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Tools for better manure management – towards a bluer Baltic Sea

By Knud Tybirk, Agro Business Park, Baltic Manure

Manure certificates, quality measurements and manure standards are partial solutions to the challenges of the Nitrates Directive. Different countries have different approaches and exchange of knowledge is a prerequisite for learning and adoption of existing technologies. We do not need to re-invent the wheel, was the conclusion of the parallel session on manure management in Copenhagen.

One parallel session at the conference A Greener Agriculture for a Bluer Baltic Sea in Bella Centre, Copenhagen, October 25, 2012, was devoted to discuss existing and potential technologies to improve the handling and sustainable use of manure in the Baltic Sea Region. These issues are key elements in both Baltic Manure and Baltic Compass, and the parallel session was attended by over 60 participants.


Nitrates Directive is the frame
Luisa Samarelli of DG Environment introduced the session by a brief overview of the Nitrates Directive and how this has been implemented in different countries. The objective of the Nitrates Directive is to reduce water pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources, using maximum nitrogen fertilizer levels, requirements for manure storage, green cover and designated nitrate vulnerable zones etc.
The results on water quality have not been impressive after 20 years of implementation, and it might be the time to reinforce the measures. Manure efficiency and spreading techniques are on the agenda as well as measurements and control of manure when moved off farm. It is obvious that inspiration between different solutions in manure ‘hot-spots’ are needed to stimulate further development and international exchange.

- There is a real need for effective manure movement control as well as continuous focus on increased manure efficiencies, notably in highly intensive livestock regions towards sustainable farming, Luisa Samarelli said to the audience.

Three different approaches for inspiration
Kiel University has developed a new methodology for manure measurements while applying the manure in the field. The technology is based on Near Infra Red Spectroscopy (NIRS) enabling good and cheap manure quality measurements.  Christian Moschner from Kiel presented the technology and results from a study on how it can be used in the future. Ideally, it will enable the farmer to realize a nutrient specific as well as site specific application of slurry – although still some adaptation and calibration is needed. But NIRS is definitely a promising tool for improved manure management.


The Danish normative system for manure quality was presented by Hanne Damgaard Poulsen, Aarhus University. This approach used as the official tool in Denmark including all input and output for cattle, pigs, poultry, fur animals etc. in different housing systems. The method is based on a combination of feeding experiments, measurements and modelling of mass balances and gives a good framework for calculation the losses of nutrient at different stages from animal to field. This system is the official basis for fertilizer plans and control calculations and has contributed very much to the high manure nitrogen efficiency in Denmark.


In The Netherlands, the challenge for manure distribution is immense. High animal density leads to surplus of nitrogen and phosphorous in many areas and this has created a cross-border market for manure. This in turn has created the necessity for detailed knowledge of manure nutrient content and control of the manure being transported to ensure the correct handling and use. Maret Oomen from the Dutch Ministry of Economy, Agriculture and Innovation presented the manure transport certificate to follow each tonne of manure being traded between farmers and cross borders. Samples are taken and all manure carriers are certificated. The system is rather expensive, but allows for effective traceability of manure.


Cross border inspiration
The three cases of difference technologies and approaches all can contribute to the implementation of the Nitrates Directive. Henning Lyngsø Foged, Agro Business Park, organizer of the session, raised further questions for the future debate:

  • How could the Nitrates Directive be simplified, so that the farmers themselves can make a fertilizer plan?
  • How can the Danish normative system be adapted and adopted by other countries?
  • Can we equip all larger manure transports with the traceability system used in the Netherlands, maybe in combination with NIRS, in order to accommodate needs for enforcement and for efficient manure management?  

Continuous work is to be done towards a sustainable manure handling and a bluer Baltic Sea. It requires cooperation and dedication. The idea of the session was to make a status for the needs, methods and technologies, and enable authorities, companies and research to inspire each other across borders, technologies and methods. This aim has been accomplished and we have inspired for further activities, said Henning Lyngsø Foged in his concluding remarks.


Photo text: Hanne Damgaard Poulsen, Aarhus University, is presenting the Danish Normative system.



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