Smarter farming to cut pollution and improve efficiency
Analysis by EU-funded researchers studying the cycle of nutrients in farms across Europe will help reduce pollution, improve energy efficiency and make the agricultural sector more sustainable and innovative.
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To cut pollution, safeguard quality of life and improve energy and nutrient independence, Europes farming sector needs to tackle the nutrient flow gaps in its ecosystems. The EU-funded NUTRI2CYCLE project is helping to close those gaps.
The researchers aim to increase nutrient efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by developing strategies that better connect animal husbandry and crop production. More streamlined synergies will increase the amount of carbon returned to the soil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, they could be combined with generating energy for use on the farm.
Researchers will assess the nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon flows and the existing management techniques in place on farms across Europe and analyse the associated environmental problems. They will provide a toolkit for evaluating the potential impact of proposed new techniques, showcase the most promising developments through prototypes and demos, and develop scenarios to identify the effect of these innovations at the European scale.
The first stage of the project will be the starting point for redesigning, testing and implementing more mature and sustainable business models for nutrient recovery and recycling. In a final stage, the consortium will assess how the products obtained through those business models can reach consumers.
Less greenhouse gasAccording to Eurostat, in 2015, Europes agricultural sector was responsible for 426 473 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases about 10 % of the EUs total emissions. Emissions from the sector declined by 20 % between 1990 and 2015 the most recent year for which figures have been published due principally to reduced use of nitrogenous fertilisers and a reduction in livestock numbers.
Better management of nutrient flows as a result of work carried out under NUTRI2CYCLE will help reduce those emissions further, increase the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous recycling rate and improve the sustainability and innovation capacity of European agricultural systems.
The project will also inform policymakers on effective regulatory frameworks to reduce emissions and increase Europes self-reliance on food, energy and nutrients.