Nitrous Oxide Emission Reduction in Agriculture

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Nitrous oxide (N2O) emission reduction in agriculture focuses on mitigating the release of this potent greenhouse gas from agricultural practices. N2O is nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) in terms of global warming potential and contributes significantly to climate change. Agriculture is a major source of N2O emissions, primarily from nitrogen-based fertilizers and animal manure management. Addressing these emissions is crucial for building a more sustainable and climate-friendly food system.

Impact on climate action

By implementing advanced techniques in agriculture, like improved soil management and precision fertilization, the innovation significantly decreases nitrous oxide emissions. This reduces the overall carbon footprint of agriculture, contributing to global efforts in combating climate change by addressing a potent greenhouse gas, thus fostering more sustainable farming practices.


Nitrous oxide emission reduction strategies in agriculture revolve around managing nitrogen inputs and optimizing farming practices:

  • Precision Fertilizer Management: Applying nitrogen fertilizers at the right time, in the right amount, and using the right placement methods can minimize nitrogen losses to the environment and reduce N2O emissions.
  • Nitrification Inhibitors: These chemicals slow down the conversion of ammonium to nitrate in the soil, a process that releases N2O.
  • Controlled-Release Fertilizers: These fertilizers release nitrogen gradually over time, matching crop nutrient needs and reducing nitrogen losses.
  • Improved Manure Management: Practices like anaerobic digestion and composting can reduce N2O emissions from manure storage and application.
  • Cover Crops and Crop Rotation: Planting cover crops and rotating crops can enhance soil health and reduce the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, indirectly lowering N2O emissions.

TRL : 6-9 (depending on the specific technology and practice)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Microbial Solutions: Researchers are exploring the use of beneficial microbes that can enhance nitrogen use efficiency by plants and reduce nitrogen losses to the environment, indirectly mitigating N2O emissions.
  • Data-Driven Precision Agriculture: Combining sensor data, soil analysis, and weather information with AI-powered algorithms can optimize fertilizer application, reducing nitrogen use and minimizing N2O release.
  • Remote Sensing for Nitrogen Monitoring: Satellite and drone-based remote sensing technologies can monitor crop nitrogen levels, enabling farmers to adjust fertilizer applications more precisely and minimize over-fertilization.
  • Alternative Nitrogen Sources: Exploring alternative nitrogen sources, such as bio-based fertilizers or nitrogen-fixing cover crops, can reduce reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and their associated N2O emissions.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Precision Nitrogen Management
  • Nitrification Inhibition Techniques
  • Controlled-Release Fertilizer Development
  • Advanced Manure Management Practices
  • Cover Crops for Nitrous Oxide Reduction
  • Crop Rotation Strategies
  • Beneficial Microbes for Nitrogen Efficiency
  • AI-Powered Precision Agriculture
  • Remote Sensing for Nitrogen Monitoring
  • Satellite-Based Nitrogen Detection
  • Drone Technology for Nitrogen Assessment
  • Nitrogen-Fixing Cover Crop Utilization
  • Nitrogen Use Efficiency Enhancement
  • Sustainable Soil Management Techniques
  • Farmer Education and Outreach Programs

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Pivot Bio:
    • Technology Focus: Pivot Bio specializes in developing microbial solutions that enhance nitrogen fixation in crops, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. By harnessing naturally occurring microbes, they aim to improve nutrient uptake efficiency in plants while reducing nitrous oxide emissions from soil.
    • Uniqueness: Pivot Bio’s approach is unique in its focus on microbial solutions for nitrogen fixation, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional fertilizers. Their technology can enhance crop yields while mitigating the environmental impact of agriculture.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions are targeted at farmers and agricultural producers looking to improve the sustainability of their operations while maintaining or increasing productivity.
  • Trace Genomics:
    • Technology Focus: Trace Genomics provides soil testing and microbiome analysis services to help farmers optimize soil health and fertility. By analyzing the soil microbiome, they identify opportunities to reduce nitrous oxide emissions through targeted interventions.
    • Uniqueness: Trace Genomics stands out for its comprehensive soil testing and analysis capabilities, which enable data-driven decision-making in agriculture. Their focus on understanding the soil microbiome allows for customized recommendations to reduce emissions.
    • End-User Segments: Their services cater to farmers, agronomists, and agricultural consultants seeking insights into soil health and fertility management to improve crop production and sustainability.
  • AgroSustain:
    • Technology Focus: AgroSustain develops natural solutions for crop protection and preservation, including products to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions in agriculture. Their bio-based formulations target specific pathogens and pests while promoting soil health and reducing environmental impact.
    • Uniqueness: AgroSustain’s approach combines bio-based solutions with a focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship. Their products offer effective pest and disease control while minimizing the use of synthetic chemicals and reducing nitrous oxide emissions.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions are aimed at farmers, food processors, and agricultural supply chains seeking safe and sustainable alternatives to conventional crop protection methods.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Wageningen University & Research are investigating innovative agricultural practices and technologies to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from soil. This includes the development of precision farming techniques, such as site-specific fertilizer application and optimized irrigation systems, to minimize nitrogen losses and mitigate nitrous oxide emissions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Wageningen’s approach involves a holistic assessment of nitrogen cycling in agroecosystems, considering factors such as soil type, crop type, climate conditions, and management practices. By integrating field experiments, modeling, and remote sensing data, researchers aim to identify effective strategies for reducing nitrous oxide emissions while maintaining crop productivity.
    • End-use Applications: The research outcomes from Wageningen have practical implications for farmers, policymakers, and agricultural stakeholders. Implementing nitrogen management practices recommended by Wageningen researchers can help farmers reduce their environmental footprint, comply with regulations, and improve the sustainability of agricultural production systems.
  • University of California, Davis:
    • Technology Enhancements: UC Davis researchers are exploring novel approaches to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural activities, particularly focusing on dairy farming and crop production systems. They are investigating the effectiveness of various management practices, such as cover cropping, rotational grazing, and alternative nitrogen fertilization strategies, in reducing nitrous oxide emissions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: UC Davis’s research integrates interdisciplinary expertise in agronomy, soil science, animal science, and environmental science to address the complex challenges associated with nitrous oxide emissions in agriculture. Their approach includes both experimental studies and modeling efforts to quantify the impact of different interventions on nitrous oxide emissions and evaluate their scalability and cost-effectiveness.
    • End-use Applications: The research findings from UC Davis provide evidence-based recommendations for farmers, policymakers, and agricultural advisors seeking to adopt sustainable practices to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Implementing the strategies identified by UC Davis researchers can help dairy farmers improve nutrient management, enhance soil health, and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Cornell University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Cornell University researchers are developing innovative technologies and management practices to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils. They are exploring the use of sensor-based technologies, such as real-time soil monitoring systems and automated nutrient management tools, to optimize fertilizer application and minimize nitrogen losses.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Cornell’s research emphasizes a systems-based approach to nitrogen management, considering interactions between soil, crops, and environmental factors in nitrous oxide emissions. Their research integrates laboratory experiments, field trials, and modeling studies to identify effective strategies for mitigating nitrous oxide emissions while maintaining agricultural productivity and profitability.
    • End-use Applications: The research outcomes from Cornell University offer practical guidance for farmers, land managers, and policymakers seeking to address nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture. By adopting the recommended technologies and management practices developed by Cornell researchers, stakeholders can reduce their environmental impact, enhance soil quality, and contribute to sustainable agricultural development.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Several technologies and practices for reducing N2O emissions in agriculture are already commercially available and widely implemented:

  • Nitrification Inhibitors: These chemicals are commonly used in conjunction with nitrogen fertilizers to reduce N2O emissions.
  • Controlled-Release Fertilizers: These fertilizers are increasingly popular for their ability to reduce nitrogen losses and improve fertilizer use efficiency.
  • Precision Fertilizer Management: Many farmers are adopting precision agriculture techniques, including variable-rate fertilization, to optimize nitrogen application and minimize environmental impact.