Countryfile’s Adam Henson warns of ‘mass starvation’ in nitrogen fertiliser debate

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Countryfile viewers saw Adam Henson explore the positives and negatives of nitrogen fertiliser on Sunday night’s episode of the BBC nature show. The farmer turned TV presenter informed viewers that the product can be damaging to the environment, although he warned that the world would struggle to feed everyone without it.

Adam explained: “The UK government has committed to increase the country’s biodiversity and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

“But, the National Farmers Union have gone a step further stating that the agricultural sector should reach net-zero by 2040, less than 20 years away.”

The farmer went on to detail how he was doing his bit for biodiversity, explaining that some areas of his own farm are dedicated to conservation margins.

Adam revealed he has areas of his farmland filled with flowers to pollinate bees and butterflies.

He said: “These plants are sucking up nitrogen and CO2 from the atmosphere and pulling that down into their roots in the soil.

“So, it’s not only great for biodiversity, but it’s also good for our carbon footprint,” Adam commented.

However, he confessed that these measures are only needed because other aspects of farming have negative impacts on the environment.

“Our main purpose as farmers is to produce food and make a profit, so we need to balance our environmental impact, with delivering viable yields,” he remarked.

Adam informed viewers about the use of nitrogen fertiliser in farming and how it has a positive impact on crop growth, but a negative one on the country’s carbon footprint.

He said: “This stuff is nitrogen fertiliser and it’s been a game-changer for farmers in the last century, but it creates a perpetual conundrum.

“It’s been estimated that without nitrogen fertiliser 50 per cent of the world’s population wouldn’t get fed.

“In other words, mass starvation,” the farming expert warned.

Adam continued: “So, for farmers, it’s an essential tool for growing food and we use hundreds of tonnes of it.

“But, it also comes with a huge cost to the environment,” he added.

The farming expert said: “The effect of using nitrogen fertiliser is so significant that the agricultural sector accounts for approximately ten per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“The truth of the matter is that we don’t really know what our carbon footprint is here on the farm.

“If we’re going to meet the NFU’s target of carbon neutrality by 2040 then we’re going to need to find out,” Adam remarked.

Some Countryfile viewers were amazed at the impact the nitrogen fertiliser is having on the environment and took to Twitter to share their thoughts.

“Carbon footprint of using nitrogen fertiliser… #countryfile,” one viewer commented,

A second remarked: “#countryfile Turns out the farmers are killing the planet, not me going to Ibiza for a week.”

Countryfile airs Sundays at 7pm on BBC One.

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