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Potentials to increase nitrogen use efficiency

High nitrogen use efficiency: Pasturing of ruminants (Photo: Foltan/ATB)

High nitrogen use efficiency: Pasturing of ruminants (Photo: Foltan/ATB)

In an article just published in the renowned journal Global Food Security, an international team of authors including ATB scientist Barbara Amon describes the potential for improved nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in animal and plant production systems. 

Inputs of nitrogen to agricultural production systems are necessary to produce food, feed and renewables such as fibre. But nitrogen (N) losses from those systems represent a waste of a resource and a threat to both the environment and human health. The nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of an agricultural production system can be seen as an indicator of the balance between benefits and costs of primary food, feed and fibre production. The study highlights problems associated with its use as a sustainability criteria for livestock production systems. 

Two geographic regions were considered: Northern and Southern Europe. Measures to improve NUE were identified and allocated to Low, Medium and High ambition groups.

According to the study largest gains in NUE are indicated for granivore meat production systems while there is only limited scope for increasing the NUE of ruminant meat production from permanent grassland.

Results are now published open access in the renowned Journal Global Food Security:

Hutchings N. J.; Sørensen, P.; M.d.S. Cordovil, C.; Leip, A.; Amon, B.: Measures to increase the nitrogen use efficiency of European agricultural production. Global Food Security 26 (Sept) 2020, 100381. Available online:

The paper constitutes an output of the 'Expert Panel of Nitrogen and Food of the Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen under the Working Group on Strategies and Review of the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution'.

Contact ATB: PD Dr. Barbara Amon Prof. UZ