EU artificial fertiliser use "set to fall"

Industry association predicts decline of 7% in nitrate application, 10% fall for phosphates

The use of two artificial agricultural fertilisers responsible in some areas of the EU for serious pollution of ground and surface waters will decline by up to 10% over the next decade, according to a report by the European Fertiliser Manufacturers' Association (Efma). The application of synthetic nitrates will fall by 7% and synthetic phosphates by 10% over the next ten years, says the association. Artificial fertilisers account for around half of the nutrients used in agriculture, the rest coming from mainly animal manure and human sewage sludge. The EU's fifth environmental action programme of 1992 called for a reduction in fertiliser use to "sustainable levels," but, although phosphate use has declined continuously since the late 1970s, nitrogen application increased into the mid-1990s after peaks in the late 1980s. The EU has attempted to tackle the nitrates problem with a directive, but it remains poorly implemented, with 11 of the EU's 15 member states now subject to infringement actions. "Significant reductions" in fertiliser use are expected in Denmark and the Netherlands, which have large intensive livestock rearing sectors. Both countries are projected to show a drop of around 25% in nitrate application, while Dutch application of phosphates will fall by over 30%. Efma says the reductions will result from better recycling of animal manure; the Netherlands recently introduced a strict nutrient accounting system to control its long-standing eutrophication problems (ENDS Daily 14 September).

Follow Up:
Efma, tel: +32 2 675 3550.

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