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MSU receives grant to work on reducing nitrogen pollution

June 5, 2013

A team composed of MSU’s professors and scientists will start working on a project to find ways that could help reduce farm pollution starting in July. The project, titled A Social-Ecological Analysis of Nitrogen in Agricultural Systems of the Upper Midwest, is fueled by a $1.46 million grant from the National Science Foundation and aims to propose solutions to reduce pollution caused by nitrogen in fertilizers, thereby helping not only the environment, but farmers, too.

Assistant professor of sociology Diana Stuart, who is leading the project, said part of the research would include conducting interviews with farmers to find out the factors that affect them when making decisions about fertilizer use.

“We are trying to identify factors that influence how much fertilizer farmers use, how they apply and when,” Stuart said. “We can help farmers make decisions within their constraints.”

Associate professor Bruno Basso, one of the researchers on the team, said he is interested to see how biophysical sciences combined with social sciences could help farmers improve fertilizer use.

He also said this would increase farmers’ profits and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The project will deliver valuable information on how to best manage nitrogen fertilizers under current climate and future climate scenarios so environmental pollution can be significantly reduced,” Basso said.

Doctoral student Carson Reeling is positive this team could find ways to improve environmental quality. Reeling, who is specializing in agriculture food and resource economics, pointed out that the nature of the study could help people understand the problem of nitrogen pollution.

“A great interdisciplinary team like this will recognize opportunities and come up with truly new ways to improve environmental quality,” Reeling said.

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