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Challenges of reducing excess nitrogen in Japanese agroecosystems


Fertilizer N use in Japan has decreased by about 30% from 1960 to 2000, while keeping a little increase in cereal yields. This has resulted in a significant increase in apparent nitrogen use efficiency, in particular for rice. On the other hand, national N load on the environment associated with the production and consumption of domestic and imported agricultural products has almost tripled during this period, mainly due to the dramatic increase of imports of food and feedstuffs. The environmental problems, including water and air pollution, caused by the excessive loads of N are serious public concerns and there is an urgent need to minimize N losses from agricultural production. In order to meet the necessity for reducing the environmental impacts by excess N, political and technological measures have been taken at regional and country levels. In recent years, the Japanese government has embarked on a series of policies to encourage transition to an environmentally conscious agriculture. Promoting proper material circulation with reducing fertilizer impact and utilizing biomass and livestock wastes is emphasized in these policies. The effectiveness of environmental assessment and planning for reducing regional and national N load has been discussed. Implementation of environmentally friendly technologies and management, both conventional and innovational, have been developed and adopted in Japanese agriculture. The effectiveness of conventional technologies in reducing environmental reactive N has been re-evaluated. Innovative technologies, such as use of controlled availability fertilizers and livestock wastes compost pellets, are being investigated and extended. A comprehensive approach that applies political and technological measures with closer co-operation is necessary to control reactive N in the environment.

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Correspondence to Kazuyuki Yagi.

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Yagi, K., Minami, K. Challenges of reducing excess nitrogen in Japanese agroecosystems. Sci. China Ser. C.-Life Sci. 48, 928–936 (2005).

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Key words

  • nitrogen use efficiency
  • nitrogen load
  • environmental impacts
  • nitrogen fertilizer
  • Japan