Policies for agricultural nitrogen management-trends, challenges and prospects for improved efficiency in Denmark

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With more than 60% of the land farmed, with vulnerable freshwater and marine environments, and with one of the most intensive, export-oriented livestock sectors in the world, the nitrogen (N) pollution pressure from Danish agriculture is severe. Consequently, a series of policy action plans have been implemented since the mid 1980s with significant effects on the surplus, efficiency and environmental loadings of N. This paper reviews the policies and actions taken and their ability to mitigate effects of reactive N (Nr) while maintaining agricultural production. In summary, the average N-surplus has been reduced from approximately 170 kg N ha-1 yr-1 to below 100 kg N ha-1 yr-1 during the past 30 yrs, while the overall N-efficiency for the agricultural sector (crop + livestock farming) has increased from around 20-30% to 40-45%, the N-leaching from the field root zone has been halved, and N losses to the aquatic and atmospheric environment have been significantly reduced. This has been achieved through a combination of approaches and measures (ranging from command and control legislation, over market-based regulation and governmental expenditure to information and voluntary action), with specific measures addressing the whole N cascade, in order to improve the quality of ground- and surface waters, and to reduce the deposition to terrestrial natural ecosystems. However, there is still a major challenge in complying with the EU Water Framework and Habitats Directives, calling for new approaches, measures and technologies to mitigate agricultural N losses and control N flows.

TidsskriftEnvironmental Research Letters
Udgave nummer11
StatusUdgivet - 2014

ID: 130098536