Chemical fertiliser disaster for environment and major contributor to climate crisis

Caro FEELY

Chemical fertiliser nitrogen major part of annual direct GHG emissions from agriculture

How Does Agriculture contribute to Emissions creating Climate Change? You probably immediately think of methane from cattle for dairy and beef farming.  But in fact there is another elephant in the room. Synthetic chemical nitrogen (N) fertilisers.

Synthetic N fertilisers are responsible for 2.4% of global emissions – making it one of the top climate polluting industrial chemicals.

It is roughly 21.5% of the annual direct emissions from agriculture.

Around 20-30% of the synthetic N fertilisers applied to fields are converted to foods, the rest – 70% plus – runs off into water bodies and enters the environment as pollution.

That creates the famous ‘dead zones’ in the ocean when there is an algae bloom and bacteria eat the algae and, in the process, deprive the area of oxygen making a dead zone. These dead zones are normally in the coastal areas where the rivers bring out the fertilizers and waste.

All this has a knock on effect. Thanks to the global warming generated by using this synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and us burning fossil fuels in our homes and cars and a whole lot more; the dead zones are spreading into deeper waters because of ocean heating (around 90% of the extra heat of global warming has gone into the oceans). Hotter oceans mean more dead zones. 

If you have visited Chateau Feely you may have heard me explain why chemical fertiliser is so bad. It is the start of a vicious circle that requires use of systemic fungicides and insecticides that are devastating to human health (cancer, nervous system disruption and endocrine disruption). Chemical fertiliser is like giving fast food to our vines – turning them into couch potatoes and making them susceptible to disease.  It is far better to feed our plants, vines and trees healthy food like compost and teas made from locally available elements. We make compost from our waste grapes, hay cut on our organic and biodynamic farm and other kitchen waste.

The global mean annual per capita use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers has increased 5 times since the 1960s: from 3kg per person in 1960 to 15kg per person in 2018. In North America, the increase reached 40kg per person in 2018.

The biggest emitters are China, India, North America and Europe. On a per capita basis, the highest emitters are the major agricultural export countries of North America (US and Canada), South America (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay) Australia/New Zealand and Europe (Denmark, France, Ireland, Ukraine).

Worldwide, emissions keep growing every year, including in Africa, where fertiliser use is now growing rapidly. 

Find a link to the report summary and details at this article.

We have to stop chemical fertiliser. The only way to be sure that the people growing your food and drink have not used it is to buy certified organic. Another good reason to add to my list of why organic.

Creating healthy compost also helps fix our waste problem. Taking the ecological route is not easy, but it is fulfilling, healthy and long term sustainable. 

Come and learn more about organic farming with a visit to Chateau Feely in South West France ; stay or do a multi day course or multi day tourFind out more about our way of farming with organic and biodynamic practices on the Feely organic and biodynamic online trail. You can read about the story of this organic farm – the series includes three books

Grape Expectations: A Family’s Vineyard Adventure in France (Caro Feely Book 1).

Saving Our Skins: Building a Vineyard Dream in France ( Caro Feely book 2 )

Glass Half Full: The Ups and Downs of Vineyard Life in France (Caro Feely Book 3).

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