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Increasing nitrogen in Earth's soils may signal global changes, say U. of Colorado researchers

they contained 30 years ago, there are "tractable solutions" to the problem, he said.

"Agricultural extension services often recommend more nitrogen than is needed for fertilization, and some farmers tend to put on even more nitrogen."

Trying to calculate the nitrogen turnover rate of carbon in soils is difficult, he said. "In a lot of the world, far more fertilizer is used than is needed to maximize crop growth, and it is this extra use that causes a lot of the problems. In many cases, farmers could make small changes in how much fertilizer they use, or when they use it, but make a big difference in how much nitrogen leaks off their fields."

It is far too soon to say if more nitrogen in the world's soils will mean more or less C02 in the atmosphere, Neff said. "Soils contain a huge mix of different types of carbon, and it likely does all respond the same to changing nitrogen. But that is what we saw at Niwot Ridge, and the same probably is true elsewhere."


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Contact: Alan Townsend
alan.townsend@colorado.edu
303-492-6865
University of Colorado at Boulder
30-Oct-2002


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