Nitrogen research and innovations unveiled at Summer Institute

June 30, 2024
Nitrogen Summer Institute participants visit Harborview Farms in Rock Hall, MD and hear about nitrogen management along the food supply chain from farm to fork. Credit: Anikka Fife, UMCES Integration and Application Network.

The Global Nitrogen Innovation Center for Clean Energy and the Environment (NICCEE) held its inaugural Nitrogen Summer Institute at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences’ (UMCES) Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore, Maryland, June 12-14, 2024. More than 50 experts from academia, government agencies, industry, farming and non-profit organizations gathered to explore advancements and collaborative efforts for nitrogen management in agriculture, food and energy systems, with a particular focus on the opportunities and challenges presented by 'green ammonia.'

Green ammonia, produced using renewable energy, offers the potential to improve fertilizer accessibility and decarbonize marine transport. However, the adoption of green ammonia raises critical new concerns about increasing reactive nitrogen in the biosphere and exacerbating related environmental challenges. NICCEE is a global research initiative dedicated to advancing sustainable and climate-smart nitrogen management through socioeconomic and technological innovation, and it is jointly funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), U.K. Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The Nitrogen Summer Institute was the first in-person gathering for the center.

The conference commenced with opening remarks from Michele Masucci, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development at the University System of Maryland, followed by a keynote address from Kevin M. Atticks, DCD, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture. Their insights set the tone for the comprehensive discussions on nitrogen innovation and green ammonia technology that followed, and they emphasized the importance of collaboration in finding methods to bolster sustainable agriculture.

Credit: Anikka Fife, UMCES Integration and Application Network.

"Nitrogen is essential for life in plants, animals, and humans, yet we are facing a nitrogen paradox of 'too much, too little,' where we have too much nitrogen loaded into the environment, while leaving too little nitrogen on the plate for those people who are in need," said Xin Zhang, professor and NICCEE Director based at the UMCES Appalachian Laboratory. "Both technological and socioeconomic innovations are necessary to address this paradox."

The Nitrogen Summer Institute was supported by NICCEE’s Canada-lead Claudia Wagner-Riddle, of the University of Guelph, and UK-lead Adie Collins, of Net Zero and Resilient Farming, Rothamsted Research. Additional participants included experts from the African Plant Nutrition Institute, China Agricultural University, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, New York University, the University of Manitoba, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Saskatchewan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and more, as well as participants from the private sector such as Fuel Positive Corporation, Talus Renewables, Chordis, Fertilizer Canada and Rutherford Farms.

The event will be offered annually to promote and support the NICCEE community.

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