Climate-Smart Fertilizers: Pioneering Tools to Address an Overlooked Yet Disruptive Problem

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Nitrogen (N) fertilizers are essential for enhancing crop productivity. However, both production and soil application responses related to N fertilizers can lead to significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Conventional production methods use fossil fuels and emit 4 lbs of CO2 per lb of N. Once applied, reactions in the soil can produce nitrous oxide (N2O) that constitutes up to 6% of US GHG emissions. N2O emissions are lower in absolute mass than CO2, but their warming effect is 300 times greater over a century. Agriculture is responsible for 75% of global N2O emissions, primarily due to N fertilizer use. Nitricity Inc. is committed to providing innovative solutions for reducing these environmental concerns. In 2022, Nitricity partnered with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) to implement a containerized production system and produce N fertilizer using air, water, and renewable energy (hydroelectric power) on-site in Muscle Shoals, AL. The fertilizer was used for experiments with two objectives: quantifying N2O emissions from different fertilizer sources and assessing the effectiveness of continuous monitoring using the Picarro G2508 Gas Concentration Analyzer. Two soil types were fertilized with the equivalent of 200 kg N/ha from either Urea or Calcium Nitrate (CN) produced with Nitricity's technology and two different calcium sources. The results demonstrated that CN significantly reduced soil N2O emissions compared to urea, regardless of the calcium source. The study also highlighted the efficacy of the Picarro G2508 Analyzer in reducing labor costs and continuously monitoring N2O emissions. These findings emphasize the success of Nitricity’s novel, electrified production and the need to explore alternative management practices to mitigate the environmental impact of N fertilizers. By embracing innovation and utilizing available tools, the industry can make substantial contributions to reducing GHG emissions and creating a more sustainable future.
Celli, T., Smith, K., Fugice, J., Schwalbe, J., McEnaney, J., & Pinkowski, N. (2023) Climate-Smart Fertilizers: Pioneering Tools to Address an Overlooked Yet Disruptive Problem [Abstract]. ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting, St. Louis, MO.