Claim: Modern Use of Fertiliser is “Unsustainable”

Anadama bread, author Stacy from San Diego, source Wikimedia (attribution license)

Anadama bread, author Stacy from San Diego, source Wikimedia (attribution license)

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A new study attacks the practice of using fertiliser to produce high wheat yields for bread, claiming that current use of fertiliser is “unsustainable”, due to the energy required to manufacture the fertiliser.

How to reduce the environmental impact of a loaf of bread? (Update)

With an estimated 12 million loaves sold in the UK every day, bread remains a staple of the British diet. In a groundbreaking study researchers from the University of Sheffield have now calculated the environmental impact of a loaf of bread and which part of its production contributes the most greenhouse gas.

Dr Liam Goucher, N8 Agrifood Research Fellow from the University of Sheffield who carried out the study, said: “Consumers are usually unaware of the environmental impacts embodied in the products they purchase – particularly in the case of food, where the main concerns are usually over health or animal welfare.

“There is perhaps awareness of pollution caused by plastic packaging, but many people will be surprised at the wider environmental impacts revealed in this study.

“We found in every loaf there is embodied global warming resulting from the fertiliser applied to farmers’ fields to increase their wheat harvest. This arises from the large amount of energy needed to make the fertilizer and from nitrous oxide gas released when it is degraded in the soil.”

“The findings raise a very important issue – whose responsibility is it to bring about the implementation of these interventions: the fertiliser manufacturer, the farmer, the retailer or the consumer?

“There is a growing recognition for a range of industrial processes of the notion of extended producer responsibility – the producer being responsible for downstream impact, expanded to the idea of shared producer and consumer responsibility. The consumer is key, whether being persuaded to pay more for a greener product or by applying pressure for a change in practice.

Co-author Professor Duncan Cameron, Co-director of the P3 Centre for Translational Plant and Soil Science explains: “The fertiliser problem is solvable – through improved agronomic practices”.

“These harness the best of organic farming combined with new technologies to better monitor the nutritional status of soils and plants and to recycle waste and with the promise of new wheat varieties able to utilise soil nitrogen more efficiently”.

Read more: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-environmental-impact-loaf-bread.html

The abstract of the study;

The environmental impact of fertilizer embodied in a wheat-to-bread supply chain

Liam Goucher, Richard Bruce, Duncan D. Cameron, S. C. Lenny Koh & Peter Horton

Food production and consumption cause approximately one-third of total greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore delivering food security challenges not only the capacity of our agricultural system, but also its environmental sustainability. Knowing where and at what level environmental impacts occur within particular food supply chains is necessary if farmers, agri-food industries and consumers are to share responsibility to mitigate these impacts. Here we present an analysis of a complete supply chain for a staple of the global diet, a loaf of bread. We obtained primary data for all the processes involved in the farming, production and transport systems that lead to the manufacture of a particular brand of 800 g loaf. The data were analysed using an advanced life cycle assessment (LCA) tool, yielding metrics of environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions. We show that more than half of the environmental impact of producing the loaf of bread arises directly from wheat cultivation, with the use of ammonium nitrate fertilizer alone accounting for around 40%. These findings reveal the dependency of bread production on the unsustainable use of fertilizer and illustrate the detail needed if the actors in the supply chain are to assume shared responsibility for achieving sustainable food production.

Read more: http://www.nature.com/articles/nplants201712

Sadly the full study is paywalled. But in a world where millions of people are still on the edge of starvation, and where millions more have only just gained access to the benefits of modern fertiliser, talking about restrictions, shared responsibility and presumably financial penalties to make fertiliser less accessible in my opinion is unconscionable.

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133 thoughts on “Claim: Modern Use of Fertiliser is “Unsustainable”

  1. The question needs to be asked of the Greens “What do you want?”
    It seems they want the total destruction of the Western society, but it would be nice to let them state their preference in their own words.

    • Just run behind them and smack anything out of their hands that has a carbon footprint.
      No bread, no gasoline, etc.
      Just let them eat inorganic bread.

      • You are close. fewer people means less bread needed. The UN wants roughly 13 out of 14 people to be gone. Imagine how little bread will be needed then.

      • Really simple solution is to use food for food and not fuel. Less fertilizer and fewer associated problems it brings simply by leaving the corn as food instead of turning 40% of it into ethanol. Just imagine how much less fertilizer would be needed to produce food

  2. “We found in every loaf there is embodied global warming resulting from the fertiliser applied to farmers’ fields to increase their wheat harvest. This arises from the large amount of energy needed to make the fertilizer and from nitrous oxide gas released when it is degraded in the soil.”

    Any good encyclopedia will tell you that more than 25% of the people of the world have food because of nitrogen fertilizers, and the number goes up when phosphorous and potassium are added.

    The overpopulationists know this very well.

    • Okay Max Photon, maybe your p8ss is a golden shower of blessing for some plant down there.

      But your neighbors might think otherwise, esp. down wind!

      The point is that the same people who believe the overpopulationist/eugenics paradigm also coincidentally seek to destroy all applied chemistry in agriculture, to the point of outlawing the very elements that plants need to grow and resist diseases and stress.

      Two things are extraodinarily anti-scientific about that. One, it is on its face fulfillling the predictions of scarcity and overpopulation, made by your own scientific theories; and two, outlawing plants from getting NKP fertilizers because of a personal phobia of applied science using chemicals to meet a crops’ needs.

      • people who firmly believe humans are a blight on the planet.
        ============
        those people believe it is “other” people that are the blight. they firmly believe that they themselves and others like them are a gift to the planet, and it is their duty to rid the planet of the blight.

        much of this is indeed a product of the eugenics craze that was so popular at the beginning of the 20th century in the US, which was adopted with and applied with typical German precision to millions during WWII. and of course after WWII, when the full horrors were revealed, everyone denied ever supporting eugenics.

