Duke professor Maiken Mikkelsen adjusts a piece equipment in her laboratory
Photo Credit
Tibor Nemeth

Food Sustainability in Focus

Crops around the globe face climate change and pollution, threatening our food security. With her multispectral imaging camera, Duke professor Maiken Mikkelsen sees how we can more sustainably feed the world.

Synthetic fertilizers have been widely used for more than a century, and they allow farmers to feed the world more efficiently. But there’s a downside: the manufacture of nitrogen-based fertilizer contributes significantly to climate change and air pollution, as does the overuse of fertilizers on farms. Furthermore, nitrogen-rich runoff from farms harms the environment by creating algal blooms and areas of oxygen depletion in streams, lakes and oceans. A well-known example is the “dead zone” at the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico.