U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Published in Nitrogen in the Environment: Sources, Problems, and Management, Second edition, ed. J. L. Hatfield & R. F. Follett (Amsterdam, Boston, et al.: Academic Press/Elsevier, 2008).

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Nitrogen (N) along with carbon and oxygen is the most complex and crucial of the elements essential for life. Supplementing grain and grass forage crops with organic and inorganic N fertilizers has long been recognized as a key to improving crop yields and economic returns. Globally. N fertilizer is largely used for cereal grain production and accounts for an estimated 40(1r of the increase in per capita food production in the past 50 years (Mosier et al.. 200 I). Smil (200 I) estimates that N fertilizer supplies up to 40% of the world's dietary protein and dependence on N from the Haber-Bosch process will increase in the future. Nitrogen compounds also have been recognized for their many potential adverse impacts on the environment and health (Keeney. 2002).