        So now we have a most dangerous study being published, using the veil of scientific respectability to hide what should be most obvious to the reader. A plan to rid the world of fertilizer and ultimately condemn billions to starvation in the name of saving the earth.

        60 years ago the earth could barely support 3 billion people, with mass starvation common. Today we support 7 billion people with mass starvation largely a thing of the past. And as living standards have gone up, birth rates have come down, such that human population is on track to stabilize without the need for starvation, disease or warfare to limit the population.

        This could not have happened without fossil fuels. so for those that would save the planet, be careful what you wish for. when the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.

      • ferdberple says, “much of this is indeed a product of the eugenics craze that was so popular at the beginning of the 20th century in the US, which was adopted with and applied with typical German precision to millions during WWII.”

        The idea that traits such as intelligence are (genetically) inherited is a Darwinian axiom.

        Darwin’s followers and relatives were routinely claiming that the entire human race could be improved by selective breeding, and by discouraging inferior gene-carriers from breeding. Where ever Darwin was, there was eugenics also.

        Pre-WWI German Aryan studies were a parallel movement to Darwinian eugenics. Make no mistake, the Kaiser’s second re1ch was very interested in “racial hygiene” and German supremacy.

        But the American experiment proved that the common people, who were previously held to be inherently inferior in the old country of Europe, were the source of the greatest advances in science and technology, in the setting of their own political and religious freedom, ownership, and literacy. (Previously oppressed slaves in the south also disproved Darwinian racism, once they got out of the debased condition imposed on them.) The science of the Reformation and the American Revolution had as its goal the improvement of life for every day people and their families. And it succeeded in its purpose.

        The science of Darwinists/eugenicists and environmentalists has as very different goals, and it always forbids.

    • What’s the bet they haven’t accounted for the CO2
      the growing wheat has taken out of the atmosphere
      through its photosynthesis? It could well be it’s actually
      removing more than the production of the fertilizer
      emitted.

      As the study stands, it’s rubbish.

      • oh, but what about those people that would starve without wheat? clearly all the CO2 that they produce in their lifetime is due to the fertilizer that grew the wheat.

        That is the problem with attribution studies. Nature works in cycles. At some point in time, cause and effect cannot be separated. The chicken and egg need each other. Neither comes first, neither causes the other, because neither can exist without the other. The linear, sequential view of cause and effect typically makes no sense when applied to cycles found in Nature. the wrong approach leads to wrong conclusions, no matter how logical they may appear.

    • Nitrous oxide? The wheat farmers I know use anhydrous ammonia.

      I guess those grumpy guys would be happier if they used nitrous oxide on their fields….

      • Well you know Power Grab, it is not just the wheat; those naughty naughty farmers are even producing their own nitrous oxide, because it is a neurotransmitter!

        How have you been? I hope well.

      • Corn farmers also use anydrous ammonia, at a rate of 150-200 lb.acre. Anyhdrous ammonia is injected into the soil, but any that reaches the air oxidizes to nitrous oxide, with a 100-yr global warming potential 298 times that of CO2. Between methane and NO2, agriculture is responsible for 40% of anthro GHG emissions. One of the reasons why biofuels from cultivated feedstock is idiocy.

    • Yes what a shame when we use fertilizer to help feed our people. We could be using the fertilizer to grow marijuana or opium, or other things that the socialist elites really need.

    • How much more fuel would be used by the tractors in order to farm all the extra acres that will have to be brought into production when the use of fertilizer is stopped?

      • Not to mention the number of forested and natural prairie that would have to be cleared.

    • Some people want a return to the medieval ages. But then we have an excess of 6.5 billion people.

    • First ! There was “Peak Oil” … now we have “Peak Fertilizer” ! My casual (unscientific) observation is that we have a critical OVER-supply of fertilizer … based on the amount of it piled-up by the Global Warmists

      • Peak fertilizer is a direct consequence of peak oil. Without cheap fossil fuels to make cheap fertilizers
        the cost of food will skyrocket. Like it or not the current agricultural system is not sustainable – it relies on
        fossil fuel based fertizers which are finite and which is progressively destroying the soil. Futhermore the increasing use of pesticides and herbicides are also not sustainable in the long term. Other alternatives need to be found.

      • Geronimo,

        Peak oil is irrelevant to fertilizer production…

        Nitrogen fertilizers are made from of ammonia (NH3), which is manufactured using the Haber-Bosch process illustrated below:

        Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 5.21.33 AM

        This process, according to the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (part of the Department of Energy) has had incredible impacts:

        Referred to by some as the most important technological advance of the 20th century….Between 3 and 5 percent of the world’s annual natural gas production – roughly 1 to 2 percent of the world’s annual energy supply – is converted using the process to produce more than 500 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer, which is believed to sustain about 40 percent of the world’s 7 billion people. Approximately half of the protein in today’s humans originated with nitrogen fixed through the Haber-Bosch process.

        Natural gas is used in the process as the source of hydrogen to combine with nitrogen to make the ammonia that is the foundation of the nitrogen fertilizer. The shale gas revolution has lowered the cost of this ingredient in a major way, as this chart from a recent CF Industries presentation makes clear with a respect to projected internal rates of return for a proposed new urea (nitrogen fertilizer) plant:

        http://naturalgasnow.org/fertilizer-made-natural-gas-lifting-world/

        Key point:

        “Between 3 and 5 percent of the world’s annual natural gas production – roughly 1 to 2 percent of the world’s annual energy supply – is converted using the process to produce more than 500 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer, which is believed to sustain about 40 percent of the world’s 7 billion people. Approximately half of the protein in today’s humans originated with nitrogen fixed through the Haber-Bosch process.”

        “Peak gas” is nowhere in sight. The shale gas revolution has indefinitely postponed “peak gas.”

