Assessing the mitigation potential of ammonia emissions from agriculture in China

Chuchu Chen, of the Tsinghua University, China, modeled ammonia emissions to identify the best agricultural management for reducing air pollution.

Chuchu Chen

Chuchu Chen


Ammonia is a key precursor to atmospheric fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and an important component of the reactive nitrogen cycle, with strong implications for both regional air quality and ecosystems [1]. Due to limited information about fertilizer usage, two of the most important ammonia emission sources—i) livestock production and farm practices, and ii) ammonia emission estimates for agricultural fertilization and livestock farming across China—are usually based on time-averaged emission factors and temporal profiles, leading to uncertainties in the evaluation of controls on ammonia in emission levels and control technologies. In this study, we update activity data and emission factors in the Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) model [2] to improve spatial and temporal distribution of baseline ammonia inventory in China. We also develop applications for ammonia control measures in order to estimate maximum mitigation potential. The results should allow for discussion of a realistic agricultural ammonia mitigation policy in the future that would consider impact on cost-effective benefits and concentrations of particulate matter in China.


First, we update activity data and emission factors for ammonia emissions from agriculture in 2010 at the province level based on Food and Agriculture Organization, Fertilizer Industry Association, and yearbook database to improve spatial and temporal distribution of the baseline ammonia emission inventory in China. Second, we establish a reasonable set of assumptions supported by statistical data to develop a more realistic potential for ammonia mitigation measures in China. For mineral fertilization application mitigation measures, we take three main control steps—i) reduce excessive fertilization based on modification of activity data, ii) replace urea with lower volatility fertilizers and alternative urea fertilizer formulations, and iii) improve application methods based on modification of control strategy (SUB_U). For livestock production, we first understand the farm-size structure in China and then develop applications to estimate maximum mitigation potential using GAINS.

Results and conclusions

There has been a significant change in livestock production structure in the last decades. From 1998 to 2010 the ratio of pigs’ total livestock density (LSU) on small farms (0-15 LSU farm size), for example, decreases from 83 to 46%, while the ratio on large farms (>500 LSU farm size) increased from 2 to 10%. We expect the trend to continue and the majority of production on industrial farms to lead to increased potential for controlling ammonia emissions. The consideration of the livestock production structure allows for a more realistic assessment of mitigation potential.


[1] Huang X, Song Y, Li M, et al. A high‐resolution ammonia emission inventory in China. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 26(1).

[2] Amann M, Bertok I, Borken-Kleefeld J, et al. Cost-effective control of air quality and greenhouse gases in Europe: Modeling and policy applications. Environmental Modelling & Software 26(12): 1489-1501.


Zbigniew Klimont, Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases Program, IIASA


Chuchu Chen, of the Tsinghua University, China, is a citizen of China. She was funded by the IIASA Chinese National Member Organization and worked in the Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases Program during the YSSP.

Please note these Proceedings have received limited or no review from supervisors and IIASA program directors, and the views and results expressed therein do not necessarily represent IIASA, its National Member Organizations, or other organizations supporting the work.

Print this page

Last edited: 02 February 2016


Tanja Huber

YSSP Coordinator & Team Leader

Young Scientists Summer Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 344

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313