EGU23-12416, updated on 29 Dec 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Nitrogen losses from food production in the North China Plain compared to environmental targets

Fanlei Meng1,2, Mengru Wang2, Reinder Ronda3, Maryna Strokal2, Carolien Kroeze2,4, Lin Ma5, Wen Xu1, and Fusuo Zhang1
Fanlei Meng et al.
  • 1College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, National Academy of Agriculture Green Development, Key Laboratory of Plant–Soil Interactions, Ministry of Education, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China (
  • 2Water Systems and Global Change Group, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, 6708 PB, Netherlands (
  • 3Meteorology and Air Quality Group, Wageningen University & Research, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands (
  • 4Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, 6708 PB, Netherlands (
  • 5Key Laboratory of Agricultural Water Resources, Hebei Key Laboratory of Soil Ecology, Center for Agricultural Resources Research,Institute of Genetic and Developmental Biology,The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hebei 050021,China(

North China Plain (NCP) is a region in China, with highly intensive food production and a hotspot of nitrogen (N) losses to the environment. Region-specific N management is, therefore, required to effectively reduce agricultural N losses. For this it is important to identify the N flows and environmental targets in the food chain (including crop production, animal production, food processing, and human consumption) at the county scale. We developed an integrated assessment N framework. It combines a food chain approach with an air quality model and groundwater model. We apply this method to quantify the relative contributions from parts of the food chain to N losses. We identify environmental targets to air and water in Quzhou, a typical agricultural county in the NCP. We found that N losses to the environment from the food chain were ~11 kt  in Quzhou in 2017. Approximately 80% of this amount is from crop and animal production, which is primarily caused by the low N use efficiency in crop production (28%) and animal production (18%). Ammonia (NH3) emissions to air (4.1 kt N) and N leaching (2.1 kt N), and direct discharges of manure to water (1.9 kt N) are the main contributors to the N losses in Quzhou. To meet the environmental targets for air quality (PM2.5) and groundwater quality, the NH3 emissions and N leaching need to be reduced by 55%, and 21-50%, respectively. Our findings indicate that better nutrient management is urgently needed to reduce agricultural N losses and to support Agriculture Green Development in NCP.

How to cite: Meng, F., Wang, M., Ronda, R., Strokal, M., Kroeze, C., Ma, L., Xu, W., and Zhang, F.: Nitrogen losses from food production in the North China Plain compared to environmental targets, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-12416,, 2023.