How companies can reduce nitrogen pollution and measure progress toward climate goals

Nitrogen is essential for life, but excess nitrogen can pollute the atmosphere and water. This has a huge impact on human and ecosystem health, as well as financial losses to farmers from fertilizer – which is at a record high price – that ultimately won’t be utilized by crops.

EDF’s new N Balance Implementation Guide provides a comprehensive and pragmatic road map for food and agriculture companies to help reduce nitrogen pollution from agricultural production and claim the environmental improvements associated with nitrogen management.

Techniques for measuring excess nitrogen are often expensive, inaccurate and difficult to scale. EDF’s N balance framework offers a user-friendly, scientifically robust way to assess both over- and under-application of nitrogen in crop fields, reduce excess nitrogen, and quantify benefits for climate (through reduced nitrous oxide emissions) and water quality (through reduced nitrate runoff).

How N balance benefits companies

Companies in the food supply chain are increasingly setting ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals — and working with farmers to help achieve them. This guide provides the most relevant and best methodology for quantifying, tracking and making annual claims at supply chain-scale of reduced nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching losses from cropping systems. The approach applies broadly across all crops in temperate climates, regardless of soil type or nitrogen source, including synthetic and organic nitrogen fertilizer.

Food and agriculture companies are looking for clear paths to achieve climate goals. Investing in nitrogen management is one of the top two most effective and certain ways to make progress toward climate targets for Scope 3 emissions, or emissions that a company is indirectly responsible for across its supply chain. 

Nitrous oxide emissions related to land management make up 46% of agriculture-related emissions. Improving nitrogen management on cropland can deliver 84% of the annual nitrous oxide emissions reductions needed by 2030 to stabilize the climate. Seizing this opportunity needs to be a near-term priority for food companies to achieve significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

How N balance benefits farmers

Farmers face pressure to become more efficient than ever in the face of rising production costs, environmental concerns and growing societal pressure to be part of the climate solution. N balance provides farmers with an easy and credible tool to optimize their nitrogen fertilizer management and boost their farms’ long-term economic and environmental viability. 

The guide is also the foundation for innovative financial products that reward farmers for stewardship.Last January Farmers Business Network (FBN) and EDF announced the launch of the $25 million RAF pilot program that provides farmers with a 0.5% interest rate rebate if they meet climate and water quality benchmarks set by EDF. One of these benchmarks is for farmers to bring their land into the nitrogen safe zone, as defined by EDF’s N balance methodology. The program quickly became the fastest-selling financial product FBN has ever launched, selling out in just three weeks. Enrollment for the 2023 growing season begins this month with over 20 farmers already on the waitlist and just 50 spots available.

To get started with N balance, download the implementation guide today at