A good management of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in agriculture is crucial to maintain a fertile and healthy soil and allow adequate plant growth and development.
It is estimated that around 13.6 Mt of N and 1.8 Mt of P enter the EU agricultural system annually in the form of mineral fertilisers and feed. However, N use throughout the whole European agri-food chain is inefficient: for every five tons of N entering the EU agri-food chain, only one ton is converted to finished products for human consumption. The case is similar for P and K. These low nutrient use efficiencies, together with poor soil management practices is leading to a loss of organic carbon in soils. This is in turn leading to large losses of nutrients and carbon into the environment with significant negative impacts on soils, water and air resulting in unacceptable health and environmental costs.
Addressing these challenges will require finding effective solutions to improve nutrient efficiency in agro-ecosystems, reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and protecting soil carbon stocks, while at the same time addressing the social, economic and political dimensions that will make changes in the field possible. Overall, it’s the sustainability of agricultural systems and the food-chain that will need to be improved.