European platform for nutrient management in agriculture

Published on
November 17, 2022

Optimal nutrient management is important in making the agricultural sector more sustainable. The NutriBudget project, launched in September 2022, is developing a prototype of an European platform for nutrient management. This should contribute to optimise nutrient use across different agricultural production systems and regions in the EU.

Nutrients such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) play an essential role in agriculture. To meet the demands of a growing population, agriculture intensified over the past decades, with a 68% rise in food production in Europe since the 1960s. This rise was facilitated by an increase in machinery and nutrient use. This has however led to substantial negative impacts on human health, biodiversity, water, air, and soil quality and contributed to climate change.

Optimal nutrient management is crucial for sustainable agriculture

Achieving an optimal nutrient management in the EU agriculture is crucial for the sustainability of the sector. Currently, two thirds of the excessive N and P levels in waters originate from fertilisers in agriculture as well as half of the emissions of nitrogen pollutants. This contributes to environmental pollution and global warming. Also, industrial production of chemical fertilisers is energy-intensive and increases EU’s dependency on natural gas or other sources such as phosphate rocks, that are not unlimited. The environmental costs of nutrient pollution in the EU have been estimated to range between 70-320 billion EUR annually. This highlights the importance of the European Commission’s Green Deal’s objectives to reduce nutrient losses by 50% and fertilizer use by 20% by 2030.

How can these goals be achieved without compromising food production? The NutriBudget project will help agriculture to intensify sustainably in order to meet the demands of optimising yields without compromising environmental integrity or public health.

Prototype of an European nutrient management platform

NutriBudget will work to develop and implement a prototype of an integrated nutrient management platform called Nutriplatform. This platform will be used in various regions across Europe as a decision-support tool for farmers, advisors, European policymakers and local authorities.

The Nutriplatform will be based on knowledge from existing and new agronomic mitigation measures. NutriBudget will manage five pilot regions (four nutrient hotspots and one nutrient deficient area) in four different climate zones across the EU. Measures will be tested in practice in these regions, and model calculations can be used to estimate the effects on closing cycles.

Presentation and analysis of results

The results are presented at different scales so that both farmers and policymakers can use them. The project will also analyse different transition routes towards the desired nutrient status, including financial implications. The desired nutrient status are described in the Zero Pollution Action Plan and the Farm to Fork Strategy.

NutriBudget will consider all stakeholders in the process, placing emphasis on co-creation with the help of a consortium of 17 partners throughout 9 EU countries and Switzerland. The project receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation actions (RIA) under grant agreement No. 101060455.

The consortium consists of Ghent University, Yara International ASA, Luonnonvarakeskus, Arvalis Institut du Vegetal, Beta Technological Centre, Wageningen University & Research, The Rural Investment Support for Europe Foundation, Universita Degli Studi di Milano, Proman Management GmbH, Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet, PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory SAS, Nutrienten Management Instituut NMIBV, Acqua & Sole SRL, IMPACT, Stockholms Universitet en Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau Stiftung.