urine, either on pastures or at feedlots, resulting in both air and water pollution. We do not have an accurate estimate of the quantities involved, but probably two-thirds of the urine is generated at feeding stations.

Fertilizers and pesticides, direct chemical inputs to agriculture, are not counted explicitly as pollutants, although their use results in pollution. Animal wastes are a major pollution problem, especially in the vicinity of animal feedlots and large-scale poultry producers. Of 100 units of nitrogen in fertilizer, roughly 50 are taken up by harvested crops, of which 47 are subsequently consumed by animals, and 42 of these are eventually excreted as waste (Crutzen, 1976). Most of this waste is generated at feedlots because fertilizer is seldom used on grazing land, and the nitrogen uptake by grazing animals is largely left behind as manure or urine. About 24 units of nitrogen find their way to rivers, lakes, and groundwater, of which 10 units are direct runoff from the soil, 8 come from animal excreta at feeding stations, and 6 from human sewage. Thus, about 18 percent of nitrogen in agricultural fertilizer reappears within a few weeks or months as waterborne pollution, although only 10 percent is due to direct fertilizer loss. Because 11.5 MMT N were used in fertilizer and feed supplements in 1988, this implies an overall waterborne nitrogen-waste flow of 2.76 MMT.

Schlesinger and Hartley (1992, table 4) estimated annual NH3 emissions per head at 15.5 kg from cattle and horses, 2.4 kg from sheep, 2.35 kg from pigs, and 0.21 kg from poultry. Based on 1988 populations of 99.6 million cattle, 55.5 million pigs, 10.9 million sheep and lambs, and 5.7 billion chickens and turkeys, this totals 2.91 MMT. Fertilizer itself is also a source of ammonia emissions; the emission factors for urea and ammonium sulfate spread on the soil surface are estimated at 0.2 and 0.1, respectively; for other fertilizers—including anhydrous ammonia injected directly into the soil—the emission rate is lower (around 3 percent) (Schlesinger and Hartley, 1992). In 1988, 2.49 MMT N in urea were used as fertilizer in the United States along with 0.340 MMT of nitrogen in ammonium sulfate and 6.84 MMT N from other sources. Altogether, animal metabolism and fertilizer use generated nitrogen emissions of 3.79 MMT (as ammonia). This represented nearly 33 percent of the 11.6 MMT (N content) of ammonia equivalent that was used as fertilizer. Of this, about 8 percent was a direct loss.

The rest of the nitrogen unaccounted for in the applied fertilizer (about 32 percent) is embodied in root and stem material that is not harvested or is harvested directly by animals and remains with the soil (20-25 percent), or is reconverted to nitrogen gas and returned to the atmosphere by denitrifying bacteria in the soil (5-10 percent). For every 16 units of nitrogen emitted as N2, on average 1 unit is emitted as N2O, a potent greenhouse gas, but these emissions tend to be episodic. Recently, the use of nitrogenous fertilizer has come to be recognized as one of the major sources of N2O buildup. Worldwide, an estimated 0.7 MMT N2O are emitted annually from this source (Schlesinger, 1991). The United States was responsible for roughly one-eighth of worldwide nitrogenous fertilizer use in



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement