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It provides the evidence base and analysis to support governments in improving policy performance and creating an enabling environment for the sector to thrive. OECD Agriculture Ministers and invited delegations met most recently in April to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing global agriculture and food systems. All participants adopted a Declaration that underlines the widely shared goals for the food and agriculture sector, affirms policy principles to achieve these goals, and sets out areas for urgent attention by governments.

The OECD Committee for Fisheries COFI was similarly founded in continues to provide timely, evidence-based policy analysis of pressing global issues in fisheries, aquaculture and sustainable fisheries management. Its long-term strategy aims to achieve sustainable fisheries and aquaculture while providing quality food. It oversees work on trade policy and provides a unique forum for senior trade policy officials to discuss important policy issues and developments in trade relations. Commitee delegates from capitals meet twice each year to share information and exchange views across OECD and aprtner countries and international organisations, focusing on the collective analysis of shared trade policy interests.

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Fertilizer nitrogen has contributed to enormous increases in US agricultural productivity as well as to elevated atmospheric N 2 O concentrations. While harvesting of agricultural products represents the largest N output from most agricultural systems Cassman et al. Schematic diagram of the nitrogen N cycle showing N forms upright font and transformations italics.

Nitrogen inputs are shown as green arrows, outputs as red arrows.

Direct and indirect N 2 O emissions are depicted as thick and thin red arrows, respectively. We provide a historical context, showing how changes in the number and types of agricultural operations have impacted N 2 O emissions from US agricultural systems, discuss current trends, and describe future challenges and opportunities associated with N 2 O mitigation. The atmospheric concentration of N 2 O is increasing at a rate of 0.

Nonetheless, current emissions from the US contribute to global atmospheric N 2 O concentrations. Although the atmospheric concentration of N 2 O in was only ppb, N 2 O is an environmentally important molecule because of its role as a greenhouse gas GHG and as the most important catalyst of stratospheric ozone O 3 depletion IPCC ; Ravishankara et al. Increasing atmospheric concentrations of N 2 O from to Derived from IPCC; www. Nitrous oxide may be emitted directly into the atmosphere from soils or manure, or indirectly when N forms other than N 2 O are lost from soil and manure and converted to N 2 O in other locations such as riparian zones near agricultural fields Figure 1.

Substantial changes in US agricultural systems over the past years have influenced the N cycle and sources of N 2 O in agriculture. In the early 20th century, integrated crop—livestock operations — where feed and forage were grown on farms and fed to livestock, the manure from which was returned to the soil — dominated many agricultural landscapes NRC Exogenous N inputs consisted almost entirely of perennial forage legumes in crop rotations.

Between and , the depletion of soil N reserves and livestock manure application to soil contributed to an estimated increase in atmospheric N 2 O concentration of about 0. The panels illustrate that during the 20th century, the US agricultural sector was transformed from one characterized by mainly internal cycling of nutrients on integrated farms into one characterized by major transfers of fertilizer nutrients from specialized farms via feed grains to areas where livestock are raised in CAFOs.

These changes have impacted N 2 O emissions, as described in the text. Figure adapted from David et al.

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  • By the end of the 20th century, widespread adoption of synthetic N fertilizers, mechanization, improved crop varieties, and other technologies had resulted in substantial changes in N inputs and landscape complexity. The increased crop production made possible by N fertilizers and other technologies also provided the impetus for major changes in the livestock sector. For instance, improved housing facilities, waste handling, breeding, and feeding rations allowed livestock to be raised in increasingly larger and more concentrated animal feeding operations CAFOs , a process that continues today NRC ; MacDonald and McBride Nutrients accumulate near CAFOs, often in quantities that exceed the nutrient needs of the crops being grown within reasonable transportation distance Gollehon et al.

    These nutrients contribute to hypereutrophication of estuaries and N leaching to groundwater Kellogg et al. Thus, during the 20th century, a large portion of the US agricultural sector was transformed from one characterized by major internal cycling of nutrients on integrated farms into one characterized by large transfers of fertilizer nutrients from specialized farms via feed grains to areas where livestock are raised in CAFOs. Although there are multiple ways to define NUE, each method measures crop N uptake, or a surrogate eg crop yield , relative to N inputs Cassman et al.

    For example, N fertilizer recovery efficiency RE N can be expressed as: 1.

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    Nonetheless, average corn grain yield increased to 9. These trends show that increasing NUE and decreasing N 2 O intensity were driven by yield increases due to multiple factors, including improved crop varieties, N management, soil conservation, and crop protection practices rather than reductions in fertilizer application or N 2 O emissions.

    This example clearly indicates that decreasing N 2 O intensity is not necessarily sufficient for reducing overall N 2 O emissions Table 1. Changes in the US livestock sector during the 20th century also seem to have resulted in decreased N 2 O intensity Table 1. Model output has shown that improved productivity, due largely to decreased animal maintenance costs ie costs to support basic functions and minimum activities of livestock animals per unit of production, has reduced the N 2 O intensity of dairy and beef production during the past 40 to 70 years.

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    This analysis draws its boundaries broadly, encompassing increases in feed productivity described above, and applies Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC emissions factors see below for liquid manure storage — the most common management system — to estimate N 2 O emissions for the entire industry.

    Productivity gains in the poultry and hog industries have also been notable. Capper et al. As with all assessments of N 2 O emissions, uncertainties are relatively high in these estimates. Although this is a straightforward and transparent method, it is associated with a high degree of uncertainty. Grassini and Cassman suggested that an N balance approach to estimating soil N 2 O emissions may be preferable to the IPCC EF method because NUE varies substantially at any level of N fertilizer application and N 2 O losses tend to be related to the amount of excess N in the system rather than to N inputs per se.

    Recoverable manure N is total manure N minus that portion typically lost to the environment prior to soil application during collection, transfer, and storage; Kellogg et al.

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    Nevertheless, the PNB can be used to gauge the agronomic and environmental performance of N fertilization strategies Snyder and Bruulsema ; Roberts et al. Spatial and temporal trends in PNBs are illustrated in Figure 4. Comparisons of PNBs from to generally indicate a net positive balance throughout most of the US. There has been a tendency toward slightly lower net positive N balances over time in the principal cropping regions of the Midwest, likely reflecting some gain in NUE and increased N removal in crop harvests.

    Partial N balances have tended to increase from to in the northern Great Plains and in the lower Mississippi River basin, while greater PNB increases have been observed in California and a few other western states.