Corteva™ Soil Health

What are the Environmental Impacts?

What are Environmental Impacts? 

Nitrogen lost through denitrification or volatilization is a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming and considered an environmental pollutant. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the impact of 0,45Kg of N2O on warming the atmosphere is nearly 300 times that of 0,45Kg of carbon dioxide. The EPA estimates emissions of nitrous oxide gases from the soil to be as much as 16% of the global budget of nitrous oxides in the troposphere. Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that commits industrialized states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a set goal. Nitrous oxide is one of six greenhouse gases targeted by the agreement.

Eutrophication occurs when water is contaminated with minerals and nutrients that are typically limited in the environment. Nitrates and phosphorous, like those found in agricultural fertilizers, are the most important contaminants driving eutrophication. This excess of nutrients accelerates plant and algal growth supporting large blooms that die off in mass when the nutrients have been used up. The microbial decomposition of dead algal blooms consumes dissolved oxygen faster than it can be replaced resulting in areas of low dissolved oxygen or hypoxic zones. In some cases, dissolved oxygen can retreat to a level that does not support sea life.

  • The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. The health of the GBR is under pressure from sediments, pesticides and nutrients (especially nitrogen) discharged from nearby waterways. The Australian sugarcane industry is a significant contributor to the amount of nitrogen entering the GBR. Recent estimates in the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (2013) suggests the industry contributes approximately 56% of the inorganic nitrogen load.
  • Similarly, in recent years, there has been growing concern about the seasonal hypoxic zone in the ecologically and economically important Gulf of Mexico. This hypoxic zone is attributed to the discharge of nitrates from farms along the Mississippi river.
  • In China, rapid growth has increased the pressure placed on the environment through nitrogen contamination. Nitrogen-containing pollutants from agriculture, transport and industry have increased more than 50% in the last 30 years (Qiu, 2013). One study found that as much as 50% of the nitrogen fertilizer applied to agricultural fields ends up in the environment either leached into ground water or volatilized into the atmosphere (June 2009).


According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the impact of 0.45 kg of N2O on warming the atmosphere is nearly 300 times that of 0.45 kg of carbon dioxide.