Farming and Agriculture

A new platform to optimise nutrient management in the EU: Launch of the NUTRIBUDGET project

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20 January 2023, Europe: Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus 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, which has, however, led to substantial negative impacts on human health, biodiversity, water, air, and soil quality and contributed to climate change.

The environmental costs of nutrient pollution in the EU have been estimated to range between € 70-320 billion annually; highlighting the importance of the European Commission’s Green Deal’s objectives to reduce nutrient losses by 50 % and fertilizer use by 20 % by 2030.

Optimising nutrient management all over Europe

How can this be achieved without compromising food production? NUTRIBUDGET is meant to provide the answer. The aim of the project is to systemically optimise nutrient flows and budgets across different agricultural production systems and regions in the EU to reduce nutrient losses in the environment.

To achieve this, NUTRIBUDGET will work to develop and implement a prototype of an integrated nutrient management platform, called “Nutriplatform”, in various regions across Europe, as a decision-support tool (DST) for farmers, advisors, European policy makers and regional authorities. The platform will consider all major plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc).

Pilot region in Switzerland

NUTRIBUDGET will also manage five pilot regions in case studies (4 nutrient hotspots and 1 nutrient deficient area) in four different climate zones across Europe. The pilot region in Switzerland lies in the region north of Lake Geneva, where farms focus mainly on arable crop production. Since 2017, FiBL has been collaborating with a network of 42 farms in the project Progrès Sol, one third managed organically. Many farmers are concerned about the quality of their soils. Results so far indicate various nutrient deficits (primarily nitrogen, sulphur and magnesium) as well as nutrient imbalances, i.e. challenges to maintain soil organic C without risking a P surplus. Therefore, the pilot region “Romandy” within the project NUTRIBUDGET aims to improve overall nutrient use efficiency under conventional or organic management by optimizing carbon flows and balancing nutrient supply.

Europe-wide collaboration

NUTRIBUDGET will consider all stakeholders in the process, placing emphasis on co-creation with the help of a consortium of 17 partners distributed 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 and by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) under contract no. 22.00215.

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