Scottish researchers to review ways to lower agricultural nitrogen emissions

Scottish climate change researchers are exploring ways that farmers could reduce emissions from nitrogen fertiliser use.

Led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and funded by ClimateXChange, the project forms part of the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan.

The plan specifically highlights nitrogen fertiliser as a potential area of improvement and suggests this could be achieved through a combination of improved understanding, efficient application and improved soil condition.

The new research will be led by Dr. Sarah Buckingham and will include input from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

It will review and evaluate various input-output models to understand how a nitrogen-budgeting approach might support the delivery of emissions reductions in practice.

Announcing the research, Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “We want farmers to move towards a more profitable, low carbon future, which adapts to the changing environment and contributes to our climate change ambitions while securing business viability for future generations.

“That is why I am establishing research into the feasibility of reducing Scotland’s emissions from nitrogen fertiliser.

“Nitrogen is a key component for our crops and ensuring that they have access to the nutrients they need is crucial to the sustainability of our food production.

When applied in an inefficient manner, it can serve as a source of pollution, through either greenhouse gas emissions or impacts on air and water quality.

Gougeon added: “Recognising this, we have targeted Nitrogen Use Efficiency within our Climate Change Plan and have already committed to continuing to provide advice, information and technical assistance through the likes of the Farm Advisory Service (delivered by experts from SAC Consulting), the Soil Nutrient Network and Farming and Water Scotland.

“I hope that this new research will help to further develop our knowledge and understanding of nitrogen fertilisers to enable us to better support our plant and natural environment.”