      • Before anyone gets all excited, please remember that the wild claims of “studies,” let alone those citing “problems” that don’t even exist, are NOT what Rules the World. MARKETS DO. As long as there is a demand for bread, wheat will be grown–and by the most profitable method. The Left is so caught up in their little Marxist alternate universe that for some reason this obvious fact usually escapes them.

      • “Natural gas is used in the process as the source of hydrogen to combine with nitrogen to make the ammonia that is the foundation of the nitrogen fertilizer.”

        The worlds first ammonia production plants didn’t use natural gas since it wasn’t widelyn available at the time (over 100 years ago). Instead electricity was used to split water to make hydrogen. Electricity was also used to extract nitrogen from the air, and provide heat and power to run the plant. These plants were typically located at hydroelectric facilities. Fossil fuel is not required to make ammonia. All other fertilizer ingredients can also be made from renewable electricity.

        Some people also worry about running out of phosphate. Most of the worlds supply currently comes from mining. Fortunately all phosphate mined eventually runs off the farm feild orgoes through the sewage treatment plants and ends up in the ocean. Our ancestors collected seaweed from beaches and used that as a fertilizer. If needed we could ocean farm enough seaweed to supply all of our fertilizer need indefinitely.

        We will never run out of fertilizer or the ingredients.

      • I suspect that the eco-Marxists are just “missing” the good ol’ romantic days of Soviet bread lines and co op agriculture … *sigh* … those were the good ol’ days … when Bob Dylan still played acoustic, and Jane Fonda dressed-up as Barbarella … mmmmm ggrrrrr. Not to worry … soon all those ex-hippie wannabe Marxists will be DEAD. You can only pump just so much adrenaline into Nancy Pelosi till her paper-thin heart explodes.

    • it is human being who unsustainable. We only need to weight for the next ice age, and the problem of global warming would cease to worry anyone. The problem would be how to avoid being frozen to death.

      • Is there anything that man has actually run out of through unsustainability? I am well aware that we have changed the use of various elements 7 products for a carity of reasons, mostly practical ones! Whale oil being an obvious one, whales being indirectly/directly saved by the use of oil!

      • Alan the Brit
        Didn’t we move out of the stone Age because we ran out of stone, flint etc.?

        Auto
        Mods – sorry – but this is /SARC Overdrive.

    • Did this guy just say that we need more GMOs in order to be better stewards of the environment? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…. talk about a tin ear.

      • yup glad I wasnt the only one that picked up on that.
        once we fed stubble and residues ONFARM back to the animals that then produced the fertiliser rather well, we burnt off the remnants and sorted a lot of weed isues too
        and if the soils turned as soon as possible after the fire we got potash into the soil as well as carbon.
        input of some chem in some areas with deficits usually lime and rarer minerals but not that much.
        but
        thats too old fashioned and sustainable and doesnt profit big agri
        neither does saving our own non hybrid area adapted seed.
        tsk tsk
        the no till pushed BY big agri pretty much assures mould mildew rust etc as well as weeds hang around, meaning increased sales for big agri again.

      • When he said “the promise of new wheat varieties able to utilise soil nitrogen more efficiently”, I started chuckling at the thought of greenpeace outrage.

  3. CO2 is a great fertiliser of plants and happily it is available in increasing amounts at no cost to anyone. CO2 reduces the use of water by plants and offsets drought. This is a great comfort to the hungry of the World and to the farmers of the World.

    • Unfortunately CO2 is unsustainable. We will one day run out of coal, gas and oil.

      As the expression goes, we should make hay whilst the sun shines.

      Help the 3rd world by burning coal.

    • CO2 is more than fertilizer, along with water, it is the basic feed stock of photosynthesis.

    • I find the entire global progressive movement to be unsustainable without grasping at straws, wreckage, flotsam and jetsam, considering how Brexit and Trump have swamped it.
      It’s just a matter of time until folks in other places wake up and protect the sovereignty of their countries from the ultimate goals of the UN.

      • you must accept that global economy was an invention of conservatives. They said it would be god for all. But some communist were alleging it was not good at all. I was unable to decide if this global trade was good or bad. Then, I decided to wait and see.

    • I’m not, actually.

      Think about it: people are telling pollsters (and I hope the politicians are listening) that they no longer believe that we are living on an environmental precipice, and that they have more worries about everyday needs (like, say, the price of bread).

      More “news” like this “study” will only add to malaise of belief. Greenpeace will have to send even more teens out on the street with vests and clip boards to help raise the tens of millions of dollars it takes just to keep their lights on to counter.

      I laughed a bit when they raise “organic” as a “saviour”: first, organic is simply Latin for “grown in pig crap (courtesy of Kate from Small Dead Animals blog for that one).

      Read Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” where he shows that organic farming uses way more water than non-organic: they flood their fields to kill weeds and bugs, drain, then plant. Repeat as needed. California drought, anyone?

      Second, organic anything costs WAY more non-organic, so this would be a huge burden to economically marginalized folks. You know, people leftists say they care about.

      One wishes they would get on the same page some day.

      • the original protests of the Greens were understandable if you were living near a stinking river. If you were living far off you would not care. But later, their ideas hypertrophied and they were going out overboard. They began to exaggerate in some irrational way. They become to stupid. They should had
        been preaching instead against excessive population growth. But this was not popular. Not even conservatives loved to hear rants against overpopulation.

  4. I had a dream a few months ago. I was talking with a couple who were homesteaders or hippies, and who had several pear trees. They were going to live off of the land, using these pear trees. I said, “I know it is hard for you because you are also trying to get nitrogen from pears.” Then I woke up.

    You see, I must have been trying to wake myself up with a bad pun: all nitrogen in the atmosphere occurs in pairs of nitrogen atoms — making up the wonderful, inert, transparent air medium we all live in, which works well to carry the sound and light waves to our senses. But it takes a lot of energy to get those nitrogen atoms apart; it is hard to get nitrogen from pears, and from pairs. Ha.

