Quantification of global and national nitrogen budgets for crop production

Input–output estimates of nitrogen on cropland are essential for improving nitrogen management and better understanding the global nitrogen cycle. Here, we compare 13 nitrogen budget datasets covering 115 countries and regions over 1961–2015. Although most datasets showed similar spatiotemporal patterns, some annual estimates varied widely among them, resulting in large ranges and uncertainty. In 2010, global medians (in TgN yr−1) and associated minimum–maximum ranges were 73 (64–84) for global harvested crop nitrogen; 161 (139–192) for total nitrogen inputs; 86 (68–97) for nitrogen surplus; and 46% (40–53%) for nitrogen use efficiency. Some of the most uncertain nitrogen budget terms by country showed ranges as large as their medians, revealing areas for improvement. A benchmark nitrogen budget dataset, derived from central tendencies of the original datasets, can be used in model comparisons and inform sustainable nitrogen management in food systems.


PBL Authors
Lex Bouwman Arthur Beusen
Other authors
Xin Zhang
Tan Zou
Luis Lassaletta
Nathaniel D. Mueller
Francesco N. Tubiello
Matthew D. Lisk
Chaoqun Lu
Richard T. Conant
Christopher D. Dorich
James Gerber
Hanqin Tian
Tom Bruulsema
Tai McClellan Maaz
Kazuya Nishina
Benjamin Leon Bodirsky
Alexander Popp
Jinfeng Chang
Petr Havlík
David Leclère
Josep G. Canadell
Robert B. Jackson
Patrick Heffer
Nathan Wanner
Weifeng Zhang
Eric A. Davidson


Publication title
Quantification of global and national nitrogen budgets for crop production
Publication date
15 July 2021
Publication type
Page count
Publication language
Nature food
Product number