It’s not just about the high number of premature deaths. They subsequently caused a prosperity loss of 429 billion US dollars (362 billion euros), scientists calculated with the participation of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg (Mödling district). In agriculture in particular, nitrogen emissions must be reduced, which has already been done at great cost in the case of traffic.
From 1990 to 2013, the proportion of fine dust caused by nitrogen rose from 30 to 39 percent and the number of years of life stolen by reactive nitrogen compounds from 19.5 to 23.3 million, explained researchers working with Mark Sutton from the UK Center for the Environment. and Hydrology in Pennewick (Great Britain). The compound nitrogenous compound of ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), along with sulfur dioxide, is the most important starting material for fine dust (fine dust particles with an average diameter of 2.5 μm, NB).
Most effective to reduce farming
“NH3 mainly comes from animal husbandry – especially the urea in animal urine that easily degrades into ammonia,” Wilfried Winewart of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenberg explained to APA. Gas is released into the stables when manure is stored or spread in fields, as well as when animals are grazing. Emissions can be reduced if contact between manure and air is minimized, for example by cleaning stalls frequently, covering compost stores and quickly incorporating them into the ground.
“You should definitely avoid spreading it with a barrier plate, which means that the liquid fertilizer spreads far into the air,” says the researcher. The use of industrial fertilizers also reduces ammonia emissions from agriculture. “A good, reliable measure of course is to always reduce the amounts used in animal husbandry and fertilizer use,” Winiwarter said.
Nitrogen oxides are formed during combustion processes
“Nitrogen oxides, on the other hand, are mainly formed during combustion processes, especially at high temperatures,” says the researcher. Thus the main culprits are power plants, traffic, cement production and, to a lesser extent, house and forest fires, as happened recently in Hirschwang an der Rachs (Neunkirchen district). Since the combustion gases usually pass through a chimney or exhaust pipe, they can be removed from the exhaust gases quite technically, for example with a three-way catalytic converter or with “DeNOx” systems such as the “AdBlue system” in diesel engines.
Much has already been invested in the past to reduce NOx emissions, Winiwarter says: “Procedures like the three-way catalytic converter are very complex and expensive, but there are no comparable procedures in agriculture.” For this reason, it would also be more cost-effective and easier to reduce nitrogen emissions by reducing ammonia through reducing nitrogen oxide emissions. “But these costs have to be borne by someone – that means either higher food prices or more targeted support from the public sector, as well thought out but not sufficiently implemented,” the researcher explained.
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