A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas produced during our daily activities. The footprint is most often measured in tons of CO2 released into the air, but other gases such as nitrous oxide and methane are even more powerful greenhouse gases. Many corporations and agricultural companies have recently made ambitious plans to significantly reduce their carbon footprint, as well as to help farmers meet sustainability targets. The carbon footprint of agricultural operations can be reduced by altering simple activities or by making significant management changes.
Manufacturing nitrate-based fertilizer using traditional technology generates a large carbon footprint by releasing nitrous oxide gas. From an environmental perspective, nitrous oxide must be controlled since one pound of emission is equivalent to releasing 298 pounds of CO2. Yara engineers developed a “green solution” to produce nitrate fertilizer manufacture [using a catalyst] that converts nitrous oxide back to harmless atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen gas. Reducing nitrous oxide emissions significantly reduces the carbon footprint of Yara nitrate-based fertilizer products and is highly beneficial in meeting environmental stewardship goals.
Looking specifically at calcium nitrate fertilizer, the modern Yara production methods produce four pounds of CO2 (equivalent) per pound of nitrogen. Calcium nitrate made using the older production methods still in use around the world release up to 15 pounds of CO2 per pound of N from the fertilizer.
*Transportation carbon footprint is not reflected in this graph, however, even with the transportation/delivery carbon footprint added to Yara Calcium Nitrate products (YaraLiva Tropicote, CAN 17 or CN 9), total carbon footprints of each individual source is less than half the production-only carbon footprint of other North America and Russia products and less than a third of that from China.
1 Bentrup, F. et al., 2018; Updated carbon footprint values for mineral fertilizer from different world regions. LCA Food 2018 and LCA AgriFood Asia, Bangkok, Thailand.
Greenhouse gas emissions from almond farming arise from field activities such as using fuel for field operations and irrigation water pumping. Crop management operations and harvesting also contribute to the carbon footprint. The manufacturing and use of nitrogen fertilizer can also add a significant amount to this footprint.
Studies from the University of California show that high-frequency fertigation of almonds with YaraLiva calcium nitrate-based fertilizers have lower nitrous oxide emissions from the soil compared with UAN or other ammonium-based fertilizer. 1,2
To meet the recommended application of 68 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 pounds of nuts, a switch to nitrate-based nutrition can benefit in additional ways too. Nitrate is the preferred source of nutrition for trees in the Rosacea plant family, including almonds. Additionally, nitrate fertilization avoids the undesirable soil acidification that inevitably occurs when fertilizing with ammonium or urea.
1 Schellenberg, D.L., Alsina, M.M., Muhammad, S., Stockert, C.M., Wolff, M.W., Sanden, B.L., Brown, P.H., Smart, D.R. Yield-scaled global warming potential from N2O emissions and CH4 oxidation for almond (Prunus dulcis) irrigated with nitrogen fertilizers on arid land. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 2012, 155, 7–15.
2 Wolff, M.W., Hopmans, J.W., Stockert, C.M., Burger, M., Sanden, B.L., Smart, D.R. Effects of drip fertigation frequency and N-source on soil N2O production in almonds. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 2016, 238, 67–77.
Over 80 years ago, the modern hydroponic greenhouse industry was developed. Since that time, hydroponic growers have learned that through careful management of water, nutrients, and the crop environment, they can make an essential contribution to providing healthy fruits and vegetables. Greenhouse growers recognize that nitrate-based plant nutrition provides superior performance for almost all crops. However, the selection of specific sources of nitrate fertilizer will also reduce their overall carbon footprint of production.
By choosing the nitrate fertilizer with the lowest carbon footprint in the industry, hydroponic growers go a long way towards meeting important sustainability goals. Yara is committed to making even further reductions in carbon emissions through innovative technology and by empowering farmers to implement the appropriate principles of 4R Nutrient Stewardship.
Carbon Footprint From Fertilizing Turf Greenhouse gas emissions from turf arise from management activities such as using fuel for mowing and irrigation water pumping. Other turf-management operations will also contribute to the carbon footprint. The manufacturing and use of nitrogen fertilizer can also add a significant amount to this footprint.
Although the recommended combination of turf nutrition practices varies, studies have shown that nitrous oxide losses from turf are often greatest when urea and ammonium-based fertilizers are used, compared with nitrate-based fertilizer. This is because nitrate fertilizers do not undergo the nitrification process that leaks nitrous oxide from the soil.
To meet the recommended application of 2 to 5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 ft2, a switch to nitrate-based nutrition can benefit in additional ways. Nitrate fertilization frequently results in greater shoot growth and more root mass than when turf is supplied with ammonium, depending on the species. Additionally, using calcium nitrate fertilizer avoids the undesirable soil acidification that inevitably occurs when fertilizing with ammonium or urea.
By choosing the nitrate fertilizer with the lowest carbon footprint in the industry, turf managers go a long way towards meeting their important sustainability goals. Yara is committed to making even further reductions in carbon emissions through innovative technology and empowering fertilizer users to implement 4R Nutrient Stewardship by providing the optimal “Right Source” of plant nutrition.