Nitrogen Footprint: A Useful Indicator of Agricultural Sustainability

  • Sangita Mohanty
  • Chinmaya Kumar Swain
  • Anjani Kumar
  • A. K. Nayak


Nitrogen (N) fertilizer has been identified as a crucial input that has alleviated nitrogen limitation in crop production and substantially enhanced yield. Global N fertilizer consumption in the year 2013 was 107.6 million tons which is approximately ten times that of 1961. However, 60–70% of applied N is lost from the system in the form of reactive N species such as ammonia (NH3), nitrous oxide (N2O), nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and nitrate (NO3) due to poor N use efficiency of agricultural crop. Intensive agricultural practices therefore are major anthropogenic interference that disrupt natural N cycle, leading to severe environmental hazards in the form of acid rain, smog, eutrophication, ozone depletion, and global warming. Monitoring contribution of agriculture to global N pollution is essential to raise awareness and adopt mitigation measures to ensure environmental sustainability of the production system. Attempts have been made to prepare farm-, region-, and country-specific inventories of N leaching, N2O, and NH3 emission separately, though data on the contribution of agriculture is associated with its inherent uncertainties and biases. Recently, nitrogen footprint approach has been identified as a potential tool to estimate N flow from various sectors such as industry, transport, and agriculture. These tools also provide options of developing strategies for reducing N footprint over a time period. The objectives of this chapter are to comprehensively discuss the contribution of agricultural activity to reactive N flow and analyze the scope of using N footprint tools for comparative assessment of environmental sustainability of various crop management practices.


Nitrogen Nitrogen footprint N cycle N pollution Water pollution 



Acidification potential


Adenosine triphosphate


Enhanced efficiency fertilizers


Eutrophication potential




Global warming potential


Maximum contaminant level


Metric tons


Nitrous oxide




Nitric oxide


Nitrogen dioxide


Ozone depletion potential


Photochemical ozone creation potential


Secondary inorganic aerosols


Site-specific nutrient management




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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sangita Mohanty
    • 1
  • Chinmaya Kumar Swain
    • 1
  • Anjani Kumar
    • 1
  • A. K. Nayak
    • 1
  1. 1.National Rice Research InstituteCuttackIndia

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