    Nitrogen gas (N2) is totally useless to plants unless it is broken up. But there is a source of power which breaks up nitrogen into the atmosphere constantly so that it is available to plant life. And that power is provided by lightning. So lightning is the natural source of NO and NO2.

    How much NO2 does man contribute, compared to the NO and NO2 which is generated every day by lightning?

    For a generation that prides itself in having declared that atmospheric NO2 and NO are pollutants, the truth about the earth’s natural nitrogen cycle may be very hard to ever see. It was only a matter of time until CO2 was declared a pollutant — but in comparison, I would say it is actually more rational.

    • The real pollutant is Oxygen. It kills millions more plants every year than CO2 and unlike CO2 it’s not a plant food.
      Isn’t it time we banned Oxygen, for the sake of the Planet, of course?

    • well, some plants are able to extract nitrogen from the air. clover, or trefoil are good to do this.
      But most greens are a bunch of stupids. I am green, I have a garden. And I use of dung and manure in some plot of land I have in a mountain. But it is just a play, I would be unable to live out of this. As most of the year do no rain enough I had to water some trees I have or would perish because of the drought and heat of the summer. The only thing I could have on this land is enough grass for some 50 or 100 sheep. No more.
      I live in an island, and I am conscious on how much we own to the present economy, rich in fuels,
      for our survival. I had been reckoning that we have ten times more people in this island that could survive in it by natural means. Then, if I were green, and thinking about surviving in island without fuels, we would need a fierce civil war to let the population at 10% of the present numbers. For if do not exist fuels, nobody would come here to bring us food. Most of the population would had perished, if it were not by the fossil fuels. Then, I concluded long ago, this green people were idiots. Or not. They were asking pretty money from people, and are expending this money. So, they are not stupid after all.

  5. It is useful to have studies like this, to help prove which University Departments are surplus to requirements. I wonder how many starving people their grant funding could have fed?

    • Not only FED on their grant money … but fed ORGANICally grown produce and farm animals ! We could easily afford to feed the hungry this “premium” quality food ! We could load up their EBT cards.

      • It’s not about feeding the third world, it’s about helping them feed themselves. We put their farmers out of business by shipping food there.
        They need the infusion of private enterprise and affordable energy, plus the inspiration to rise and demand from their leaders the liberties which are afforded to the first world societies.

      • No, it is the aid in the form of cash that is destroying some African countries. With all of that easy money, the wrong sort of people get into power, and stay there. Trade, on the other hand, rewards those who are productive, whether it is growers or manufacturers. The old phrase “Trade not aid” is not talking about a few bags of wheat which do not even reach the poor anyway. It is referring to money.

        Now the hippies did work very hard to keep African agriculture from developing. Norman Borlaug said, “[S]ome of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be shocked that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.” He said this because his funders were pressured to drop him when he went to Africa to develop dwarf high yield varieties of wheat, after his successes in India and Mexico. And since there is little herbicide use, the women have to clear the fields and weed them. And they cannot keep up with that.

    • Great comment golf! Can also used to determine which agencies, bureaus, departments, etc. in government are also surplus to or requirements.

      • Let’us not dance around the true underlying issue; racism. These greenie issues are rich white people issues. It is the “Haves vs the Have nots” . As a society we should be ashamed at the resources wasted in the support of these racists policies.

  6. Farmers in Australia are always looking for ways to reduce use of nitrate fertilizer as it is their greatest input cost of production.
    They have adopted precision farming that analyses grain yield by cells in each paddock and increase or decrease application as required.
    It is laughable when discussing wheat production to say that organic practices can replace Nitrogen based fertilizer in the broadacre context and after all most world wheat production is broadacre, maybe with the exception of China. Maybe it will work in UK with their “muck spreaders” but not here where there is not enough muck to spread.
    I recall back in the late 20th century one group in the Murray Valley produced 30000 tonnes of organic wheat which was then the largest tonnage of anywhere in the World. In the following years they produced barely anything as they had mined the nitrogen.
    In Australia the philosophy is minimal input for maximum achievable output so any gains here are hard won.

    • of course we COULD use all the sewage we presently dump into oceans outfalls thats killed the seagrass all along most of our coasts..
      and thats FAR more harmful than the very few canegrowers left, supposed runoff.
      the nutrients phosphorus etc all wasted presently.
      the toxic home and commercial chem waste and stormwater debris needs to be removed as do the massive pharma drug residues.
      but we have the means to do that..
      as we also have the ability to use foodwaste for feeding worms who clean it up ,mixed with the sewage solids theyd also remove a lot of heavy metals too.
      worms can remove 10% bodyweight of lead from soils as shown in reclamation of mines in Wales decades back
      and bioremediation using Fungi as proved by Paul Stamets repeatedly over many decades as well.
      youtube clips are there to see ;-)

  7. Excerpt from the story:

    “Co-author Professor Duncan Cameron, Co-director of the P3 Centre for Translational Plant and Soil Science explains: “The fertiliser problem is solvable – through improved agronomic practices”.

    “These harness the best of organic farming combined with new technologies to better monitor the nutritional status of soils and plants and to recycle waste and with the promise of new wheat varieties able to utilise soil nitrogen more efficiently”.”

    OMG, are they talking about GMO??? Hurry, run for the cliffs.

    • Only the approved GMO varieties will be certified as “sustainable.” You got it. That is what the professor is implying.

      The economics of it is totally familiar: claim one thing is more environmentally friendly than the other thing, more efficient, and outlaw existing technologies and cultivars.

    • Let’s face it, GMO is just OMG with dyslexia.
      More amphetamines are needed to counteract this scourge!

  8. My real question is how many of these people actually grow a real garden. Not run a farm, but a simple garden.

    Fertilizer is not the problem. It is getting from point “A” to “B”.
    As well as the food. If you keep having wars that destroy infrastructure people will starve. You can have surplus food but if you can not move it….

    michael

    • And even if you can move it, you’re on a clock. Those same places with wartorn infrastructure also tend to have little if any ability to refrigerate or otherwise preserve food. Half of an unpreserved food shipment could be lost to spoilage before it ever reaches anyone’s plate.

