Sustainable manure and nutrient management – are we on the right track?
Over 150 participants gathered to listen to what could be done to improve the sustainability of nutrient management in the Baltic Sea region and in the EU. One of the main challenges is the efficiency of manure use and how to balance it at both farm and regional level. Focused policies and technical solutions are needed to solve the issue.
The countries in the Baltic Sea region could be forerunners and show example with efficient national nutrient recycling strategies. The SuMaNu project has gathered and synthesized 10 years of research and development from seven international projects, and produced policy recommendations for more sustainable manure and nutrient management in the Baltic Sea region.
During the webinar, the recommendations were presented by the project coordinator Minna Sarvi (Natural Resources Institute Finland). The most important steps would be to have regulatory maximum limits for phosphorus fertilization and national fertilization guidelines that would be based on crop nutrient needs and soil phosphorus status. Farm-level nutrient balance calculation should also be implemented and in case of surplus nutrients on farms or on regions of dense animal production, reallocation of manure nutrients between farms and regions organized. Currently, most Baltic Sea countries are still lacking regulation for phosphorus fertilization, the basis of national fertilization guidelines varies, and farm-level nutrient balance calculations are rarely used.
In her presentation, Dr. Sari Luostarinen (Natural Resources Institute Finland) reminded that nutrient losses causing eutrophication are not only an issue for the Baltic Sea region, but the same problem is experienced elsewhere in Europe and the world, and thus, the SuMaNu recommendations and solutions could be applied globally. The separation of animal and crop farms has disturbed the natural nutrient cycle along with growing dependence on mineral fertilizer products. This can be changed with a return towards nutrient and carbon recycling. The countries in the Baltic Sea region could be forerunners and show an example with efficient national nutrient strategies.
Policy and practical perspectives
The European Union has also addressed the nutrient challenge in the Green Deal and Farm-to-Fork Strategy, which aims to reduce nutrient losses by at least 50%. HELCOM, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, is also setting requirements for reducing nutrient losses to the Baltic Sea and creating a Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy.
The European Commission has proposed that all farmers should report nutrient balances, and for that purpose, a new common tool has been proposed. The Farm Sustainability Tool for Nutrients (FaST) is not a single new tool, policy officer Isidro Campos-Rodriguez from the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, told the webinar audience. The tool can integrate digital applications already used or planned to be used by the member states if it covers the following:
- balance calculation of main nutrients
- legal requirements for nutrients
- soil data, based on available information and analysis
- IACS (the Integrated Administration and Control System) data relevant for nutrient management
The webinar was finished off with a panel, where all levels from EU to farmers were represented. The panel consisted of Isidro Campos-Rodriguez (DG Agri, European Commission), Ieva Branicka (Latvian Ministry of Agriculture), Sonja Pyykkönen (Finnish Ministry of Environment), Leif Knudsen (SEGES, Denmark), and Per-Göran Sigfridsson (farmer and biogas cooperation founder).
The panel agreed that fertilization planning is crucial, but opinions varied on the importance of the details, such as the timing of spreading or the required capacity of manure storages. Farmers need to be involved in the decision-making as the solutions need to work on the farm level. However, the goal was very clear to all – nutrient loss needs to be reduced. It is what the environment needs and like Per-Göran Sigfridsson put it: “nutrients in the Baltic Sea is lost money”.
You can watch the webinar recording here.