Consequences of nitrogen losses in ruminants - Part 2

A problem with nitrogen pollution is that a high concentration of farm animals generates many manure, mainly in slurry. In volume, this cannot be easy to store and use as fertilizer.

An increase of greenhouse gasses (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) in the atmosphere leads to global warming. Increasing concentrations of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) are particularly dangerous as both have a much higher oxidation number and therefore contribute more to the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide:

  • Methane (CH4) with a global warming potential 28 times greater than CO2.
  • N2O with a global warming 310 times greater than CO2.
©Delacon

Agriculture is responsible for 24 % of the carbon footprint.  In 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that agriculture produces the equivalent of 5.3 billion of Eq CO2 T/year. 39% comes from enteric fermentation (methane produced by rumen fermentation), and 25 % comes from nitrogen (NO2). Agricultural N2O emissions are mainly soil emissions due to microbial processes of nitrification and denitrification. Nitrogen added to the soil can contribute directly or indirectly to N2O emissions. According to some estimates, manures constitute 17% of the sources of N2O in the USA. Thus, N and NH3 volatilization from manure can directly contribute to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from animal agriculture.

Due to its high reactivity, NH3 reacts with atmospheric acids such as sulfuric and nitric acids to form ammonium sulfate, ammonium bisulfate, or ammonium nitrate, which are considered fine particulates (<2.5 µm). These particulates contribute to air pollution, which, on a global scale, is estimated to cause up to 2 million premature deaths annually (WHO 2005). These fine particulates (PM2.5) are considered among the most dangerous for lung diseases.

Similarly, nitrous oxide (N2O) in the air is also responsible for air pollution and rain acidification, and tree death in the forests.

In conclusion, ammonia emitted by livestock has an impact on the environment and human health. It contributes to eutrophication of surface waters, nitrate contamination of groundwaters, soil acidity, fine particulate matter formation, and global warming.

Thierry Aubert

Thierry Aubert

Thierry Aubert can look back on 15 years of experience in the premix, feed and meat industry. Since the beginning of his career, Thierry is in regular exchange with the farmers to understand their challenges and needs. In 2013 he joined Delacon as Species Leader Ruminants. With his team, he is in charge of the global product development for the ruminant species and customer technical support. Since spring 2018, his task areas have been extended: At the moment, he is also responsible for the coordination of the Reginal Technical Managers worldwide. In his leisure time, he likes to go running and already participated in several marathons.

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