The headline is not hyperbole. Nitrogen is vital to life. This reality needs more coverage.
Nitrogen is essential for all living things because it is a major part of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins and of nucleic acids such as DNA, which transfers genetic information to subsequent generations of organisms. About 78 percent of the atmosphere is made of nitrogen, but plants and animals can’t take nitrogen directly from the air. A process called the nitrogen cycle makes this happen.
Humans and Animals Need Nitrogen
All human tissue – muscles, skin, hair, nails and blood – contains protein. Normal growth, cell replacement and tissue repair require nitrogen, and your body’s metabolic processes need proteins in the form of enzymes. You cannot take nitrogen directly from the air, so you get it from dietary sources. Protein-rich foods include:
Feeding the Plants
Unlike humans, plants can make their own food through photosynthesis. This process requires chlorophyll, and nitrogen is one of chlorophyll’s major components. In addition to nitrogen, plants need other nutrients that come from water and the soil. When soil doesn’t have enough of these nutrients, people can add them to the soil using fertilizer. Plants can get some nitrogen from the air, but rainfall and water don’t supply them with much. In addition to keeping plants alive, nitrogen helps them grow faster and remain healthy.
Feeding the Plants = Feeding the People