Eighth Global Nitrogen Conference:
05/06/2021

Tags:

Context:

  • The 8th International Nitrogen Initiative Conference (INI2020) was scheduled to convene in Berlin, Germany, from 3-7 May 2020. But, due to the pandemic it was cancelled last year and was held recently- virtually.

About the International Nitrogen Initiative Conference:

  • Set up in 2003 under sponsorship of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP).
  • It is a triennial event that brings together scientists from around the world dealing with reactive nitrogen compounds in agriculture, industry, traffic, soil, water, and air.
  • Objective: To stimulate an exchange among policymakers and other relevant stakeholders of results, ideas, and visions to improve future holistic management of reactive nitrogen.
  • The program is currently a sustained partner of Future Earth.

Nitrogen as an essential nutrient:

  • Nitrogen, which is a vital macronutrient for most plants, is the most abundant element in the atmosphere.
  • A little over 78% of dry air on Earth is nitrogen. But atmospheric nitrogen, or dinitrogen, is unreactive and cannot be utilised by plants directly.
  • Therefore, nitrogen-fixing bacteria like rhizobia live symbiotically with leguminous plants, providing nitrogen to the plant and soil in the form of reactive compounds like ammonia and nitrate.

How Nitrogen turned into pollutants from nutrients and how it is affecting health and environment?

  • Nitrogen compounds running off farmland have led to water pollution problems around the world, while nitrogen emissions from industry, agriculture and vehicles make a big contribution to air pollution.
  • Over 80% of the nitrogen in soil is not utilised by humans. While over four-fifths of the nitrogen is used to feed livestock, only about six per cent reaches humans in case of non-vegetarian diet, as compared to the 20% that reaches the plate of a vegetarian.
  • Therefore, Nitrogen becomes a pollutant when it escapes into the environment and reacts with other organic compounds. It is either released into the atmosphere, gets dissolved in water sources such as rivers, lakes, or groundwater, or remains in the soil.
  • It creates harmful algal blooms and dead zones in our waterways and oceans; the algae produce toxins which are harmful to human and aquatic organisms (and indirectly affects fisheries and biodiversity in coastal areas).
  • Contamination of drinking water: 10 million people in Europe are potentially exposed to drinking water with nitrate concentrations above recommended levels. This can have an adverse effect on human health.
  • Food Security: Excessive nitrogen fertiliser application contributes to soil nutrient depletion. As the world needs to feed an ever-growing population, loss of arable land is a major global problem.
  • The release of Nitrous Oxide is essentially a greenhouse gas which is harmful to the environment.
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