Survey on agricultural production methods

The Survey on agricultural production methods (SAPM) was a one off survey in 2010 to collect farm level data on agri-environmental measures to support monitoring of the relevant European Union policies (e.g. the common agricultural policy, rural development policy, etc.) and to establish agri-environmental indicators (AEI). The organisation of the survey is laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1166/2008 of 19 November 2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods. The definitions for this survey are set out in Regulation 1200/2009 of 30 November 2009 implementing Regulation (EC) No 1166/2008 as regards livestock unit coefficients and definitions of the characteristics.

European Union (EU) Member States could choose whether to carry out the SAPM as a sample survey or as a census survey. Data were collected on tillage methods, soil conservation, landscape features, animal grazing, animal housing, manure application, manure storage and treatment facilities and irrigation.

The SAPM results are linked at the level of individual agricultural holdings to the data obtained from the farm structure survey (FSS) in 2010, so that cross-comparisons can be made on characteristics covered in both (e.g. land use, livestock, farmer’s age, etc.).

This article provides information on the organisation of this special survey, the characteristics surveyed, limitations of the data collected and comparability with other data collected on these topics.

Full article

Characteristics surveyed

Soil cover and tillage practices

Respondents were asked to provide data on the area of arable land under soil cover and subject to various tillage practices.

Both using less intrusive tillage and maintaining a soil cover during winter are two important practices that reduce soil degradation and help to prevent nutrient and pesticide runoff.

Data were collected on:

Tillage practices were measured by the share of arable areas under conventional, conservation and zero tillage. More detailed information is published in the agri-environmental indicators factsheet AEI 11.1 indicator — soil cover and AEI 11.2 indicator — tillage practices.

Crop rotation

Data were collected on the proportion of arable area out of crop rotation which means that the farmer plans in advance which crops will alternate on a given parcel.

Arable land is considered to be out of crop rotation when it is cultivated with the same crop for 3 years or more consecutively and when it is not part of a planned crop rotation.

Animal housing

Data were collected on the number of places in animal housing for cattle, pigs and laying hens.

The term ‘places’ refers to the usual number of animals in question: the average number of animals in the animal houses during the reference year. This means that the number of animals must be corrected on the reference day if conditions are not normal (over-housing, under-housing, sanitary emptying, special production schemes, etc.). Only animal housing in use during the reference period was recorded, including houses that were temporarily empty.

More detailed information will be published in the factsheet of agri-environmental indicators AEI 11.3 indicator — manure storage.

Storage facilities for manure

Data were collected on:

Storage facilities not used during the 12-month FSS reference period were not recorded.

More detailed information will be published in the agri-environmental indicators factsheet AEI 11.3 indicator — manure storage.

Manure application techniques

Data were collected on:

Data were collected by percentage bands:

  • 0 %,
  • >0 — <25 %,
  • 25 % — <50 %,
  • 50 % — <75 %,
  • >=75 %.

The respective areas on which solid/farmyard manure or slurry was applied were counted only once, even if subject to several applications over the year.

More detailed information will be published in the agri-environmental indicators factsheet AEI 11.3 indicator — manure storage.

Manure exports

Data were collected on the amount of manure sold or otherwise removed from holdings with livestock, estimated as a percentage of the total amount of manure produced on the holding in the reference year.

Manure removed from the agricultural holding for direct use as fertiliser by another agricultural holding or intended for industrial processing was included here. Manure produced during animal grazing was excluded.

More detailed information will be published in the factsheet on AEI 11.3 indicator — manure storage.


Data were collected on:

  • the area grazed (rented, owned or otherwise allotted to agricultural holdings) during the reference year
  • the amount of time for which animals are outdoors on these pastures.

Two hours is taken as the minimum ‘grazing day’. If, on the day of survey, there were no animals on the holding, the average number of grazing animals during the reference year was recorded. If different animal species and/or categories on the agricultural holding were outdoors for different lengths of time, the longest time period was recorded. However, only species and/or categories that have a significant impact on the holding’s production should have been recorded. When both/several species were of comparable significance, the species that spent more time outdoors should be recorded.

Data were also collected on:

  • the number of animals grazing on common land (not allotted to agricultural holdings) during the reference year
  • the amount of time for which animals are grazing on common land.

The number of head grazing on common land and the number of months in question were collected by holding, but in most countries, not all the common land area was included in these individual holdings. For more details on common land, see the background article on Farm structure survey – common land.

Landscape features

Data were collected on linear elements (hedges, stone walls and tree lines) maintained and established in the last three years, regardless of whether the farmer received payments for their maintenance or establishment.

More detailed information is published in the article on Agriculture — landscape features in the Agricultural Pocketbook 2013.

Comparability with other data

Farm structure surveys

Some data in FSS 2003 were similar to data in the SAPM:

  • Data on the availability of facilities for manure (solid dung, liquid manure and slurry) and their capacity.
  • Data on the area of arable land under soil cover. Cover crops were defined in this survey as plants sown expressly in view of their potential contribution to reducing the loss of nutrients due to leakage to the air, surface water or groundwater during the winter or other periods when the land would be bare or otherwise susceptible to losses. The economic interest of these crops is low, and the main goal is soil protection. In 2003, the total area of arable land was recorded, whereas the SAPM registered the arable land sown/cultivated during the reference year.

Data in FSS 2003 were collected in accordance with Commission Regulation 143/2002 of 24 January 2002 amending Annex I to Council Regulation 571/1988 in view of the organisation of the Community surveys on the structure of agricultural holdings in 2003, 2005 and 2007. The definitions for this survey were provided in Commission Regulation 1444/2002 of 24 July 2002 amending Commission Decision 115/2000 relating to the definitions of the characteristics, the exceptions to the definitions and the regions and districts regarding the surveys on the structure of agricultural holdings.

PAIS Project

In the Proposals on Agri-Environmental Indicators (PAIS) project [1][2][3][4][5] in 2003 data similar to SAPM data were collected for the EU-15 at NUTS0 and NUTS2/NUTS3 level and presented in the IRENA factsheet 14. Additional data were collected through interviews with experts in several countries (Austria, Greece Spain, France and Germany), on:

  • tillage practices;
  • soil cover;
  • manure application techniques; and
  • manure storage facilities.

The PAIS Questionnaire collected data on these topics indirectly (data were collected from experts in the Member States; many data are based on expert knowledge) at aggregated level. The results are therefore not comparable with SAPM data, which were collected directly from farm holdings.

Manure management inventory

In 2012, Eurostat circulated a questionnaire among country experts in Eurostat’s AEI Working Group and those reporting to other institutions, e.g. experts from the Nitrates Directive network and the network of the Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), to inventorise the availability of data on manure management in the EU-27, Norway and Switzerland. For more information, see the Reportconcerning the inventory of data on manure management.

The main conclusions of this inventory were as follows:

  • Many countries already collect data on manure management, though for some countries SAPM is the only data source.

Table 1 shows an overview of data collection by topic and by country. The results refer to countries’ data collection in addition to SAPM. A grey cell in the table means that no other data are collected in that country for that topic. The table shows that, in 11 countries, the SAPM was the only source for information on manure management and 15 countries already collect data on manure management independently of Commission efforts.

  • More than a third of the Member States, Norway and Switzerland collect data on manure storage, grazing and housing.

Table 1 shows that 14 countries collect data on manure storage, 13 on grazing and housing, nine on manure application and animal feeding and only eight countries collect some data on manure treatment.

  • The majority of countries collect data annually or at regular intervals.

Table 1 also shows large differences between countries in the frequency, as well as the coverage, of data collection. More than half of the countries that collect data on grazing, animal feeding, manure treatment and manure storage do so annually or at regular intervals, and more than two thirds of the countries that collect data on housing and manure application do so annually or at regular intervals. In a third of the countries, data collection is irregular.

Table 1: Additional data (other than collected by SAPM) available in countries relating to manure management, EU-27, NO and CH
Source: Eurostat, Inventory of data on manure management 2012

The fact that data on manure management are collected outside SAPM underlines the importance attached to them by the countries themselves, not only the Commission. Almost half of the Member States, Switzerland and Norway collect data on manure storage, grazing and housing. However, data on animal feeding, manure treatment and manure application are currently collected by less than a third. Data collection at European level could therefore significantly improve data availability on these topics in the EU-27, Norway and Switzerland. Looking at the manure management data in more detail, it is clear that countries collect fairly similar data:

