Nitrogen losses from food production in the North China Plain: A case study for Quzhou

Fanlei Meng, Mengru Wang*, Maryna Strokal, Carolien Kroeze, Lin Ma, Yanan Li, Qi Zhang, Zhibiao Wei, Yong Hou, Xuejun Liu, Wen Xu, Fusuo Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Nitrogen (N) management is essential for food security. The North China Plain is an important food producing region, but also a hotspot of N losses to the environment. This results in water, soil, and air pollution. In this study, we aim to quantify the relative contribution of different crops and animals to N losses, by taking the Quzhou county as a typical example in the North China Plain. We developed and applied a new version of the NUtrient flows in Food chains, Environment, and Resource use (NUFER) model. Our model is based on updated information for N losses in Quzhou. Our results show that N losses to the environment from crop and animal production in Quzhou were approximately 9 kton in 2017. These high N losses can be explained by the low N use efficiency in food production because of poor N management. For crop production, wheat, maize, and vegetables contributed 80% to N losses. Ammonia emissions and N leaching have dominant shares in these N losses. Pigs and laying hens were responsible for 74% of N losses from animal production. Ammonia emissions to air and direct discharges of manure to water were the main contributors to these N losses. Effective reduction of N losses requires improving the nutrient management in crop (wheat, maize, vegetables) and animal (pigs, laying hens) production. Our work could support the Agricultural Green Development in the North China Plain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151557
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date8 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Agricultural Green Development
  • Crop and animal production
  • Nitrogen losses
  • Quzhou county
  • Source attribution


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