Gassy farm soils are a shockingly large source of these air pollutants | Science News

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Gassy farm soils are a shockingly large source of these air pollutants

Smog-causing nitrogen oxide gases aren’t only found in auto exhaust

2:13pm, January 31, 2018
agricultural fields

FIELD FUMES California’s agricultural regions are responsible for between 20 and 51 percent of the total emissions of nitrogen oxide gases in the state, new research finds. Such “NOx” gases, which include nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, help produce toxic smog.

California’s crops are creating some noxious air.

The Golden State is at the vanguard in the United States in reducing auto emissions of nitrogen oxide gases, which help produce toxic smog and acid rain. But the NOx pollution problem isn’t limited to auto exhaust. California’s vast agricultural lands — particularly soils heavily treated with nitrogen fertilizers — are now responsible for as much as 51 percent of total NOx emissions across the state, researchers report January 31 in Science Advances.

The catchall term “NOx gases” generally refers to two pollution-promoting gases: nitric oxide, or NO, and nitrogen dioxide, or NO2. Those gases react with incoming sunlight to produce ozone in the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere. At high levels, tropospheric ozone can cause respiratory problems from asthma to emphysema.

Between 2005 and

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