Status of nutrient bookkeeping in the Baltic Sea countries

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The drag hose prevents environmental pollution
Source: stefanthiermayer /

The Baltic Sea, a valuable and central part of our natural heritage, is under threat from nutrient inputs from agriculture. A study funded by the German Environment Agency has examined the current state of play in the introduction of nutrient accounting as a prerequisite to good agricultural practice.

Nutrient emissions causing eutrophication are among the most urgent environmental problems of the Baltic Sea. According to the latest HELCOM report in 2014 the entire open Baltic Sea is affected by eutrophication. This leads to the conclusion that further measures are needed urgently to recover the good ecological status of the Baltic Sea. Since parts of diffuse nitrogen and phosphorus loads originate from agricultural areas, the HELCOM ministerial conference designed agri-environmental measures aiming at a reduction of nutrient losses from agriculture by improved nutrient management in 2013. For this purpose nutrient bookkeeping is a suitable approach to improve nutrient management on farms in terms of environmental impacts as well as in terms of efficiency. Therefore the HELCOM Agri-group aims to implement nutrient bookkeeping on farm level until 2018. A workshop was considered the most suitable way to create a common working basis, since various bookkeeping methods have been introduced already by the individual HELCOM member states. A further contribution of the workshop was the identification and evaluation of main issues for implementation of nutrient bookkeeping all over the Baltic Sea countries. All participants agreed that often the missing legal background is one of the main obstacles. The calculation methods for nutrient balances need to be harmonized to achieve comparable results. These are not only required, to enable the identification of hotspots with urgent need for improved nutrient management, but also to observe long term development of nutrient surpluses or shortages. Furthermore the availability of representative background data and standard values, especially concerning fodder production and nutrient contents of manure, has to be improved for this purpose. Additionally the intensification of rural extension services is considered necessary. The degree of required support to calculate nutrient balances depends on the actual experience level of the concerned parties.