The High Cost of Cheap Nitrogen

argylesock says… Crops need nitrates. I like this article about how nitrate fertiliser can be a good thing gone bad. You might want to recall what my fellow blogger Janina at Food (Policy) for Thought wrote about nitrogen (actually nitrate) fertiliser. You might also follow the links about eutrophication (excessive plant nutrients, including nitrates) in water, towards the bottom of my post about duckweed.

Global Food Politics

The explosion of the fertilizer factory in West, Texas, earlier this month was lost amid discussion of the Boston Marathon bombing. Yet the tragic explosion highlights some real problems in our food system.

The West Fertilizer Company was established in 1962, to produce ammonium nitrate used as fertilizer in agricultural production. When the plant exploded, more than 24 tons of ammonium nitrate were on hand. More than 15 people were killed and more than 140 were injured in the explosion, which also destroyed 60 homes. Initial investigations into the explosion found that despite a federal requirement that the Department of Homeland Security be notified of any ammonium nitrate stockpiles of more than one ton, West had not notified the department. The last inspection of the plant—conducted by OSHA in 1985—found five “serious” violations, including improper storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia and improper respiratory protection for workers. The company…

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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