University of California-Davis researchers will receive $2.8 million in new grants to study the use and impacts of nitrogen, a potential source of water and air pollution and greenhouse gases.

"This is one of the most important and least publicized environmental issues we face: Escaped nitrogen from agricultural production affects the quality of our air, water, and soil and has huge potential to contribute to climate change," said Tom Tomich, director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis.

"Many members of the public and politicians are unaware of the scope of this challenge. And many farmers are unaware that nitrogen management can save them money."

Nitrogen is essential to life, and cycles through all plants, animals and people. Nitrogen-based fertilizers help farmers produce agricultural commodities including vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy products.

However, excess nitrogen emitted from soils can seep into groundwater and run off into surface waters. Wastes from cattle, chickens and other livestock include nitrogen. Farm machines burning oil, gasoline and diesel release nitrogen to the air.

Read more about nitrogen’s potential environmental impacts.

Source: UC Davis