  9. It boggles my mind how everything is centered around climate change in these articles. There is a real problem of fertilizer runoff escaping into the oceans. This fertilizer runoff is the biggest man-made threat to oceans, lakes and rivers. The Baltic Sea had (for all intents and purposes) been killed due to runoff from the former Soviet Union — it has since recovered somewhat thanks to improved agricultural practices.

    There is no need to invent twisted logic to include a nebulous climate change threat. This is an example of a real environmental issue (one which can be addressed) is ignored in favor of a fake issue.

    We need better sustainable fertilization methods worldwide to address the direct effects in the oceans. This sort of nonsense undermines the real need.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v434/n7030/abs/nature03370.html

    “{Fertilizer} Runoff exerts a strong and consistent influence on biological processes, in 80% of cases stimulating blooms within days of fertilization and irrigation of agricultural fields. We project that by the year 2050, 27–59% of all nitrogen fertilizer will be applied in developing regions located upstream of nitrogen-deficient marine ecosystems. Our findings highlight the present and future vulnerability of these ecosystems to agricultural runoff.”

    Also see, Clean Coastal Waters:Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution (2000), https://www.nap.edu/catalog/9812/clean-coastal-waters-understanding-and-reducing-the-effects-of-nutrient

    • I think you’re referring to the Black Sea, not the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea feeds into the Atlantic, so even if fertilizer run-off were a problem, the open currents would dissipate it. Land-locked seas are another problem.

      • Yes, you’re right — it’s the Black Sea. I even thought Black Sea while I was typing ‘Baltic’.

        “It is a possible goal to eliminate ocean dead zones by implementing these methods and tactics. The Black Sea dead zone is an example of how what was once a large problematic region of dead zones, ultimately became a clean sea again with the collaboration of all those who wished to have a cleaner environment.”

        the Baltic Sea is not immune from such problems, but the Black Sea was devastated by them.

      • The deeper parts of the Black Sea has been dead ever since it changed from a freshwater lake into a sea c. 10,000 years ago. It will remain so until it either:

        1. Turns into freshwater lake (with winter turnover of water) again

        2. Tectonics opens up a deep connection with the Mediterranean

        3. Dries up

    • “The Baltic Sea had (for all intents and purposes) been killed due to runoff from the former Soviet Union”

      Nonsense. I live by the Baltic Sea. It isn’t dead and it wasn’t dead in 1991. “FAKE NEWS”

      • As I wrote yesterday — I meant to say the Black Sea. Sorry, it was late and I mis-typed.

        The Black Sea has recovered from the worst issues since the demise of the Soviet Union.

  10. Everything that eats causes/emits something that causes global warming, in theory! Therefore everyone and everything MUST stop eating – NOW! Starting with the idiots who wrote this paper.
    Don’t mess with Mother Nature!

  11. “embodied global warming” What is this, an incarnational view of global warming? Can atonement and resurrection be far behind?

  12. Back walking agricultural productivity is not only unconscionable, it’s insane. Agriculture is the most important use of solar energy. Lower yields are less efficient. Deliberately reducing yields is the opposite of everything the “save the world” people claim to support.

  13. “Consumers are usually unaware of the environmental impacts embodied in the products they purchase – particularly in the case of food, where the main concerns are usually over health or animal welfare.

    “There is perhaps awareness of pollution caused by plastic packaging, but many people will be surprised at the wider environmental impacts revealed in this study.”

    Let’s ask these scientists if they are aware their computers used for modeling this study is made with cobalt, which has to be mined, as well as other materials that have to be dug out of the ground. Or their espressos with beans imported from Ethiopia or South America. Let’s start holding these scientists accountable for their ’embodied global warming.’

  14. Quote: We found in every loaf there is embodied global warming …

    Wow. Isaac Newton is quoted as saying “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. These people are like an illogical superman able to leap over all causation at a single bound.

    A colleague of mine long ago dubbed such people as nuff nuffs because that is the noise they make when you push them to think.

  15. So that is what “environmental impact” is. To me, this article is sufficient to ban poduction of environmental imkpact studies and to forbid its use in any scientific (and non-scientific) publications. These people are murderers and those who go along with them share the guilt. The worst part is that these morons think of themselves as benefactors af mankind. Stupidity annoys me and this is stupidity run rampant. For a starter, void any financing of these environmental impact projects. Then, throw out the professors who dreamt them up.

  16. The most extreme climate obsessed believers are serious misanthropes. Fabricating a study to justify wrecking the world’s food supply is seriously anti-human.

    • Well that crowd is seriously anti-human to the point of looking for ways to kill off massive amount of humanity. It’s for the good of the planet don’t you know.

  17. I wonder what fertilization impact the great Bison herds had on the streams of the mid-American grasslands. And have you ever walked across a field where a flock of Canada Geese have foraged? Don’t wear your good shoes!

  18. Nice picture. When I saw it I initially thought I need to find some butter and jelly.

  19. I need three things to produce nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen of course. Air 78% nitrogen. Hydrogen, which is found in water. Energy is needed to break the bonds and reform to get NH3.

    I can provide all the energy you need by splitting U-235 atoms.

  20. And yet it’s ok to use it to increase harvests of crops used to make bio fuel? Hypocrisy at its best.

    We live in rural Yorkshire UK, mainly arable and the farmers have, over the last few years, taken to using animal waste, and indeed even human waste, again. When our septic tanks are emptied the contents are used to create fertiliser, win win as the price of collection has gone down and so too have farming costs.

  21. IMO what will become unsustainable is the continued publishing of this kind of bull hokey when, sooner or later, the government funds run out.

