Feb 17, 2009 | 3
In recent decades, China has pushed the use of nitrogen fertilizer to help wrest as much food out of farms as possible, in part to stave off the famines of the past. Of course, such overuse of nitrogen results in air pollution and ocean dead zones—as well as, paradoxically, less fertile soil.
Now new research shows that by using just one third of typical amounts—presently as much as 600 kilograms per hectare—farmers could get the same or better results growing corn, rice and wheat, the main staple crops. The key is applying the fertilizer to seedlings rather than adding it to soil while planting, write Ju Xiao-Tang of China Agricultural University in Beijing and his colleagues in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
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