Pedosphere 15(4): 499--508, 2005
ISSN 1002-0160/CN 32-1315/P
©2005 Soil Science Society of China
Published by Elsevier B.V. and Science Press
Non-point pollution from crop production: Global, regional and national issues
Department of Geography University College London 4 Taviton Street London WC1H 0BT (UK). E-mail:
      China is now the world's largest producer and user of industrial fertilizers and manures. Consequently China plays a substantial role in global N cycle dynamics and in man's disruption of the nitrogen cycle though there are still significant uncertainties about the size and importance of emission and leaching rates. A major cause of China's global role is the overuse of nitrogen fertilizers, which is most serious with intensive vegetable production where application rates can be up to 50% greater than crop needs, but is also a problem with wheat, rice and maize.China's overuse of nitrogen fertiliser over the past 10-20 years has resulted in non-point source (NPS) pollution from crop production becoming a major cause of water pollution, and the situation is projected to get worse. In contrast, water pollution from point sources such as intensive livestock production and urban or industrial development is being brought more under control. The consequences for air pollution are equally serious. Emissions of nitrous oxide from fertilizers and manures may be so large that China could be responsible for 25-30% of global emissions of this damaging greenhouse gas and of the global warming resulting from it. The main national and local issues relate particularly to low fertilizer use efficiency and the losses of ammonia and NOx that lead to acid precipitation, and leaching and run-off losses that result in high nitrate levels in groundwater and eutrophication of rivers and lakes. The reasons why farmers overuse nitrogen fertilizer are complex and not fully understood. They involve agro-climate differences between provinces and counties, farming systems and farm income structures. Although there is a wide range of institutional and technological improvements that can greatly reduce this overuse rapid progress in reducing NPS is unlikely.
Key Words:  China, fertilizer use, global change, nitrous oxide, non-point source pollution
Citation: Norse, D. 2005. Non-point pollution from crop production: Global, regional and national issues. Pedosphere. 15(4): 499-508.
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