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Applying nitrogen fertilizer to corn at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, a research site in Michigan. National Science Foundation

By David Kanter

Nitrogen pollution is produced by a number of interlinked compounds, from ammonia to nitrous oxide. While they have both natural and human sources, the latter increased dramatically over the past century as farmers scaled up food production in response to population growth. Once these chemicals are released into the air and water, they contribute to problems that include climate change and "dead zones" in rivers, lakes and coastal areas.

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