The concept for the INI had its initial beginnings at the First International Nitrogen Conference, held in The Netherlands.
The need for such an organization was further articulated at the Second International Nitrogen Conference, in Maryland, USA three years latter. The unanimous view of the 400 participants was that some type of international program was required to optimize the benefits of nitrogen, and minimize associated problems.
Over the following months, an outline of an international effort was developed. It was introduced in Johannesburg at the workshop on Nitrogen Management for Food Security and Ecosystem Security Workshop (associated with the World Summit on Sustainable Development).
Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) agreed to be the founding sponsor of INI.
International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) agreed to sponsor INI as a Fast-Track Project.
The formation of the INI was formally announced at the Symposium, Meeting the Nitrogen Management Challenge: Breaking the Links in the Nitrogen Cascade (associated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting).