Potent Greenhouse Gas to Reduce Harmful Emissions From Soil

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Potent Greenhouse Gas to Reduce Harmful Emissions From Soil
B.K. Song collects water samples from an over-fertilized lake for analyses of microbial communities and nutrients. Credit: David Malmquist

Nitrogen is considered as the major pollutant in soil. It excess runoff into bay waters that causes algal blooms and low-oxygen dead zones. It mimics a significant role in greenhouse warming and the destruction of Earth’s ozone layer. To overcome this issue, an international group of scientists demonstrated potent greenhouse gas known as N2O or nitrous oxide.

This potent greenhouse gas can be bypass as complex nitrogen compounds in soil, water, and fertilizers. According to scientists, it could provide the entirely new way in the global nitrogen cycle and could lead to new ways for farmers and others to reduce their emissions of harmful gasses.

This greenhouse gas can effectively trap heat by 300 times than carbon dioxide. In addition, it is 10 times more effective than methane. Nitrous oxide also moves into the stratosphere and destroys ozone. When soil nitrogen breaks down, Nitrous oxide gets inevitably produced. It also requires the action of microbes and can only occur in the absence of oxygen.

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Lead author Rebecca Phillips said, “Our findings question the assumption that nitrous oxide is an intermediate requirement for the formation of nitrogen gas. They also throw doubt on whether microbial production of nitrous oxide must take place in the absence of oxygen.”

Song said, “We now have a pathway that doesn’t require microbes. The process of denitrification can happen abiotically, without the need for bacteria or fungi.”

The demonstration has various applications in excessing in the environment. However, scientists said, additional research still require to test exactly which forms of organic nitrogen are most effective. Currently, they are developing proposals for further funding. This will allow them to investigate on-farm applications for transforming excess nitrogen from soil into the unreactive atmospheric N2 gas without producing N2O.

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Song said, “It might give us a way to engineer the system to reduce levels of fixed nitrogen. By changing the types and ratios of nitrogen compounds in fertilizer, you might have a better way to reduce excess nitrogen, and to mitigate eutrophication or nutrient enrichment in nearby waters.

Further research could inform farmers of how to cultivate soil organic matter useful for nitrogen management,” added Phillips.

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