The role of nitrogen in world food production and environmental sustainability

B. Eickhout, A.F. Bouwman, H. van Zeijts

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On the basis of the FAO projection `World Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030¿ we direct our discussion to food production, the consequences for land use, efficiency of nitrogen (N) and losses of reactive N to the environment during 1995¿2030. According the FAO, global food production can keep pace with the increase in food demand in the coming three decades. However, according the projection used here, there will be a major global increase (8%) in arable land, most of it in developing countries and with a major impact on the extent of tropical forests. Further forest clearing may occur to compensate for declining soil productivity due to land degradation. Despite improvements in the N use efficiency, total reactive N loss will grow strongly in the world's increasingly intensive agricultural systems. In the 1995¿2030 period emissions of reactive N from intensive agricultural systems will continue to rise, particularly in developing countries. Therefore, the increase of N use efficiency and further improvement of agronomic management must remain high on the priority list of policy makers
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-14
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • production systems
  • acidification


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