Nitrogen fertilizers: meeting contemporary challenges

Ambio. 2002 Mar;31(2):169-76. doi: 10.1579/0044-7447-31.2.169.


At 81.7 million tonnes (Mt), commercial fertilizer nitrogen (N) accounts for approximately half of all N reaching global croplands today and supplies basic food needs for at least 40% of the population. The challenge is to continue to help meet that need while minimizing the risk of negative environmental impacts through improved N-use efficiency. Fertilizer-N efficiency on corn in the US has increased more than 30% over the last 20 years, but additional progress can be made for corn and other crops. Current N efficiency and productivity are generally lower in most of Asia than in North America, but they are improving. The fertilizer industry recognizes its crucial role in meeting basic human needs, now and in the future. It stands ready to meet the challenge of adopting new practices and technologies that will allow it to do so with greater efficiency and in a way that not only sustains life, but also sustains the quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Eutrophication
  • Fertilizers*
  • Food Supply
  • Humans
  • Nitrogen / adverse effects
  • Nitrogen / analysis*
  • Public Health
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Zea mays


  • Fertilizers
  • Nitrogen