Ian Crute (Image: Tim Gander)In 1898, Sir William Crookes, then President of the British Association stated that: “England and all the civilised nations stand in deadly peril of not having enough to eat”. He was referring to Britain’s reliance on imported wheat and concerns that there was insufficient land to meet global demand when yields were around 1.5 tonnes per hectare. 

Crookes was aware of the pioneering work of Sir John Lawes and Sir Henry Gilbert who showed that wheat yields of up to four tonnes per hectare could be produced year after year by application of nitrogen fertilisers. Crookes proposed that the power of Niagara Falls should be harnessed for “oxidating free nitrogen of the air” and thereby enabling “twelve million tons of nitrate of soda to be applied to the global wheat crop”. 
Continue reading The need for nitrogen – is sustainable food production possible?