Ammonia mitigation campaign with smallholder farmers improves air quality while ensuring high cereal production

Jiahul Kang, Jingxia Wang, Mathew R. Heal, Keith Goulding, Wim de Vries, Yuanhong Zhao, Sijie Feng, Xiuming Zhang, Baojing Gu, Xinsheng Niu, Hongyan Zhang, Xuejun Liu*, Zhenling Cui, Fusuo Zhang, Wen Xu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Reducing cropland ammonia (NH3) emissions while improving air quality and food supply is a challenge, particularly in China where there are millions of smallholder farmers. We tested the effectiveness of a tailored nitrogen (N) management strategy applied to wheat–maize cropping systems in ‘demonstration squares’ across Quzhou County in the North China Plain. The N-management techniques included optimal N rates, deep fertilizer placement and application of urease inhibitors, implemented through cooperation between government, researchers, businesses and smallholders. Compared with conventional local smallholder practice, our NH3 mitigation campaign reduced NH3 volatilization from wheat and maize by 49% and 39%, and increased N-use efficiency by 28% and 40% and farmers’ profitability by 25% and 19%, respectively, with no detriment to crop yields. County-wide atmospheric NH3 and fine particulate matter (with aerodynamic diameter <2.5 μm) concentrations decreased by 40% and 8%, respectively. County-wide net benefits were estimated at US$7.0 million. Our demonstration-square approach shows that cropland NH3 mitigation and improved air quality and farm profitability can be achieved simultaneously by coordinated actions at the county level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-761
Number of pages11
JournalNature Food
Issue numberSeptember
Early online date31 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Ammonia concentration
  • air pollution
  • agricultural emissions
  • Air quality modelling
  • Emissions reductions
  • nitrogen use efficiency
  • nitrogen deposition


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