Nitrogen is a component of protein and DNA and, as such, is essential to all living things. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, around 97% of the nitrogen supporting life on earth was fixed biologically. Over the last century, intensification of farming, coupled with a lack of understanding of soil microbial communities, has resulted in reduced biological activity and an increased application of industrially produced forms of nitrogen to agricultural land.
Globally, over $100 billion of nitrogen fertilizers are applied to crops and pastures every year. Between 10 and 40% of the applied N is taken up by plants. The other 60-90% is leached into water, volatilized into the air or immobilized in soil.
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