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Ula Chrobak


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type

  • Article

Regional Focus


The World's Forgotten Greenhouse Gas

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  • This article discusses an overlooked greenhouse gas with great heat-trapping potential, nitrous oxide, and its emissions related to agriculture.
  • Nitrous oxide is a byproduct of the nitrification process by soil microbes, which increases when using synthetic fertilizer on crops.
  • The article describes a few farming practices that can reduce fertilizer application and thus reduce nitrous oxide emissions, including no-till farming, drip irrigation, and biofertilizer inoculation.
Teaching Tips


  • This article addresses agriculture's role in climate change, which everyone can relate to because we rely on farmers for food.
  • The article has a few helpful diagrams that break down the nitrification process in the nitrogen cycle.
  • This article presents several evidence-based solutions to the problem it describes.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Learners should be familiar with basic farming practices such as fertilizer application, tilling, irrigation, and pesticide application.
  • Learners should have a basic understanding of the nitrogen cycle and the greenhouse effect.
  • Some learners may need the terms anthropogenic, greenhouse gas, microbe, and others defined before reading the article.


  • After reading the article, have students consider actions they might take to be mindful of and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions related to agriculture and food production.
  • An extension activity could involve students researching sustainable agricultural practices and relating them to their greenhouse gas reduction potential, focusing on nitrous oxide emissions.
  • This article would be an excellent resource for studying the nitrogen cycle or agricultural practices.
  • To create an interdisciplinary experience, have students research the amount of fertilizer and pesticide used in agriculture in different regions of the United States and attempt to quantify the amount of money and greenhouse gases that can be saved if nitrogenous fertilizer use is reduced by 50%. Students can also brainstorm policy ideas to incentivize this reduction more for a civics connection.
Scientist Notes
This article discusses nitrous oxide, its role as a greenhouse gas, its source, and how we can reduce emissions. The author includes a few ideas for reducing nitrous oxide emissions and the pros and cons of each. The article also explains why there isn't a lot of attention given to nitrous oxide emissions, why we should work to reduce the emissions and briefly discusses how farmers can benefit from some of these solutions. This resource helps connect climate change to farming and agriculture and shows students how climate solutions can include things besides reducing carbon emissions. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • RST.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.
      • RST.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas, themes, or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • HS-ESS2-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
      • HS-ESS2-4. Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • HS-LS2-3. Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for the cycling of matter and flow of energy in aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
      • HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
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