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Sustainable growth of organic farming in the EU requires a rethink of nutrient supply

Reimer, Marie; Oelofse, Myles; Müller-Stöver, Dorette; Möller, Kurt; Bünemann, Else K.; Bianchi, Silvia; Vetemaa, Airi; Drexler, Dora; Trugly, Bence; Raskin, Ben; Blogg, Hugh; Rasmussen, Anton; Verrastro, Vincenzo and Magid, Jakob (2023) Sustainable growth of organic farming in the EU requires a rethink of nutrient supply. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, online, pp. 1-17.

[thumbnail of reimer-etal-2023-NutrientCyclingAgroecosystems-online-p1-17.pdf] PDF - English
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.


Document available online at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10705-023-10297-7


The European Commission recently set a target of increasing the area of organic agriculture to 25% by 2030. To achieve this, it is imperative to understand current nutrient use patterns and identify sustainable nutrient supply pportunities. To that end, this study assessed the ustainability of the current nutrient origin and supply of 71 arable organic farms in 8 European regions. Deficient nutrient supply was found on 24%, 66%, and 56% of farms for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively. On average, we show a moderate surplus for nitrogen (28 kg ha−1), while phosphorus and potassium balances were close to zero (− 1 and 2 kg ha−1, respectively). Large variation
between countries and farm types shows a divide between more intensive systems relying on external inputs, and less intensive systems facing nutrient deficits and lower outputs. We show, for the first time, the extent of current use of external input types, where conventional manures supplied 17–26% of external nutrients and inputs from non-agricultural origin supplied 31–41%. A large proportion of nutrient sources within the last group are materials derived from urban wastes. The sustainable expansion of the organic
sector will require increased use of locally available recycled fertilizers from urban wastes, and acceptance of such sources by organic farmers is shown to be high, provided they are considered safe.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Organic agriculture, Sustainable nutrient management, Farming systems, Nutrient use, Contentious inputs, Nutrient demand, Abacus, FiBL25054, RELACS
Agrovoc keywords:
organic agriculture
sustainable agriculture
farming systems
Subjects: Soil > Nutrient turnover
Crop husbandry > Crop health, quality, protection
Farming Systems > Farm nutrient management
Research affiliation: European Union > Horizon 2020 > RELACS
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Crops > Composting and fertilizer application > Plant nutrition
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Sustainability > Agroecology
Horizon Europe or H2020 Grant Agreement Number:727230
Related Links:https://relacs-project.eu/
Deposited By: Ellenberger, Maura
ID Code:51758
Deposited On:23 Nov 2023 08:19
Last Modified:23 Nov 2023 08:22
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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