Harnessing emerging technologies to reduce Gulf hypoxia

Precision farming enabled by big data and gene-editing technologies are accelerating progress toward increasing nitrogen-use efficiency. However, farmer engagement, public–private partnerships and sound public policies are critical to harness the potential of such technologies to reduce hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Portfolio approach to address the nutrient loading reduction challenge.


  1. 1.

    Lassaletta, L., Billen, G., Grizzetti, B., Anglade, J. & Garnier, J. Environ. Res. Lett. 9, 105011 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Alexander, R. B. et al. Environ. Sci. Technol. 42, 822–830 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Keiser, D. A., Kling, C. L. & Shapiro, J. S. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 116, 5262–5269 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Compton, J. E. et al. Ecol. Lett. 14, 804–815 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Rabotyagov, S. S. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 18530–18535 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ is the largest ever measured. NOAA (2 August 2017); https://go.nature.com/2ZcGQh3

  7. 7.

    Assessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Upper Mississippi River Basin (USDA, 2012); https://go.nature.com/2zaNwO1

  8. 8.

    Van Meter, K. J., Basu, N. B. & Van Cappellen, P. Glob. Biogeochem. Cy. 31, 2–23 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Dutta, D. et al. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens. 53, 5133–5147 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Woo, D. K. & Kumar, P. Water Resour. Res. 53, 8404–8422 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Capalbo, S. M., Antle, J. M. & Seavert, C. Agric. Syst. 155, 191–199 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Basso, B., Shuai, G., Xhang, J. & Robertson, G. P. Sci. Rep. 9, 5774 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Xu, G., Fan, X. & Miller, A. J. Annu. Rev. Plant Biol. 63, 153–182 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Jaganathan, D., Ramasamy, K., Sellamuthu, G., Jayabalan, S. & Venkataraman, G. Front. Plant Sci. 9, 985 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Kant, S. Semin. Cell Dev. Biol. 74, 89–96 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Fan, X. et al. J. Exp. Bot. 68, 2463–2475 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Adenle, A. A. et al. Nat. Biotechnol. 36, 137–139 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Wolt, J. D., Wang, K. & Yang, B. Plant Biotechnol. J. 14, 510–518 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Shortle, J. S. & Horan, R. D. Int. Rev. Environ. Resour. Econ. 2, 101–133 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Many of the ideas expressed here emerged from a Critical Conversation Workshop on the Nitrogen Reduction Challenge for the Mississippi River basin in Chicago on 2–3 May 2018 that was generously supported by the Baum Fund administered by J. Friedman and E. Cornelison. P.K. acknowledges support from NSF grant EAR-1331906; B.M.G. acknowledges support from USDA NIFA Hatch multi-state research projects W-4133 and NC-1190; M.K. acknowledges support from a USDA NIFA Hatch project for this research. We thank H. Ahlers for creating the original illustration used for Fig. 1.

Author information




M.K., E.H.D. and P.K. were responsible for conceptualizing the manuscript. All authors contributed to the writing. M.K., P.K. and B.M.G. were responsible for conceptualizing the figure.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Madhu Khanna.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Khanna, M., Gramig, B.M., DeLucia, E.H. et al. Harnessing emerging technologies to reduce Gulf hypoxia. Nat Sustain 2, 889–891 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0381-4

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing