An enormous amount of energy is needed in the production of synthetic fertilizers. For industrial agriculture, it is responsible for up to 50 percent of the energy consumption per hectare. In contrast to cycle-oriented agriculture, it is not the farm’s own compost or manure that is incorporated into the soil. Instead, nitrogen is purchased in the form of fertilizer. This can increase yields in the short run, but over time humus degrades more quickly and nutrients and carbon become harder to store. The additional nitrogen can hardly be absorbed. Excess nitrogen is leached into the groundwater and emitted as nitrous oxide – a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. The problem is exacerbated by water shortages due to climate change and droughts, further reducing plant availability. More fertilizers and pesticides are therefore not the solution to the climate crisis.
The fertilizer dilemma