  22. Children, childish thinking beyond belief. and that these people have not only the ears of our (equally brain-dead) leaders, they are teaching future generations this garbage.
    Lord of the Flies comes to mind and responses here amplify that thought.

    Wheat starch, when processed (ground up and cooked) is killing us, with obesity, heart disease diabetes etc
    Wheat protein (gluten) is driving our immune systems crazy to the extent our own bodies is/are attacking themselves.
    Stray fragments of this alien protein muck (the bits not picked up by the immune system) are clogging up our brains – causing dementia.
    Wheat was/is NOT a staple, it was/is intended as a stop-gap until something properly nutritious came along – like a bison, pig or chicken.

    Another major problem with wheat is that it panders our reward system, eating it makes us feel good, warm, cosy, happy, fuzzy and sleepy.
    JUST LIKE EVERY ADDICTIVE DRUG IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE DOES.
    Hence why nobody wants to stop eating it and why they become so defensive whenever their ‘supply’ is endangered. Even for entirely the wrong reasons. Cause & effect are utterly mangled yet again and wheat is the thing causing the confusion, by switching off large chunks of our thinking abilities. It is a depressant, that’s what depressants do.

    Here’s something awkward for us all to think about..
    If nitrogen fertiliser is so wonderful, why do N American farmers crow about themselves and make such a huge fuss if/when they yield 2 tonnes per acre.
    If a farmer here in the UK grew that much, he’d not only be dead from embarrassment but be entirely out of business. Overnight.

    Give that some serious thought, especially when crowing about how CO2 is supposedly ‘greening the planet’
    Do you *really* believe it is that simple, adding CO2 to a desert turns it into a garden?
    If you do, we are all genuinely fooked, for the reasons I came in with.
    Ploughs are gonna kill billions more people than swords ever did.

    • PS If the best you can do is attack the messenger (me in this case), it really is Lord of the Flies – we are fooked^n, where n is any positive number larger than 2

      • maybe not, but its a right shit to harvest! and per plant the actual crop yield is? not much.
        im trying to grow quinoa, yeah itsa tough plant low inputs, but..finding a way to harvest without losing it and to get it cleaned is a whole nother drama.
        and the entire wheat gluten thing is…another bit of insanity
        look more to the idiotic process of glyphosate spray to drop leaves for machinery heading ease and the residues on all the grain from that.
        roundup residues are the most likely cause of the surge in IB and other issues.
        funny theyve soared as roundup use has?

      • It’s a staple in Ethiopia like wheat for bread for us here in Aus. Maybe soil composition affects production, I do know it’s so expensive now in Ethiopia that people are going hungry, I can see another “Live Aid” in the coming years.

    • When you present no facts known to any form of science, we can’t refute your article, so all that is left is ridiculing you for being a mind numbed no nothing who seems to afraid of it’s own shadow.

      • Of course MarkW never presents which is why I ridicule him. He also does not seem to know much and has little life experience that he will share.

        Furthermore MarkW is wrong, facts were presented.

        I happen to disagree with the how the LCA methods were applied to determine the facts.

        As it happens, I am an expert of on the use of LCA. For example, a proper use of LCA might be to compare potato bread to wheat bread.

        It should also be noted that this research has already been done. So long ago that my copies came from micro fiche at the university library pre-internet.

        As others have noted, properly processed animal waste is excellent fertilizer. Biosolids (aka sewage sludge) is shipped over the mountains from rainy Seattle to semi-arid Yakima valley. It is used on marginal farm land to grow such things as wheat and feed corn. If there was a problem, the demand exceeded the supply by a large margin.

        When I was looking at the results, I suggested that it might make an interesting research topic of the local university. I was told that farmers do not trust the university.

      • Poor Kit, it must really burn your britches that I’m permitted by this site to have opinions that differ from yours.
        Of course having your own personal troll means that you have become one of the elite of comment-dom.
        So thank you so very much Kit, and please continue following me around and doing nothing more than whine that you don’t like what I have to say.

      • BTW, I haven’t commented, even once on the use of sewage as fertilizer.
        Not that Kit actually bothers to read what I’ve written. Personal trolls never do.

      • One final comment, if you count the indents, I am quite clearly responding to Peta and his ramblings about wheat killing us all. Not to the the original piece.
        See what happens when you allow hatred of others to interfere with your ability to think. You end up making a fool of yourself.
        Again.

    • Wheat is arguably the most successful biological organisms on the planet. It has convinced a dominant species to transition it from an annoying weed to one of the most common plants on the planet.

      We like to think that we are the smart and most dominant species on the planet — but, we are just the tools used to increase the dominance of wheat. Wheat is our overlord. As such, your master is angry at your expression of contempt.

  23. Remember that in the UK we are enslaved by the Climate Change Act 2008, inflicted on us by an NGO fundraiser and a hapless Marxist wonk who woke up one day to find he was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Mitigation of climate change is compulsory. This piece of work from Sheffield is therefore welcome, as it will be used to smack the faces of the food fascists (vegans and vegetarians all) who seek to undermine the utilisation of grassland in the UK to produce prime quality beef, dairy and lamb.

  24. In defence of my alma mater, science is meant to be disinterested.
    It is meant to follow through to conclusions without being influenced by other motives, like ethics or morality.

    And, in calling for less food in the world, these researchers have clearly avoided those traps.

    • M Courtney March 3, 2017 at 2:11 am “In defence of my alma mater, science is meant to be disinterested.
      It is meant to follow through to conclusions without being influenced by other motives, like ethics or morality.”

      Put that another way, scientists engaging in political behavior in their disciplines always characterize it as “apolitical” or a “pure search for truth.”

  25. If you want to grow stuff like a lawn, a garden or a crop, you are going to need nitrogen fertilizer. I mean if you want to grow stuff well.

    Lightning only does so much and your plants want more of it.

    The issue is that within a year or two, the bacteria in the soil convert that nitrogen into N2O and it gets released to the atmosphere. That is why your soil and your plants can use some extra once or twice a year. ALL soils.

    While having a small overall impact, N2O is the fourth biggest GHG behind H2O, CO2, and CH4 and it is increasing at roughly the same rate as CO2. It is the price we have to pay to grow stuff well and its overall impact is not big enough to worry about versus the benefits.

  26. While I think it is ridiculous to think any CAGW is baked into the cake from petro-fertilizers, I do think “productivity growth” associated with the industrial revolution is overstated when productivity is measured in terms of human input only. What does it take to feed us now, compared to a century or two ago? Say conservatively, 5% of the manpower is needed compared to what used to be required. Invert that 5% and productivity is now 20x what it used to be. But that is not because humans have become more productive, it is because human effort has been replaced by other inputs that are more productive. If those inputs are measured in some kind of caloric basis and compared to output on a caloric basis, productivity growth is much less. We get more calories out of an acre of some crop because we’re expending more calories to produce the fertilizer, combines, and whatever to get that yield increase. Has there been any study that actually tries to measure productivity this way? I wouldn’t be surprised if productivity has not increased at all. We’re just using up finite resources faster.

    I’m not saying that is bad at all. We’re far from running out of finite resources. I’m just saying that I don’t think modern economics has a handle on this. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen was trying to think along these lines, and I think was right in the direction he was heading, even if there were some flaws in the physical basis of his economic theory.

    • There is a field of study that considers a metric called Energy Return on Investment (EROI). This is essentially the sum of energy outputs from a process divided by the sum of the energy inputs — basically the energy efficiency of producing new energy. There is a related metric for crops called Edible Energy Efficiency (EEE). Today, fossil fuels deliver EROIs of about 20:1 for refined petroleum fuels, to 80:1 for thermal coal, to even higher for Marcellus Shale fracked natural gas. Agricultural EEE returns are about 2:1, down from about 5:1 at the turn of the 20th century, while the yields per acre of corn are up by a factor of 6 and of wheat by a factor of 3 over this time. Modern intensively cultivated agriculture steals high-EROI energy from fossil fuels to improve crop yields. Natural gas provides fertilizer, pesticides, and processing plant heat energy. Coal provides processing plant electricity and heat. Petroleum fuels the cultivation and harvesting and transportation machinery. About 80% of the energy in U.S. corn ethanol is fossil fuel, only 20% photosynthesis, when traced back through the lifecycle. There is a catch-22 for modern agriculture: the more fossil fuel energy is used to boost yields, the lower the EEE.

      So the short answer to your question is that the overall productivity of food agriculture has fallen. The same amount of solar energy illuminates each acre today as in 1900, but each acre produces much more crop from that acre because of massive inputs of fossil fuel energy. The proportional increase in food yield is less than the proportional increase in total energy inputs, so the EEE has fallen. Organic agriculture will tend to have lower yields and higher EEE.

      EROI, not EEE, is the proper metric for biofuels. The EROI for U.S. corn ethanol is less than 2:1. For cellulosic and algae feedstock, it is less than 1:1 — it takes more energy to make them into a decent liquid fuel than exists in that fuel product, so the energy balance is negative and the EROI is upside down. The EROI for algae biodiesel is even worse — less than 1:7. We are far better off to use fossil fuels directly as fuel than to put them into the biofuel lifecycle to cultivate biomass and convert it to fuel. Our overall fuel use and GHG emissions and polluting emissions and water use and land use and environmental impact would fall if we eliminated the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard, returned the 40 million acres being intensively farmed for corn ethanol production back to conservation, and just used straight gasoline instead. Unfortunately, ideology and politics don’t traffic much with math and logic.

      Much more information available in this paper http://wici.ca/new/resources/occasional-papers/#no.4 .

  27. Nitrogen is unsustainable? Wow, I thought this was about something real like phosphorus or potassium (potash), which are mined.

  28. Already answered that scam:

    Die Umweltbilanz von Weizenvollkornbrot
    Auf den Dünger kommt es an

    Wer sich umweltbewusst und nachhaltig ernähren will, der kauft zum Beispiel Fleisch aus der Region oder isst generell weniger oder gar kein Fleisch. Aber wie sieht eigentlich die Umweltbilanz von anderen Lebensmitteln aus, etwa von Brot? Britische Forscher sind dem nachgegangen und kamen zu einem überraschenden Ergebnis.

    http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/die-umweltbilanz-von-weizenvollkornbrot-auf-den-duenger.676.de.html?dram:article_id=380085

    Was das für Trotteln sind – gerade wegen des CO2 muss ja GEDÜNGT werden :

    Nahrungsmittel bestehen aus C O H !

  29. condensed:

    What sucks – just for CO2 must be FERTILIZING:

    Food consists of C O H!

    • Artificial nitrogen-manure is force-fed (zwangsernährt) to the plants and a lot of it is just wasted. Properly treated animal-dung feeds the plants naturally and that shows in their health. Lower yields are really no problem if the right system of agriculture and food-processing (as little as possible) is applied. Presently too few big naturally-operating farms work really well enough to be role-models for every farmer; farm-subsidies play a big role in that.
      Climate-alarmists try to win the hearts and minds of the organically minded, but, i think, they only win those who mind their bank-account first. The core of the “organics” thinks that all future atmospheric CO2-increase is necessary to re-build the lost humus (CO2 content) in the world’s soils.

  30. They want to keep us in the dark, now they want to starve us…. These people are utterly mad you know.

  31. “Co-author Professor Duncan Cameron, Co-director of the P3 Centre for Translational Plant and Soil Science explains: “The fertiliser problem is solvable – through improved agronomic practices”

    I guess Professor Duncan Cameron does not like the “z” in fertilizer.

    Or is he talking about something else that doesn’t exist?

  32. We stop using fertilizer. Instead we will just farm twice as many acres.
    I’m sure that will decrease the environmental impact of farming.