  • Grazing: more than two thirds of the countries collect data on days/week/months per year of cattle (broken down by livestock type), sheep and goats, at national or regional level, so that this can be compared with other characteristics. Data collection is regular for more than half these countries, but irregular for more than a third.
  • Animal feeding: In more than half the countries, data are collected on crude protein levels for pigs and poultry (broken down by livestock type) and other feed for cattle at national or regional level, annually or at regular intervals, so that this can be compared with other characteristics; however, the data are often not representative of the whole population.
  • Housing: More than two thirds of the countries collect data on types of housing for cattle, pigs and poultry (broken down by livestock type), at national or regional level, annually or at regular intervals.
  • Manure treatment: More than two thirds of the countries collect data on digestion for biogas, at national or regional level. However, the data are often not representative of the whole population. Data collection is regular for more than half the countries, but irregular for more than a third.
  • Manure storage: More than half the countries collect data on manure storage types in m3 and/or months), at national or regional level, representative of the whole population, so that this can be compared with other characteristics.
  • Manure application techniques: More than two thirds of the countries collect data on types of techniques and incorporation time, representative at national or regional level, annually or at regular intervals, so that this can be compared with other characteristics. Data are representative of the population in six countries.

A follow-up survey was carried out to collect available data from institutions that replied to the inventory; it covered the following topics:

  • Grazing (average annual grazing time in weeks) for cattle, goats and sheep. Conclusions are presented in the factsheet on AEI 10.2 indicator — livestock patterns.
  • Animal housing (average annual number of animals) for cattle, pigs and laying hens. Conclusions are presented in the factsheet on AEI 11.3 indicator — manure storage.
  • Manure storage (amount of manure stored in m3 or tonnes/months) of solid storage/heaps, lagoons, tanks, pit storage below animal confinements, in-house deep litter and other storage facilities. The follow-up survey was sent out in autumn 2012. Conclusions are presented in the factsheet on AEI 11.3 indicator — manure storage.

Data are not comparable with those collected in the SAPM nor across countries, as different populations, units, methods, etc were covered.

Source data for tables and graphs

Excel.jpg Download Excel file

Data sources

Survey organisation

The legal basis for the SAPM and FSS 2010 is Regulation 1166/2008 of 19 November 2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods, which repealed Council Regulation 571/1988. The Member States collected data from individual agricultural holdings and, subject to confidentiality rules, transmitted them to Eurostat. The data can be aggregated by different geographical levels (Member State, regional and, for basic surveys, district level) and by size class, area status, legal status of the holding, objective zone and farm type.

The basic unit underlying the SAPM is the agricultural holding: a technical-economic unit, under single management, engaged in agricultural production. The SAPM covers all agricultural holdings with utilised agricultural area (UAA) of at least one hectare (ha) and those with a UAA of less than 1 ha where the market production exceeds certain natural thresholds. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, Montenegro, Estonia, France, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Slovakia carried the SAPM out as a census survey, while Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland and Croatia carried it out as a sample survey. Although sample sizes varied, from about 3 % to a third of agricultural holdings (see Table 2), the level of precision is guaranteed for certain survey characteristics by the precision requirements in Annex IV to Regulation No 1166/2008.

Table 2: Census and sample survey in SAPM 2010, EU-28, NO, CH and ME
Source: Eurostat FSS and SAPM 2010

Data were linked to those collected at holding level in FSS 2010, which was carried out as a census survey in all countries. To analyse characteristics from FSS 2010 in combination with characteristics from the SAPM, data from both should be extrapolated on the basis of the same (SAPM) sample:

  • sample SAPM < sample FSS in countries where the SAPM was carried out as a sample survey;
  • sample SAPM = sample FSS in countries where SAPM was carried out as a census. (In Croatia, the SAPM was carried out in combination with FSS 2010, which was a sample survey).

Analyses of SAPM data with FSS data on the basis of the SAPM sample are presented in the online publication on agri-environmental indicators. In the Eurostat online database for agriculture, SAPM data are published in tables together with FSS data. It should be noted that FSS characteristics in these tables have been extrapolated from the FSS sample, while data on SAPM characteristics are extrapolated from the SAPM sample. This means that data in the online database cannot be used for direct cross-comparisons of characteristics collected in the FSS and the SAPM for countries which carried out the SAPM as a sample survey.


