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VDI/DIN-Kommission Reinhaltung der Luft (KRdL) - Normenausschuss

Expert Forum on Atmospheric Chemistry - Agriculture and lifestock farming: Impact on air quality and climate

4th VDI Expert Forum on Atmospheric Chemistry (Bild: Shutterstock / Fotokostic)
VDI/DIN-Kommission Reinhaltung der Luft (KRdL) - Normenausschuss

--- UPDATE 2018-02-01: Due to lack of participants the Expert Forum has been cancelled. --

07/08 March 2018 in Frankfurt/Main (Germany)


The invention of the Haber-Bosch-process has caused unprecedented changes in global nitrogen cycles, converting atmospheric N2 into various reactive nitrogen compounds. The increased use of nitrogen fertilizers (ammonium salts or urea) allowed for a growing world population. However, it also resulted in increased emissions of reactive nitrogen compounds into the Earth's atmosphere and thereby caused severe effects on the environment and on human health. N-fluxes are influencing acidification, eutrophication, global warming, and biodiversity. Therefore, soil quality, water quality, air quality, ecosystem exposure to nitrogen deposition, biodiversity, and climate change are coupled problems.

In general, the agricultural sector is the largest contributor to global anthropogenic non-CO2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The future challenge is the implementation of mitigation measures within the agricultural sector. The mitigation measures are necessary to avoid a further increase of the mainly nitrogen-related emissions, while meeting the growing global demand for animal-based food. About a quarter of the global GHG emissions result from agriculture, forestry and other land use. Deforestation, agricultural emissions from soil, nutrient management, livestock, and fossil fuel belong to the major sources. Emissions of CO2 and CH4 mainly result from livestock farming whereas N2O-emissions mainly result from manure storage, agricultural soils and biomass burning. The emissions of N2O are closely linked to the efficiency of nitrogen-utilisation within the major pathways of a livestock system.

In addition, the agricultural sector is a significant contributor to emissions relevant to air quality. About 95% of the NH3 emissions are caused by agricultural activities. NH3, in turn, influences the formation of secondary aerosols (e.g. ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate). The cultivation of soil and the farming of animals is also a source of primary (biological) aerosols. Moreover, agricultural activities release NO and organic compounds that result from biochemically induced nitrification processes as well as from the decomposition of undigested proteins in the dung of farm animals and the biogenic emissions of crops, respectively.

The overarching aim of EFAC 4 is the assessment of the environmental impact of agriculture and livestock farming. Finally, it is intended to derive recommendations for mitigation strategies and reduction technologies and to point out future research needs:

Emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use

Food systems contribute 19% - 29% of global anthropogenic GHG emissions. Agricultural production, including indirect emissions associated with land-cover change, contributes 80% - 86% of total food systems emissions, with significant regional variation. This session introduces promising interventions for emission reduction measures, reductions in waste, increased nitrogen efficiency, and reduction of losses of soil carbon stocks.

Particulate matter: emissions – dispersion – immission values

Agricultural activities like cultivation of soil and farming of animals are sources of primary fine particles. However, some 30 % - 50 % of the urban background particulate matter pollution can be attributed to secondary aerosols, which are those that are made up of gaseous precursors. The development of the secondary inorganic aerosols such as ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate is determined by the concentration of NH3. According to latest estimates, the emissions of NH3 from agriculture in Germany will further slightly increase until at least 2020. This session will provide an overview of trends in particulate matter emissions (directly and indirectly emitted) from agricultural activities and the resulting consequences for future abatement strategies.

The role of VOCs in atmosphere-biosphere interactions

The abundant and diverse range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) plays an important role in the Earth system at different spatial scales. Depending on tropospheric conditions, VOC emissions can impact air quality and radiative forcing, leading to complex feedbacks in the Earth system. This session addresses persisting uncertainties with regard to measuring and modelling VOCs in atmosphere-biosphere interactions.

Reactive nitrogen in the atmosphere-biosphere system

Reactive nitrogen compounds consist of reduced nitrogen, oxidized nitrogen, and organic nitrogen compounds. Nitrogen oxides have little impact on ecosystems close to the emission sources since they are emitted as NO and NO2 exhibiting low dry deposition rates. These compounds need to be converted into nitric acid before deposition is efficient. NH3 has a high impact near the emission sources due to high dry deposition rates. Ammonia may therefore have significant impact on ecosystems in areas with intense agricultural activity leading to high ammonia emissions. Both NH3 and NO/NO2 lead to formation of aerosol phase compounds (ammonium and nitrate) which are transported over long distances. Very little is known about organic nitrogen compounds. This session highlights the significant need for studies of fluxes of reactive nitrogen compounds over sensitive ecosystems.


For any questions please contact:


Dr. Elisabeth Hösen-Seul

Telephone: +49 211 6214 661

Telefax: +49 211 6214 157

E-mail: hoesen@vdi.de



Official programme for download