Indian food nitrogen footprint towards 2050: Religious dietary perspective

Nitrogen (N) inputs required for food production are predominantly lost to the environment prior to being consumed due to religion-influenced food and dietary patterns. We estimated the food N footprint in India considering religious dietary variations during 1961−2013 to forecast the footprint for 2050. The food N footprint in India increased by 19%, where vegetarian Buddhist diet consistently had the lowest contribution. We predict a 3.9% decrease in India’s food N footprint by 2050. Promoting diet awareness among religious groups for improved N management and lowered N footprint of food is recommended.

In India, the demand for nitrogen (N) inputs is increasing due to the need to produce food for a growing population. While food production contributes to excessive reactive nitrogen (nitrogen species except N2) loss to the environment, a small produce amount is consumed as food. Dietary habits associated with religion, as observed among India’s diverse religious communities, is an important factor affecting food choices. We estimated the N footprint of food in India during 1961–2013 considering the religious aspects of food and the forecast for the year 2050.