Manure surpluses in agriculture, 1970-2022

Between 1970 and 2022, the nitrogen surplus in agriculture has fallen by about 40 percent. The surplus did not change a lot in the last ten years and we see a small undulating trend depending on weather conditions. Compared to 2021, the surplus has increased by 5 percent in 2022. The surplus of phosphorus has nearly disappeared in recent years.

Nitrogen surplus

Between 1986 and 2006, the nitrogen surplus in agriculture halved from 775 to 385 million kg N. The nitrogen surplus has mainly decreased due to increasingly lower fertilizer application (since 1999) and smaller production of manure by livestock. A new manure policy came into effect in 2006, with application criteria for fertilisers. In the following years, the surplus fell significantly. In 2022 the nitrogen surplus was 312 million kg N. This is higher than the surplus of 293 million kg N in 2021. The difference was mainly due to dry weather conditions in the summer of 2022. The nitrogen surplus is also partly dependent on weather conditions, because crops fixate nitrogen.
The fertilizers supplied to agricultural land are being used increasingly better. In 2022, 55 percent of the nitrogen supplied to agricultural land was converted into plant production (roughage and crops). This is called the nutrient use efficiency. In the 1990s this was still approximately 47 percent.

Phosphorus surplus

In the last decade, the phosphorus surplus in agriculture has virtually disappeared. In 1990 the phosphorus surplus was 69 million kg P, in 2021 and 2022 the surpluses were 3 and 13 million kg P respectively. The phosphorus use efficiency on agricultural land is almost 100 percent. In 2021, utilization was 95 percent. Due to the dry summer in 2022, we are only around 78 percent in 2022, an exception. In the 1990s, phosphorus utilization was approximately 50 percent.


In 2006 a new fertiliser policy based on application criteria for fertilisers was introduced in the Netherlands. Manure production has also been restricted. Since 2010, varies policies were introduced to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus. The two most well-known examples are Fosfaatrechten (Phosphorus Rights) and Programma Aanpak Stikstof (Program Approach Nitrogen) or better known as PAS. In 2018 Phosphorus Rights were introduced by the Dutch government. In 2015 the “PAS” was introduced for nitrogen, but rejected by law in 2020. Therefore, the Stikstofwet (Nitrogen law) was introduced the following year. The law requires that by 2025 at least 40% of the area of nitrogen-sensitive nature in protected Natura 2000 areas has a nitrogen level that does not exceed the critical deposition value (KDW).


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Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Manure surpluses in agriculture, 1970-2022 (indicator 0096, version 21,

) 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.