It's painfully clear nature is buckling under the weight of farming's demands. There's another way – but it involves accepting nature's limits.
Planting cover crops, like this red clover in Sussex County, Delaware, can help return carbon to farm fields.
Michele Dorsey Walfred/Flickr
Storing more carbon in soil helps slow climate change and makes croplands more productive. But there are two kinds of soil carbon that are both important, but function very differently.
The red tip on these matches contains phosphorus, which ignites when in contact with oxygen.
The elements that make up each column of the periodic table share a set of common traits. Here, a chemist describes group 15 and the crucial role phosphorus, in particular, plays in cancer.
Aeration tanks at the Oaks wastewater treatment plant in New Providence, Penn.
Montgomery County Planning Commission
The 'used water' that flows from our showers, dishwashers and toilets isn't a waste to engineers – it contains valuable materials. The challenge is recovering them and turning them into products.
The benefits of beans, lentils and other pulses go beyond the belly.
Today’s production of more, better food from the same amount land means that tomorrow’s population may not go hungry.
Applying nitrogen fertilizer to corn at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, a research site in Michigan.
Fertilizer is a key source of nitrogen pollution which fouls air and water worldwide. Current regulations target farmers, but focusing on producers could spur them to develop greener products.
Even a small cloud can weigh as much as four tonnes – but gravity, chemistry and temperature keep them floating in the sky.
Transport and livestock are both significant contributors to nitrogen pollution.
The University of Melbourne is the first institution in Australia to have its nitrogen footprint calculated – it's 139 tonnes per year, mainly because of food production, energy use and transport.
Blooms of algae, like this growth in 2015 in Lake St. Clair between Michigan and Ontario, promote the formation of dead zones.
NASA Earth Observatory
Scientists have mapped a huge dead zone in the Gulf of Oman, without enough oxygen in the water to support life. This Speed Read explains why dead zones form in waters around the world.
Long’s Peak framed by rock outcrop, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Scientists have long thought most nitrogen in Earth's ecosystems comes from the air, but new research shows it also is released as rocks weather. This could boost plant growth and help sequester carbon – but not fast enough to avert climate change, as some pundits have claimed.
Six million people in Pennsylvania and neighboring states get their drinking water from the Susquehanna River. Major pollution sources include agriculture, urban development and industry.
Nicholas A. Tonelli
America's drinking water infrastructure is aging and needs billions of dollars in upgrades. Two extension educators urge consumers to monitor their water and have it tested if they suspect problems.
Pollution has increased carbon in our soils - which is good for climate change. But this carbon may not stay there for long.
Our food system depends on nitrogen fertilisers.
Nitrogen image from www.shutterstock.com
Somehow we need to grow more food to feed an expanding population while minimising the problems associated with nitrogen fertiliser use.
Diamonds are a data storers’ best friend?
Diamond image via www.shutterstock.com
With current modes up against their limits, we need new data storage solutions. Tiny defects in diamonds' atomic structure might turn them into a new medium for memory.
A farm employee walks through a soya bean field in northern Uganda.
Increasing legume production can turn the tide for African farmers who struggle with poor soils, declining farm yields and worsening nutrition in one fell swoop
Protecting the Great Barrier Reef’s water quality finally has a hard dollar price on it.
A groundbreaking new economic study has found that investing A$8.2 billion would get us very close to hitting targets to cut water pollution into the Great Barrier Reef by 2025.
Harmful algal bloom caused by nutrient pollution, Assateague island National Seashore, MD.
Eric Vance, U.S. EPA/Flickr
Excess nutrients from farm fields cause widespread water pollution across the U.S. Bioreactors -- essentially, ditches filled with wood chips -- are emerging as a way to reduce nutrient pollution.
A market that lets sugar cane farmers trade ‘nitrogen permits’ could help keep a cap on fertiliser use.
You've heard of cap-and-trade schemes for greenhouse gases. Perhaps we also need one to limit the amount of fertiliser runoff onto the Great Barrier Reef.
Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, which eat coral, have been linked to poor water quality.
Starfish image from www.shutterstock.com
To fix pollution on the Great Barrier Reef, some farming practices will have to change.
Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients for soils and Africa doesn’t have enough.
Nitrogen inputs in African soil must be carefully used. If they're not, there will be unintended consequences for the environment and human health.