easy, but there is no alternative. What we postpone now will be all the more difficult later. Or the development time will be too short for increasingly urgent solutions. We will need the Green Deal in terms of content, regardless of the political name of the concept. We can only discuss the most efficient design and turn it into good concepts as quickly as possible, which will then serve as a guideline for politics and society.

Electro weeding
crop.zone is developing processes that replace non-selective herbicides with electricity, e.g. for green manure control, without leaving any residues.