Stocktake study of current fertilisation recommendations across Europe and discussion towards a more harmonised approach

The European Commission has set targets for a reduction in nutrient losses by at least 50% and a reduction in fertiliser use by at least 20% by 2030 while ensuring no deterioration in soil fertility. Within the mandate of the European Joint Programme EJP Soil ‘Towards climate-smart sustainable management of agricultural soils’, the objective of this study was to assess current fertilisation practices across Europe and discuss the potential for harmonisation of fertilisation methodologies as a strategy to reduce nutrient loss and overall fertiliser use. A stocktake study of current methods of delivering fertilisation advice took place across 23 European countries. The stocktake was in the form of a questionnaire, comprising 46 questions. Information was gathered on a large range of factors, including soil analysis methods, along with soil, crop and climatic factors taken into consideration within fertilisation calculations. The questionnaire was completed by experts, who are involved in compiling fertilisation recommendations within their country. Substantial differences exist in the content, format and delivery of fertilisation guidelines across Europe. The barriers, constraints and potential benefits of a harmonised approach to fertilisation across Europe are discussed. The general consensus from all participating countries was that harmonisation of fertilisation guidelines should be increased, but it was unclear in what format this could be achieved. Shared learning in the delivery and format of fertilisation guidelines and mechanisms to adhere to environmental legislation were viewed as being beneficial. However, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to harmonise all soil test data and fertilisation methodologies at EU level due to diverse soil types and agro-ecosystem influences. Nevertheless, increased future collaboration, especially between neighbouring countries within the same environmental zone, was seen as potentially very beneficial. This study is unique in providing current detail on fertilisation practices across European countries in a side-by-side comparison. The gathered data can provide a baseline for the development of scientifically based EU policy targets for nutrient loss and soil fertility evaluation.
Publication history: Accepted - 15 September 2023; Published online - 23 September 2023.
fertilisation, fertilisation recommendations, nutrient management, nutrient use efficiency, precision agriculture
Higgins, S., Keesstra, S.D., Kadziuliene, Ž., Jordan‐Meille, L., Wall, D., Trinchera, A., Spiegel, H., Sandén, T., Baumgarten, A., Jensen, J.L., Hirte, J., Liebisch, F., Klages, S., Löw, P., Kuka, K., De Boever, M., D’Haene, K., Madenoglu, S., Özcan, H., Vervuurt, W., de Haan, J., van Geel, W., Stenberg, B., Denoroy, P., Mihelič, R., Astover, A., Mano, R., Sempiterno, C., Calouro, F., Valboa, G., Aronsson, H., Krogstad, T., Torma, S., Gabriel, J., Laszlo, P., Borchard, N., Adamczyk, B., Jacobs, A., Jurga, B., Smreczak, B., Huyghebaert, B., Abras, M., Kasparinskis, R., Mason, E. and Chenu, C. (2023) ‘Stocktake study of current fertilisation recommendations across Europe and discussion towards a more harmonised approach’, European Journal of Soil Science. Wiley. Available at: