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Fertilizer use responsible for increase in nitrous oxide in atmosphere
Date:4/2/2012

be part of a first step toward reducing all greenhouse gases and lessening global warming, Boering said, especially since immediately reducing global carbon dioxide emissions is proving difficult from a political standpoint. In particular, reducing nitrous oxide emissions can initially offset more than its fair share of greenhouse gas emissions overall, since N2O traps heat at a different wavelength than CO2 and clogs a "window" that allows Earth to cool off independent of CO2 levels.

"On a pound for pound basis, it is really worthwhile to figure how to limit our emissions of N2O and methane," she said. "Limiting N2O emissions can buy us a little more time in figuring out how to reduce CO2 emissions."

One approach, for example, is to time fertilizer application to avoid rain, because wet and happy soil microbes can produce sudden bursts of nitrous oxide. Changes in the way fields are tilled, when they are fertilized and how much is used can reduce N2O production.

Boering's studies, which involve analyzing the isotopic fingerprints of nitrous oxide from different sources, could help farmers determine which strategies are most effective. It could also help assess the potential negative impacts of growing crops for biofuels, since some feedstocks may require fertilizer that will generate N2O that offsets their carbon neutrality.

"This new evidence of the budget of nitrous oxide allows us to better predict its future changes and therefore its impacts on climate and stratospheric ozone depletion - for different scenarios of fertilizer use in support of rising populations and increased production for bio-energy," said coauthor David Etheridge of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research in Aspendale, Victoria.

Finding the fingerprint of fertilized microbes

Boering was able to trace the source of N2O because bacteria in a nitrogen rich environment, such as a freshly fertilized field, prefer to inco
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Contact: Robert Sanders
rsanders@berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

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