Implication of lowering fertilizer usage on energy, agriculture, and land systems

Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 08:00
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Since around 1950’s, global fertilizer usage has increased by more than 800% to meet the growing demand for agricultural production. This increased fertilizer usage has resulted in detrimental impacts to the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems as half of the applied fertilizer is lost to the atmosphere or water bodies. In the future, crop production is projected to increase further due to increased demand for both food and energy crops that will require increased fertilizer usage. Prior studies have examined ways of achieving agricultural intensification in environmentally sustainable ways. However, these studies have only examined future changes till the middle of the century and have not examined the impacts on energy production, food prices, and energy prices. Here, we utilize the GCAM model to explore the impacts of reducing global and regional fertilizer usage on land use change, agricultural productivity, energy production, and greenhouse gas emissions. Preliminary results indicate that reduction in fertilizer usage at a regional or global scale results in an increase in forested area and a decrease in biomass area. Furthermore, we find that fertilizer reduction at a global scale results in shifting of agricultural production from regions in Asia to regions in Africa implying that it is indeed possible to optimize fertilizer consumption by shifting agricultural production to different parts of the world.

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