  33. “improved agronomic practices” is what Lysenkoism was called. The yield of an acre of ‘organically’ grown wheat is less than half of the yield when fertilisersare used. Prepare the masses for their oncoming starvation should such fools get control over food production.

  34. ‘These harness the best of organic farming combined with new technologies to better monitor the nutritional status of soils and plants’
    More bs and not the crop friendly kind. Modern soil tests are readily available to farmers to identify the nutrients required to grow a good crop. Those same soil tests will show why the organically farmed ground produces so much less grain; the crops are short of nutrients.

  35. Without fertilizer it would create a food crisis and food shortages. Which fit in with their agenda to reduce the world population. By genocide, which has become the left favorite method of mass murder.

  36. The real key to all of this is choice, the free market. A willing buyer and willing seller will agree on a trade, or walk away and find another offer. Would quickly sort out all this nonsense.

  37. What these people are promoting is my great grandfather’s farming methods. If gramps got 40 bushels of corn per acre he considered it a good crop. Today, that farm routinely produces 165 bu per acre and 180 in the years when corn follows a previous year’s bean crop. You can’t feed 300 million people with my great grandfather’s farming methods.

    • ” You can’t feed 300 million people with my great grandfather’s farming methods.”

      Well, you might – if most of those people returned to farming that way… Of course, they wouldn’t get much else done. My mother came from Wisconsin farming people. They did fairly well until the taxes got so high, and after finishing college their children had no interest in the backbreaking work of farming – even with tractors and electric milking machines.

  38. The unsustainable part is in clear cutting forests in the U.S. to ship the wood pellets to the UK for burning while also forcing the workers to consume ethanol fuel from subsidized corn and awarding fat tax credits (not deductions) to elitists for over-priced electric cars and 4x priced rooftop solar. That is all at the expense of other taxpayers, the grid operators, and even competitive utility scale solar developers.

    • “clear cutting forests in the U.S. ”

      There is no reason to think harvesting biomass is not sustainable.

      “forcing the workers to consume ethanol fuel from subsidized corn and awarding fat tax credits ”

      No one is forced to buy ethanol, it is a mandate not a tax credit, and it is not specific to corn. There is no reason to think harvesting biomass is not sustainable.

      • @Kit

        Every U.S. motorist is forced to buy ethanol. It is force-fed into virtually all gasoline by the EPA RFS blending mandates. It continues to be priced at a 20-60 UScent/gal premium to gasoline on an equal-energy content basis and is costing motorists $8 billion per year in lost MPG, in addition to costing the overall economy much more in accelerated fuel system corrosion, increased VOC and ozone and particulate emissions, increased soil plume and water contamination (same effects as MTBE additive), and elevated fuel prices to cover RINs and RIN fraud.

        As to burning trees, changing complex natural forest biomes into cultivated monocultures of pulpwood is environmentally devastating. The Brits deforested themselves making their wood-ship navy, and had to log their colonies for ship timber. Now they are logging the USA for wood pellets to feed to the DRAX. Putting modern civilization’s energy burden back onto the biosphere is retrograde and the opposite of clean and green. It was not sustainable in the past as evidenced by the common pattern of agricultural-age civilizations which deforested themselves out of existence. How can burning trees support the much higher energy intensity of industrial-age civilization?

  39. “Not that Kit actually bothers to read what I’ve written. Personal trolls never do.”

    Guilty, I often skip comments with lack of content.

  40. Hug a Kansas farmer. The bread basket of the world. One acre of our wheat devours 17 thousand pounds of Carbon dioxide. It takes lower levels of rain to increase yields when carbon dioxide levels rise.

    Three fourths of the atmosphere is Nitrogen so I don’t think we will run out. Our farms allowed cattle to graze on winter wheat until spring. Requires less harvested feed. Cattle fertilizer delivered without a spreader.

    Here is the nitrogen cycle

    http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/nutrient-management/nitrogen/understanding-nitrogen-in-soils/

    Our yacht club worked with area farmers in the lakes water shed and along with minimum tillage practices reduced nitrogen run off which fed the algae bloom in the city’s water supply. Education is solving problems faster than alarmist worry worts can generate crisis.

    • What is the effect of this (one-time) grazing on yield, or is this wheat sown for forage?
      Animals on animal-free farms – that would make CO2-alarmism redundant.

  41. Lucky for us Co2 is FREE.

    “Atmospheric CO2 increased 14 percent between 1982 and 2010, coinciding with a “5 to 10 percent increase in green foliage cover in warm, arid environments,” according to a June 2013 study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Geophysical Research Letters. The study stated that the CO2 “fertilization effect is now a significant land surface process” and has created “a greening of the globe over recent decades.”

    It’s like a perpetual motion food production machine. LOL…

  42. @Todd

    “Every U.S. motorist is forced to buy ethanol. ”

    I have heard your your over top rant before. I have never had a problems finding local stations sans ethanol. I have old vehicles and use E10 without a problems for many years. I have a boat that is approaching 40 years old with an inboard engine. I am not having a problem.

    My first car was a ’60 Ford Falcon. I am amazed how trouble free fuel systems are on anything manufactured since 1989 are.

    What people do when the are against something, they make a long list. As an engineer most are bogus reason but they sound convincing.

    As far as trees are concerned, the typical straw man is trotted out. No one is suggesting that trees have to provide all the energy an industrialized society needs. Forest lands are managed and the acreage in trees has been steadily increasing since the ’30s in the US.

    We spend part of the winter in Louisiana. I was surprised to learn that wood is the largest ag crop. I am not seeing problem with harvesting trees.

  43. Why didn’t they do this study about ethanol — why bread and not the favorite green gas substitute?
    Growing all that corn takes a lot of fertiliser. Why wasn’t that their example?

    Bread we need. Ethanol we would be better off without.

    Eugene WR Gallun

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