1 Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University2 Department of Agroecology - Agricultural Systems and Sustainability, Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University3 Department of Agroecology - Climate and Water, Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University4 unknown5 Department of Agroecology - Agricultural Systems and Sustainability, Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University6 Department of Agroecology - Climate and Water, Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University
Six agricultural landscapes in Poland (PL), the Netherlands (NL), France (FR), Italy (IT), Scotland (UK) and Denmark (DK) were studied, and a common method was developed for undertaking farm inventories and the derivation of farm nitrogen (N) balances and N surplus from the in total 222 farms and 11 440 ha of farmland. In all landscapes, a large variation in the farm N surplus was found, and thereby a large potential for reductions. The highest average N surpluses were found in the most livestock-intensive landscapes of IT, FR, and NL; on average 202 ± 28, 179 ± 63 and 178 ± 20 kg N ha−1yr−1, respectively. However, all landscapes showed hotspots, especially from livestock farms, including a special UK case with landless large-scale poultry farming. So, whereas the average N surplus from the land-based UK farms dominated by extensive sheep grazing was only 31 ± 10 kg N ha−1yr−1, the landscape average was similar to those of PL and DK (122 ± 20 and 146 ± 55 kg N ha−1yr−1, respectively) when landless poultry were included. However, the challenge remains how to account for indirect N surpluses and emissions from such farms with a large export of manure out of the landscape. We conclude that farm N balances are a useful indicator for N losses and the potential for improving N management. Significant correlations to N surplus were found, both with ammonia air concentrations and nitrate levels in soils and groundwater, measured during the landscape data collection campaign from 2007–2009. This indicates that farm N surpluses may be used as an independent dataset for validation of measured and modelled N emissions in agricultural landscapes. However, no significant correlation was found to N measured in surface waters, probably because of the short time horizon of the study. A case study of the development in N surplus from the landscape in DK from 1998–2008 showed a 22 % reduction, related to statistically significant effects (p < 0.01) of measures targeted at reducing N emissions from livestock farms. Based on the large differences between the average and the most modern and N-efficient farms, it was concluded that N-surplus reductions of 25–50 % as compared to the present level were realistic in all landscapes. The implemented N-surplus method was thus effective at comparing and synthesizing results on farm N emissions and the potentials of mitigation options, and is recommended for use in combination with other methods for the assessment of landscape N emissions and farm N efficiency, including more detailed N sink and N source hotspot mapping, measurements and modelling.
Biogeosciences Discussions, 2012, Vol 9, Issue 7, p. 8859-8904