Nitrogen (N) is an essential element for plant growth and production of food, forage, fiber, and fuel. Low N-concentration in natural soils limits plant productivity. Industrial/synthetic N-fertilizers have removed the N-limitation in many agricultural systems, which was one of the drivers of the Green Revolution in agriculture during the 20th century. However, over-use of N-fertilizers threatens the environment and human health and, therefore, the sustainability of high-N agricultural systems. On the other hand, millions of resource-poor farmers, especially in developing countries, have limited access to N-fertilizers to boost production and, as a result, suffer from very low crop yields. Thus, world agriculture faces two crises related to N-use: over-use of N-fertilizers in many systems and insufficient-N in other systems.
There is growing international awareness of the two main problems associated with N in agriculture and the need to coordinate funding and research to solve these problems at an international level. The Plant Nitrogen Network (PlaNNet) is a Research Coordination Network funded by the US National Science Foundation that aims to connect N-researchers around the world in order to coordinate efforts to solve the dual problems of N in agriculture. PlaNNet activities will include: (i) development of this information portal for hundreds of N-research groups and other stake-holders around the world; (ii) annual Workshops-Without-Walls, virtual meetings that will involve hundreds of participants in presentations, discussions, and consensus-building related to plant-N research and development; and (iii) satellite workshops at major conferences focused on specific aspects of plant N and agriculture.