In some countries, the threshold for determining the SAPM population differed from that used for determining the FSS 2010 population:

  • Portugal: The thresholds for SAPM are the same as for FSS 2010, except for the animal housing characteristic, for which they are: 10 head of bovine animals, 50 head of pigs, 10 head of breeding sows, 1 000 head of poultry. The FSS livestock characteristics thresholds were those applying on the day of the interview: 1 breeding bull, 1 cow (excluding working animals), 2 bovine animals of 2 years or older (excluding working animals), 3 fattening pigs, 1 breeding sow, 6 ewes, 6 goats, 10 breeding female rabbits, 100 laying and breeding poultry, 2 breeding ostriches, 500 breeding quails.
  • Latvia: The threshold for FSS 2010 was 1 ha or standard output (SO) of more than EUR 70. For the SAPM, a higher threshold was used, which was a combination of physical and economic thresholds. The physical thresholds were 5 ha UAA, 1 ha permanent crops, 10 head cattle, 50 head pigs, 20 head sheep, 20 head goats, 1 000 head poultry. The economic thresholds were SO> EUR 4 000, when none of the physical thresholds were met and SO= EUR 0, when at least one was met.
  • Finland: The thresholds applied for FSS 2010 and SAPM were the same, except that an additional threshold of SO >= EUR 1 200 was used for SAPM.

Reference period

Regulation (EC) No 1166/2008 states that the reference periods for the SAPM are to coincide with those used for the characteristics in the FSS, i.e.:

  • land use and labour force: 12 months ending on a reference day between 1 March and 31 October of the survey year;
  • livestock: reference day between 31 March and 31 December of the survey year;
  • rural development measures: three years ending on 31 December of the survey year.

The survey year for the 2010 Agricultural Census and the SAPM was 2010, except in Spain and Portugal, where it was 2009. In Denmark, the survey year was 2010 for the FSS census and 2011 for the SAPM. In most countries, the reference period for landscape features and average irrigation equalled the that for the rural development measures in the FSS; for other SAPM characteristics, the reference period was equal to the reference period for land use characteristics in the FSS. Exceptions are:

  • Germany: soil cover (October 2009 — February 2010), animal housing (reference day of livestock characteristics in FSS), animals grazing (calendar year 2009), tillage, manure storage, manure application (12 months ending on survey reference day), irrigation (calendar year 2009), landscape features, average irrigation (three years ending on survey reference day);
  • Netherlands: soil cover, tillage, animal grazing, manure application, irrigation (April 2009 — March 2010), average irrigation (April 2007 — March 2010), animal housing, manure storage (reference day of livestock characteristics in FSS);
  • United Kingdom: soil cover, tillage, animal grazing, manure application, manure storage (12 months ending on survey date), animal housing (reference day other than reference day of livestock characteristics in FSS);
  • Norway: soil cover (winter 2009/10), tillage (autumn 2009 — spring 2010), animal housing, manure application, manure storage (calendar year 2010), animal grazing (grazing season 2010);
  • Spain: instead of 2010, the reference year is 2009 for both the FSS and SAPM. The reference period for landscape features (1 January 2007 to 31 December 2009) differed from that for land-use characteristics, which related to the agricultural year;
  • Portugal: instead of 2010, the reference year is 2009 for both the FSS and SAPM. Animal housing, animal grazing, manure storage, manure application (12 months ending on survey date);
  • Latvia: animal housing, animal grazing, manure storage (1 July 2010 – 30 June 2010);
  • Finland: animal housing, manure storage (calendar year 2010), animal grazing (May — October 2010), irrigation (late April — mid October 2010);
  • Romania: animal housing (reference day of livestock characteristics in FSS), irrigation (calendar year 2009);
  • Bulgaria: animal grazing (12 months ending on reference day of livestock characteristics in FSS); and
  • Denmark: reference year for FSS 2010 is 2010 and for SAPM 2011. The SAPM survey took place in 2011, with a survey day in July 2011. Tillage, manure application, soil cover (October 2009 — August/September 2010), animal housing (survey reference day), crop rotation (2009-11), animal grazing (season prior to the survey day).

In some countries, however, the SAPM was not carried out at the same time as the FSS 2010, which may lead to inconsistencies between data. For some items, the main FSS and SAPM data may differ, principally due to changes in land area and livestock numbers over the intervening period. This was the case in the following countries:

  • Belgium, Denmark: FSS in 2010, SAPM in 2011;
  • Spain: the SAPM was carried out between January and April 2010, some of the holdings (63 %) in the SAPM sample had completed the FSS questionnaire previously, in October 2009;
  • United Kingdom: the SAPM was carried out in the spring, a full three months before (or, in the case of Wales, after) the main census data collection;
  • Cyprus: FSS September 2010 — April 2011; SAPM May — June 2011; and
  • Norway: the SAPM was conducted as a sample survey between 20 April and 20 June 2011; FSS July 2010.

The SAPM contains many questions that have not been asked regularly in FSS. Many countries have entered item non-response for variables collected in the SAPM. Other problems mentioned in the national methodological reports relate to inconsistencies between SAPM and FSS data (e.g. on soil cover and tillage practices and on arable land) and difficulties with the interpretation of variables (e.g. for calculating the number of animals grazing). As many characteristics were collected for the first time, no sound assertion could be made as to the data quality or reliability.


The SAPM was developed to provide data:

  • for agri-environmental indicators. In its conclusions of 19 December 2006 on agri-environmental indicators, the Council recognised the need for comparable data on agricultural activities, at the appropriate geographical level and covering the whole Community. The Council asked the Commission to take the measures set out in Commission Communication COM final 508/2006 of 15 September 2006, including the production of statistical data, particularly regarding farm management practices and the use of farm inputs;
  • on agricultural production methods, linked to data on the structural information of agricultural holdings. There is a lack of statistical information on agricultural production methods at the level of individual holdings. Therefore, there is a need for improved collection of such information linked to structural information on agricultural holdings, to provide additional statistics for agri-environmental policy development and to improve the quality of agri-environmental indicators;
  • for various other purposes where there is a need for data related to agricultural production methods, especially for estimating greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions;
  • for the research communities interested in providing information on the impact of agriculture on the environment.

Policy relevance and context

Information collected by FSS and SAPM, such as that on the main animal categories (e.g. pigs, cattle, hens), type of storage facility (e.g. on open ground, concrete basins, lagoons, covered basins, etc.), coverage and storage capacity, and data on application techniques and animal housing, is important for a number of policies.

The agri-environmental policies for which data on manure management are required include:

  • The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (Directive 2008/1/EC), which introduces an integrated cross-media approach, aiming to prevent or minimise emissions to air, water and land, and to avoid waste production with a view to achieving a high level of environmental protection overall. The IPPC Directive concerns highly polluting industries, e.g. energy, production and processing of metals, minerals, chemicals, waste management and others, including intensive pig and poultry farms. A single permit based on the concept of Best Available Techniques (BAT including limit values) must include all arrangements made, including emission limit values for pollutants, for water, air and land, and may, if necessary, contain requirements for the protection of soil and groundwater, and measures on waste management (Article 9(3)) in order to continuously prevent and reduce pollution. The purpose of the Directive is to achieve integrated prevention and control of pollution arising from several categories of industrial activity. Among these are installations for the intensive rearing of poultry or pigs with more than 40 000 places for poultry, 2 000 places for production pigs (over 30 kg), or 750 places for sows. Installations for the disposal or recycling of animal carcasses and animal waste with a treatment capacity exceeding 10 tonnes per day are also included. The indicative list of main polluting substances to be taken into account if they are relevant for fixing emission limit values includes oxides of nitrogen and substances which contribute to eutrophication (phosphates and nitrogen);
  • Nitrates Directive: (Directive 676/1991), which aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters and by promoting the use of good farming practices. The Nitrates Directive forms an integral part of the Water Framework Directive and is one of the key instruments for protecting waters in the face of agricultural pressures. The various steps of implementation of the Directive include:
  1. establishing code(s) of good agricultural practice, to be implemented by farmers on a voluntary basis and including: measures limiting the time when fertilisers can be applied on land, in order to allow nitrate availability only when the crop needs nutrients; measures limiting the conditions for fertiliser application (steeply sloping ground, frozen or snow-covered ground, near water courses); requirement for minimum storage capacity for livestock manure;
  2. establishing compulsory action programmes to be implemented by farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) and including: measures already included in the code(s) of good agricultural practice, which becomes mandatory in NVZs; other measures such as limiting the application of fertilisers in the light of what crops actually need, all nitrate inputs and soil supply, and the maximum amount of animal manure to be applied (corresponding to 170 kg nitrates/hectare/year). The land area in the EU-27 designated as NVZ was about 40 % in 2008 (see and the AEI 27.1 indicator — nitrate pollution of water). Measures included in the codes of good agricultural practice are therefore mandatory for a large part of the UAA; and
  • National Emissions Ceiling (NEC) Directive (Directive 2001/81/EC), which sets upper limits for each Member State for total emissions in 2010 of the four pollutants responsible for acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone pollution (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia), but leaves it largely to Member States to decide which measures — on top of Community legislation for specific source categories — to take in order to comply. To implement the Directive, Member States were required to develop national program in 2002 (to be revised, where necessary, in 2006) aimed at meeting fixed ceilings of national emissions by 2010 and thereafter. Further, Member States have to report their emission inventories to the (European Environment Agency EEA) and the European Commission in order to monitor progress and verify compliance. In 2008, the EU agricultural sector emitted a total of 3 579 kt of ammonia, and was responsible for 94 % of total ammonia emissions across the region (see AEI 18 indicator — ammonia emissions). In Europe, ammonia emissions occur mainly as a result of volatilisation from livestock excreta, whether this occurs from livestock housing, manure storage, urine and dung deposition in grazed pastures or after manure spreading on land. A smaller fraction of NH3 emissions result from the volatilisation of NH3 from nitrogenous fertilisers and fertilised crops.

