A simple and easy-to-communicate framework for analyzing Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) in agriculture and food systems

We developed an easy-to-use framework for nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), applicable to agriculture and food production–consumption systems. We give examples of application, identify potential pitfalls and provide some perspectives on future best management practices for high NUE throughout the food chain.

The main resources for global food production (land, soil, water, biodiversity, nutrients) are scarce or even finite. Moreover wasting resources is harmful to society and the environment. The pressure on our natural resources is large, and expected to increase further due to anticipated population growth, increased wealth and changes in food consumption patterns. Therefore we need to find measures to increase resource use efficiency of nutrients in relation to food production, in particular nitrogen (N), which is a main nutrient element and essential for life. It is needed in relatively large quantities for the sufficient production of food, but excess N application results in pollution, a threat to our health and the environment.