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Nitrogen: Necessary element, but too much is a problem

September 28, 2012Patrick NunnallyProgram & AnnouncementsComments Off on Nitrogen: Necessary element, but too much is a problem

Nitrogen is one of the more challenging elements that humans try to manage.  Application of nitrogen fertilizer has been critically important to increased agricultural production, yet excess nitrogen is an insidious polluter of streams and rivers.

On Thursday, Oct. 4, the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences will sponsor a free public lecture on the excess nitrogen issue.

Otto Doering, a Purdue University agricultural economist who chaired the committee of scientists that wrote the 2011 report to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board on the challenges of managing nitrogen, will deliver the lecture. His talk is titled Excess nitrogen: A Confounding Problem for Energy Use, Food Production, the Water We Drink and the Air We Breathe.

The lecture will be at 7 p.m. in the Student Center theater on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Doering will discuss the difficult choices facing scientists and policy-makers as they seek to maintain the benefits that human-created nitrogen provides while limiting its environmental damage.

The nitrogen committee concluded that, as a first step, policy-makers should pursue agricultural and industrial efficiency measures that the committee said would allow crop production to increase while reducing the escape of excess nitrogen into the environment by 25 percent.

Three Minnesota experts will appear with Doering at the lecture and join him in taking questions from the audience. They are: Gyles Randall, professor emeritus and soil scientist at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca; Dan Stoddard, assistant director of the pesticide and fertilizer division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture; and Dr. Debora Swackhamer, University of Minnesota professor of public policy and of environmental health sciences.

Swackhamer chairs the EPA Science Advisory Board that received the nitrogen report from the committee Doering led.

The lecture is the ninth in the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources honoring the late Malcolm Moos, president of the university from 1967 to 1974.

About the Freshwater Society
The Freshwater Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring people to value, conserve and protect water resources. Located in Excelsior, Minn., it has a long history of association with the University of Minnesota. Learn more at

About the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences
The College of Biological Sciences provides education and conducts research in all areas of biology, from molecules to ecosystems, supporting applications in medicine, renewable energy, ecosystem management, agriculture and biotechnology. Learn more at

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