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Working Group

Paths to sustainable nitrogen management

Fertilizers, especially fixed nitrogen, are the basis of modern agriculture. This central role in the world's food supply contrasts with the adverse effects caused by their widespread use. Isolated aspects such as nitrate contamination of groundwater in Germany are present in the public consciousness, yet the complex totality of the issue - including its impact on biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental resources, and food supply - remains poorly discussed.

Understanding agriculture as a system with economic, ecological, and societal levels is crucial for establishing effective framework conditions that promote more efficient use of nitrogen or reduce negative effects.  For the discussion on more environmentally friendly nitrogen management, the working group will therefore not only include agricultural practice but also the subsequent value chain from trade to sustainable consumption.

The comprehensive view of agriculture as a dynamic and adaptable system with many influencing variables is an impetus for linking modern society's demands for a sustainable food supply with technological developments. A science-based system analysis based on the nitrogen cascade and involving stakeholders serves to mediate in the discussion about the compatibility of modern agriculture with environmental sustainability.

More specifically, the members of the working group pursue the following goals:

  • Analysis of the challenges for sustainable nitrogen management in agriculture, taking into account the three dimensions of sustainability
  • Discussion of political and (socio-)economic framework conditions and possible adjustments in favor of a demand-oriented and environmentally sound nitrogen use
  • Involvement of stakeholders from politics, science, (agricultural) economy, and society
  • Development of recommendations, e.g., on the potential for improvement through sustainable management and on losses along the value chain


  • German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
  • acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering (responsibility)
  • Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities

    Spokesperson of the Working Group

    • Prof. Dr. Thomas Scholten, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

    Members of the Working Group

    • Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Frede, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
    • Prof. Dr. Kurt-Jürgen Hülsbergen, Technische Universität München
    • Prof. Dr. Ingrid Kögel-Knabner ML, Technische Universität München
    • Prof. Dr. Stefan Liehr, Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung Frankfurt
    • Dr. Stefan Möckel, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung Leipzig
    • Dr. Eberhard Nacke, Claas KGaA mbH
    • Dr. Barbara Navé, BASF SE
    • Prof. Dr. Lucia Reisch, Copenhagen Business School
    • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Weisser, Technische Universität München
    • Prof. Dr. Sönke Zaehle, Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie Jena

    ML = Member of the Leopoldina



    Dr. Christian Anton

    Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

    Phone 0345 47 239 - 861
    Fax 0345 47 239 - 839
    E-Mail christian.anton @leopoldina.org