NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 00:01
The nitrogen surplus in agriculture will decrease in 2021, according to figures from Statistics Netherlands. The surplus in this sector is 5 percent less than in 2020. This is the lowest nitrogen surplus since 2014.
A surplus is the nitrogen that disappears into the air and is not used in the soil, which is harmful to the environment. The fact that there is less nitrogen surplus is due to lower nitrogen levels in grass and a smaller livestock population. The main cause is a decrease in nitrogen in animal manure. Furthermore, there were fewer pigs and chickens in 2021 than the year before.
The number of cattle on dairy farms remained about the same. The decrease at dairy farms is due to weather conditions, says Statistics Netherlands. In the preceding years, the weather resulted in a higher nitrogen content in roughage, such as grass and maize. Less nitrogen was also left behind in the soil due to the cultivation of potatoes. The largest sources of nitrogen in agriculture in 2021 were concentrates and fertilizers.
Drop not enough
Compared to 2016, the nitrogen surplus has decreased by 12.5 percent. This is mainly due to measures aimed at bringing the emission of phosphate, a component in manure, below the European ceiling. As a result, the number of cows decreased.
Although the nitrogen surplus in agriculture has therefore decreased in recent years, is that not enough to ultimately meet the nitrogen requirements. The government now wants to take measures to reduce farmers’ emissions, for example by reducing the number of livestock.
In 2030 there must be 50 percent less nitrogen emissions and three quarters of the nitrogen-sensitive Natura 2000 areas must be at a healthy level. Every sector in the Netherlands that emits nitrogen, including the farming sector, must contribute to this, according to the cabinet.
Since the 1990s, nitrogen emissions have fallen sharply, partly due to measures at factories and stricter rules for manure. But between 2013 and 2017, the herd increased sharply due to the abolition of the milk quota. And more livestock means more ammonia, stagnating the decline.
Nitrogen emissions here are much higher than in most other European countries, due to the large amount of livestock on a limited number of kilometers. For decades, therefore, efforts have been made to limit the precipitation of nitrogen oxides and ammonia in the Netherlands, in order to protect nature. It is still a third too high, according to research by the RIVM. As a result, the quality of nature continues to deteriorate.
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