Rothamsted will be a partner in a new initiative to explore the potential of using “green ammonia” to mitigate climate change whilst still supporting food production.
The UK, with the US, Canada and Australia, has invested £61 million in the US National Science Foundation’s Global Centers programme on clean energy and climate change. Of these, the Global Nitrogen Innovation Center for Clean Energy and the Environment (NICCEE) will provide timely and crucial insights into rapidly evolving technological innovation to produce ammonia using renewable energy for clean energy and food production.
NICCEE will be spearheaded by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) with partners in the U.S. (New York University and University of Massachusetts Amherst), Canada (University of Guelph), and the U.K. (Rothamsted Research).
“Rothamsted has a long-standing expertise in monitoring ammonia use connected with agriculture,” said Rothamsted’s lead on input into the NICCE Prof Adie Collins, Science Director for Net Zero and Resilient Farming. “This new initiative will enable us to look at the issue in a more global context – a vital approach if we are to address climate change whilst still ensuing food supplies.”
Current industrial ammonia production is heavily energy-intensive and primarily dependent on fossil fuels, contributing 1-2% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
A “green ammonia” approach would use solar energy or other renewable energy supplies to produce ammonia without carbon dioxide emissions. This could lead to decentralization of fertilizer production, enhancing use and bolstering food production in countries where nitrogen (N) fertilizer accessibility has been limited. It will also aim to improve the timing and dosing of fertilizer to better match crop needs and thereby reduce N losses.
However, care is needed: more abundantly available N fertilizer could also exacerbate the current severe environmental problems of N losses to air and water from overuse and inefficient use of N fertilizers.
The new partnership is part of a £18m UK investment in the Global Centers on Clean Energy and Climate Change that will conduct innovative research to tackle hard-to-decarbonise sectors across the UK economy. Funding is provided through UKRI’s Building a Green Future fund and International Science Partnerships Fund
“The Global Nitrogen Innovation Center addresses the urgent need to respond to the impending technological innovation to produce ammonia using renewable energy known as ‘green ammonia’,” said Center director Xin Zhang, professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “By doing so, we hope to be able to harness the technological innovation of green ammonia production to bolster clean energy initiatives, combat climate change, and secure food supplies for the future, while minimizing risks of unintended consequences.”
NICCEE will serve as an information hub with state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure to monitor the lifecycle and effects of nitrogen in agriculture-food-energy systems, an innovation platform to facilitate the co-development of technological and socioeconomic solutions, and an education center to nurture the next generation of scientists and innovators championing sustainable and climate-smart nitrogen management.
The international effort involves collaborators from eight countries, across academia, NGOs, international organizations, government, and private companies, and brings together expertise in biogeochemistry and agronomic science, chemical engineering, complex system modeling, environmental sociology, economics, statistics and data science, coastal ecology and equity in the geosciences, science engagement and evaluation, remote sensing, environmental law and policy, atmospheric modeling, sustainability science, life cycle assessment and translational science.
The new Global Centers are sponsored by multilateral funding led by NSF and five partner funding organizations: Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and the United Kingdom's UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO UKRI, said: “We are excited to be partnering with our sister organisations in the US, Canada and Australia to accelerate progress toward this crucial goal.
“Our combined investment in Global Centers enables exciting researcher and innovation-led international and interdisciplinary collaboration to drive the energy transition. I look forward to seeing the creative solutions developed through these global collaborations.”
ABOUT ROTHAMSTED RESEARCH
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking
discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern
agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/; Twitter @Rothamsted 1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid
from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.