iSEE Critical Conversation 2018:
The Nitrogen Reduction Challenge

Sediments churned up by rough oceans and nutrient-rich waters deposited by rivers combine in the Gulf of Mexico to create the perfect place for phytoplankton to flourish and deplete the surrounding water of oxygen needed by other marine life. Original image courtesy of Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Creative Commons.

The growing hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico continues to be a major environmental concern. Nitrogen runoff from agricultural sources hundreds of miles to the north in the Mississippi River Basin are a dominant contributor to poor water quality in the Gulf.

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) organized its first Critical Conversation in Spring 2018 to engage researchers and external stakeholders in developing a research agenda on the nitrogen reduction challenge. Several strategies have been proposed for reducing nitrogen runoff, including adoption of best management practices for fertilizer application, land use change and diversification of the crop mix. The recent emergence of “big data” gathered by remote sensing and potential for GPS-guided variable-rate nitrogen application has promising implications for enabling site-specific N management. Scientific uncertainties about the environmental and economic implications of these strategies continue to hinder action that can achieve meaningful reduction in the hypoxic zone.

The goal of this multi-stakeholder Critical Conversation was to develop a collaborative network that can develop a research agenda geared toward finding actionable solutions. iSEE is aiming to identify current gaps in scientific knowledge, key economic and social barriers, and market and policy solutions for sustainably achieving a significant reduction in nitrogen runoff.

Read iSEE’s notes on the event >>>

iSEE directors and affiliates published a commentary on nitrogen reduction in Nature Sustainability on Sept. 23, 2019. Read the summary >>> See the full article in Nature Sustainability >>> 

See the resulting op-ed piece that ran June 21, 2019, in The News-Gazette >>>


Watch the Keynote: Jason Weller, Land O’ Lakes SUSTAIN

Jason Weller, Senior Director of Sustainability at Land O’ Lakes SUSTAIN, delivered the opening keynote at the event on May 3. He shared innovative technologies and collaborations he recognizes as bringing about a revolution today in our food system and how we can use market-based strategies for solving nutrient runoff issues. Click to watch his talk below.

View Weller’s slides >>>

LOL SUSTAIN forms a bridge between on-farm conservation and company-led sustainability targets. Weller leads a team developing the broad portfolio of conservation tools available for the cooperative’s member-owners.