Science advocates a different nitrogen policy

Published on
February 3, 2020

Not the deposition but the emission of nitrogen must form the basis of the nitrogen policy. This was stated by professor of integral nitrogen effect analysis Wim de Vries at the seminar "Nitrogen: challenges for nature & farmers" on Wednesday at the Dairy Campus innovation center in Leeuwarden. De Vries argued for a distribution of the national ammonia emission ceiling among the provinces and the introduction of an "ammonia rights system".

Restrict imports

The seminar was organized by Dairy Campus and Wageningen University &
Research. Four scientists shed light on the nitrogen problem from their own
expertise. According to De Vries, efforts should primarily be made to limit the
import of nitrogen. This can be done through circular agriculture, but also by
making international agreements about emission ceilings. In addition, realistic
final values ​​for emissions must be determined, De Vries believes. "Not everything is possible.This applies to agriculture and also to nature. "

Ecologist Han van Dobben agreed. "We never reach a standard of 5
kilos, but a drop from the current 22 kilos of deposition to, for example, 11
kilos would already be a big profit for many types," says the ecologist.
Van Dobben argued for the continuation of the restoration measures in nature
reserves, especially when it comes to reducing the soil supply of nitrogen.
Less nature areas is not an option for him. "It is precisely the strengthening
of nature quality that makes achieving the goals easier. More or larger nature
reserves can be a means to achieve this. "

Incorrect use of low-emission floor

When it comes to emission reduction at company level, there is still a lot to be gained
from the construction of low-emission floors, said researcher Nico Ogink. Currently, 15 percent of dairy farms have a low-emission floor, which can achieve a 35 to 55 percent reduction. It is important that the effect of the floor is good. Research by Statistics Netherlands shows that in practice the difference between the percentage nitrogen loss from the excretion in stables with a regular floor and a low-emission floor is small. Ogink advocated a policy that focuses on the goals to be achieved rather than on the resources needed to achieve those goals. "If you can monitor ammonia emissions via sensors at company level, the entrepreneur has more room to decide how the goal will be achieved." More attention for the craftsmanship of the farmer himself was also the plea of ​​researcher dairy farm Gerard Migchels. He was involved in the Nature Reserve Natura2000 and 'Proeftuin Veenweide'. Measures such as diluted spreading of manure, grazing and less protein in concentrates have already led to good results here. He also argued for compensation for additional ammonia reduction."If we want to get large groups of farmers moving quickly, we have to reward their good behavior. For example, in the form of "yellow services" in packages from agricultural collectives.

Climate agreement even more challenging

The researchers see enough opportunities for farmers to reduce ammonia emissions. "As a farmer, I wouldn't lie awake from ammonia. This problem can be
tackled cost-effectively with craftsmanship and technology. I would be more awake
by methane and the climate", said Migchels. De Vries also pointed to the integral approach to nitrogen that is needed. "The current nitrogen crisis focuses on ammonia and nitric oxide and the consequences for the Habitats and Birds Directives. However, the climate agreement is a much bigger challenge", said the professor.