Ammonia was also one of the pollutants targeted by the Commission’s Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) programme that led to the development of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution under the Sixth Environmental Action Programme in 2006. The aim of the Strategy is to develop long-term, strategic and integrated policy advice to protect against significant negative effects of air pollution on human health and the environment. The amount of NH3 emitted by livestock is a function of many variables[6], including:

  1. properties of the animal manure (itself dependent on the animal feed, and the species, age and weight of the animal);
  2. the efficiency of the conversion of nitrogen in feed to livestock production (milk, eggs, etc.) and hence the nitrogen remaining in the manure and the proportion that is volatilizable;
  3. whether the animals are housed on a liquid or litter-based manure management system;
  4. manure storage system used (open or covered slurry tank);
  5. the proportion of time the animals spend indoors or grazing;
  6. soil properties; and
  7. the method and rate of application of manure into agricultural land, including the time between application and incorporation.

Similarly, the scale of NH3 emissions resulting from the application of mineral nitrogenous fertilisers will depend on many factors, such as the type of fertiliser used, meteorological conditions and the time of fertiliser application in relation to the stage of crop canopy, the soil type and pH.

  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): The agriculture sector produced 476 ktonnes CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases in 2009, 10.3 % of the total EU emissions (excluding land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) for that year (for more information, see factsheet AEI 19 indicator — greenhouse gas emissions. Under the IPCC 2006 Guidelines, Annex I parties (i.e. the European Union, the Member States (except Cyprus and Malta), Norway and Switzerland) are required to estimate and report national inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases, emissions from agriculture, include those relating to manure management, manure applications on agricultural soils and manure on pastures during grazing. The implementation of abatement measures will often result in an increased cost to agriculture and to the environment authority monitoring compliance. Identifying the most cost-effective abatement measures for agriculture requires a range of activity data to be collected. Emissions are estimated by multiplying activity data with emission factors. Compiling the national inventory therefore comprises two main steps: (i) obtaining national activity data; and (ii) choosing (default or country-specific) emission factors. Agricultural emissions depend strongly on the animal housing and the manure management system (MMS) distribution. These data are a pre requisite for accurate emission estimates with a low range of uncertainty. The impact of mitigation measures on the national emissions reported under UNFCCC must be documented and this is possible only if representative data on the MMS distribution are available.
  • UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP): Parallel to the development of the NEC Directive, the Member States, together with the United States and Canada, negotiated the ‘multi-pollutant’ protocol under the Gothenburg Protocol agreed in November 1999. The emission ceilings are equivalent to or higher than those in the NEC Directive.
  • Water Framework Directive Directive 60/2000 aims to achieve ‘good status’ for all water bodies by 2015. Good status is defined on the basis of biological, chemical and morphological factors. Environmental quality standards are defined as the concentration of a particular pollutant or group of pollutants, sediment or biota, which should not be exceeded in order to protect the environment. An indicative list of pollutants in the Water Framework Directive includes organophosphorous compounds and substances that contribute to eutrophication (in particular, nitrates and phosphates). Measures applied under the Directive affecting the use of phosphorus in agriculture relate to best environmental practices and include reduced nutrient application, different cultivation techniques, the proper handling of pesticides and fertilisers, and preventing soil erosion through erosion minimising soil cultivation. Most measures suggested in this context are aimed at reducing the influx of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and pesticides to the groundwater and surface waters.
  • The 6th Environmental Action Programme encourages full implementation of the Nitrates and Water Framework Directives, in order to achieve levels of water quality that do not give rise to unacceptable impacts on, and risks to, human health and the environment.

The agri-environmental policies likely to affect manure management practices but not directly requiring these data include:

  • Rural Development Programme: The Agri-Environmental Measures were introduced in 1992 under the MacSharry reform of the CAP and made compulsory in the Rural Development Regulation in 1999 in order to promote environment friendly farm practices. The key objective of the measures is to promote agricultural methods that protect the environment, maintain the countryside and improve animal welfare. Member States develop their own agri-environment measures according to their environmental needs. Farmers receive financial compensation covering income foregone, costs incurred and as an incentive to participate in agri-environmental schemes that go beyond the application of good agricultural practices. The measures lead to quantified reductions in the use of inputs, the conservation of valuable farmed habitats and changes in land use for environmental purposes. These identified positive impacts contribute to biodiversity, landscape, water and soil resources.

Data on landscape features were included to support the evaluation of good agricultural and environmental conditions under the CAP and agri-environmental measures relating to the maintenance and preservation of the landscape.

Agri-environmental context

Information about the main animal categories (e.g. pigs, cattle, hens), type of storage facility (e.g. on open ground, concrete basins, lagoons, covered basins, etc.), coverage and storage capacity, and data on application techniques and animal housing are important for a number of indicators, such as AEI 18 indicator — ammonia emissions, AEI 19 indicator — greenhouse gas emissions, AEI 11.3 indicator — manure storage, AEI 15 indicator — gross nitrogen balance and AEI 16 indicator — risk of pollution by phosphorus. Ammonia losses from manure storages depend on storage type and coverage. Loss of nitrogen from the field through runoff or leaching depends on the time of year it is spread and consequently on storage capacity. The application method (broad spread, surface applied or directly injected) has a significant effect on ammonia volatilisation. Finally, housing facilities and cleaning techniques are also important for ammonia losses. Emissions from livestock buildings can be reduced significantly through improved design and construction of the floor, ventilation (climate control) and manure management; examples of such improvements can be found in the MEACAP project report, 2005[7]. Manure management and manure applications have an impact on agricultural emissions of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxides (N2O), two potent greenhouse gases. The main factors affecting CH4 emissions are the amount of manure produced and the proportion that decomposes anaerobically. The former depends on the rate of waste production per animal and the number of animals, and the latter on how the manure is managed. When manure is stored or treated as a liquid (e.g. in lagoons, ponds, tanks or pits), it decomposes anaerobically and can produce a significant quantity of CH4. The temperature and retention time of the storage unit greatly affect the amount of methane produced. When manure is handled as a solid (e.g. in stacks or piles) or deposited on pastures and rangelands, it tends to decompose under more aerobic conditions and less CH4 is produced. Direct N2O emissions occur via combined nitrification and denitrification of nitrogen contained in the manure. The emission of N2O from manure during storage and treatment depends on the nitrogen and carbon content of the manure, how long it is stored and how it is treated. Nitrification (the oxidation of ammonia nitrogen to nitrate nitrogen), a prerequisite for the emission of N2O from stored animal manures, is likely to occur in stored animal manures provided there is a sufficient supply of oxygen (it does not occur under anaerobic conditions). Nitrites and nitrates are transformed to N2O and dinitrogen (N2) during the naturally occurring (anaerobic) process of denitrification. There is general agreement in the scientific literature that the ratio of N2O to N2 increases with increasing acidity, nitrate concentration and reduced moisture. In summary, the production and emission of N2O from managed manures requires the presence of nitrites or nitrates in an anaerobic environment preceded by aerobic conditions necessary for the formation of these oxidised forms of nitrogen. In addition, conditions must be present that prevent the reduction of N2O to N2, such as a low pH or limited moisture. Indirect emissions result from volatile nitrogen losses that occur primarily in the forms of ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The fraction of excreted organic nitrogen that is mineralised to ammonia nitrogen during manure collection and storage depends primarily on time and, to a lesser degree, on temperature. Simple forms of organic nitrogen such as urea (mammals) and uric acid (poultry) are rapidly mineralised to ammonia nitrogen, which is highly volatile and easily diffused into the surrounding air[8][9]. Nitrogen losses begin at the point of excretion in houses and other animal production areas (e.g. milk parlours) and continue through on-site management in storage and treatment systems (i.e. manure management systems). Nitrogen is also lost through runoff and leaching into soils from the solid storage of manure in outdoor areas, in feedlots and where animals are grazing in pastures. Due to significant direct and indirect losses of manure nitrogen in management systems, it is important to estimate the remaining amount of animal manure nitrogen available for application to soils or for use in feed, fuel or construction. This value is used for calculating N2O emissions from managed soils. Nitrous oxide is produced naturally in soils through nitrification and denitrification. Nitrification is the aerobic microbial oxidation of ammonium to nitrate, and denitrification is the anaerobic microbial reduction of nitrate to nitrogen gas (N2). Nitrous oxide is a gaseous intermediate in the reaction sequence of denitrification and a by product of nitrification that leaks from microbial cells into the soil and ultimately into the atmosphere. One of the main controlling factors in this reaction is the availability of inorganic nitrates in the soil. The N2O emissions that result from anthropogenic nitrate inputs or nitrate mineralisation occur through both a direct pathway (i.e. directly from the soils to which the nitrate is added/released) and two indirect pathways: (i) following volatilisation of NH3 and NOx from managed soils and from fossil-fuel combustion and biomass burning, and the subsequent redeposition of these gases and their products NH4+ and NO3- to soils and waters; and (ii) after leaching and runoff of nitrates, mainly as NO3-, from managed soils[10].

Direct access to
Other articles
Dedicated section
External links

Farm structure (ef)
Farm structure 2010 (ef_2010)
Survey on agricultural production methods (SAPM, 2010) (ef_pm)


  1. Proposal on Agri-Environmental Indicators(PAIS) Project Summary
  2. Eiden, G., J. Bryden and H.-P. Piorr (2001), ‘Proposal on Agri-Environmental Indicators (PAIS)’ — Final Report of the PAIS I project, EUROSTAT, Luxembourg, pp. 4 – 92.
  3. Eiden, G., J. Bryden, A. Copus, M. Mitchell, Y. Loughrey, Piorr, H.-P. and U. Eppler (2004), ‘Proposals on Agri-Environmental Indicators’, PAIS II Final Report’, Luxembourg.
  4. Piorr, H.-P. and U. Eppler (2005), ‘Agricultural Practices’. PAIS Project final report, 197-245. in Eiden, G., J. Bryden, A. Copus, M. Mitchell, Y. Loughrey, H.-P. Piorr and U. Eppler (2005) Proposals on Agri-Environmental Indicators. PAIS II Final Report, Luxembourg.
  5. Piorr, H.-P. and U. Eppler (2004), ‘PAIS project — Intermediate report Phase II PAIS.’ in Eiden, G., J. Bryden, A. Copus, M. Mitchell, Y. Loughrey, H.-P. Piorr and U. Eppler (2005) Proposals on Agri-Environmental Indicators. PAIS II Final Report, Luxembourg.
  6. EMEP/EEA air pollutant emission inventory guidebook — 2009 available at:
  7. MEACAP– D7a Technical and management-based mitigation measures in agriculture — June 2005 available at:
  8. Asman, W.A.H., Sutton, M.A. and Schjoerring, J.K. (1998). Ammonia: emission, atmospheric transport and deposition. New Phytol., 139, p. 27-48
  9. Monteny, G.J. and Erisman, J.W. (1998). Ammonia emissions from dairy cow buildings: A review of measurement techniques, influencing factors and possibilities for reduction. Neth. J. Agric. Sci., 46, p. 225-247.
  10. IPCC 2006 Guidelines Available at: