Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Science in action to improve the sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and food systems
Learn More Program Areas

Education Sidebar

5 thoughts on "Always Follow the Nitrogen"

  1. Tony says:

    Thanks for the N-laundering acknowledgement. Following the N is very instructive for realistic examination of most “organic” enterprises. Following the pesticides and meds is similarly so, in that they enable the N-laundering so important to most organic enterprises. Productive use of wastes is awesome, so is a realistic grasp of the organic label- not to mention C sequestration strategies. Great post as usual.

  2. Bryant Mason says:

    Great article. That said, I disagree with your comment: “Organic sources of nitrogen are often viewed as superior to synthetic sources because they are produced naturally.” I believe they are superior because of the higher C:N, reducing organic matter loss that can happen with a heavy application of synthetic N.

    1. Andrew McGuire says:

      Superior or inferior depends on your goals and system. There are always tradeoffs. It is more difficult to know just how much N will be available from an organic source than an synthetic source. And if you need a quick application, say for grain protein, synthetic N is the better option. Ease of application, cost, there are lots of factors to consider…

  3. Steve Neason says:

    You wrote:

    “Conventional grain, produced with synthetic N fertilizer, fed to livestock, converted to organic manure, is then composted and spread on organic farms.”

    That is one of the reasons we won’t participate in the “organic certification” scam on our farm. The organic concept has been captured by industry and converted to nothing more than a marketing term.

    We carefully source all our nutrient needs to avoid the use of synthetics and fossil fuels wherever possible. Heavy reliance on synthetics and fossil fuels is not farming, it is mining.

  4. Eric Brennan says:

    Thanks for another interesting and thoughtful article Andy. You make many excellent points. Thanks for highlighting the Nowak et al. paper on synthetic nitrogen moving into organic systems. This is an issue that many people often overlook. Here’s a link to my video that describes issue in organic vegetable production. Brennan E.B. 2016. Sustainability problems with ‘repackaged’ synthetic nitrogen in organic agriculture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *