Manure surpluses in agriculture, 1970-2018

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Since 2006, when a new fertiliser policy was introduced in the Netherlands, the nitrogen surplus in agriculture decreased by 14,7 percent. However, in 2018 the nitrogen surplus was somewhat higher than the years before. The phosphate surplus has virtually disappeared in the last few years.

Nitrogen surplus

In 2015 and 2016 nitrogen surpluses in Dutch agriculture were somewhat higher than in the years before, followed by a small decrease in 2017. In 2018 there was a quite big increase due to the long dry summer in the Netherlands. The trend has been downward since 1986, after having risen since 1970 due to an increase in intensive livestock farming. The maximum level was reached in 1986 and was subsequently reduced by half over the next two decades. Since 2006 the nitrogen surpluses were further reduced by 17,4 percent compared to 2017.
In the years 2011 up to 2017 58 percent of nitrogen input on agricultural land was absorbed in vegetable growing. In the 1990's this percentage was still around 47 percent. Since then the application of inorganic fertilisers and manure production have been reduced considerably. Also, more manure is being used outside the agricultural sector.

Phosphorus surplus

In 2017, the phosphorus surplus in agriculture has almost disappeared, which means that nearly 100 percent of phosphorus applied on agricultural land was used in crop growing. In contrast, in 2018 the surplus has increased due to the dry summer. On average, 89 percent of phosphorus was used during the period 2011-2015, as against 50 percent in the 1990s. In 2017 this number has increased up to 94 percent. Over the past 10 years, less phosphorus was applied on agricultural land, as a result of a reduced application of inorganic fertilisers. Also more manure was used outside the agricultural sector. For phosphorus the share of disposal outside the agricultural sector in the total of manure production was 24 percent between 2011 and 2018, versus approximately 6 percent in the 1990s.


In 2006 a new fertiliser policy based on application criteria for fertilisers was introduced in the Netherlands. As a result application criteria became more strict between 2006 and 2017. Since 2010, application criteria for phosphorus have been made dependent on the concentration of phosphorus in the soil. Manure production was also restricted. In terms of nitrogen and phosphorus, the annual Dutch manure production is not allowed to exceed the 2002 level.


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Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Manure surpluses in agriculture, 1970-2018 (indicator 0096, version 19,

) Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.