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Nitrogen and phosphorus balance

Updated 16.1.2023

Nutrient balances have decreased throughout Finland over the thirty year review period. The largest single reason for this is the decrease in the use of artificial fertilizers. The surplus of nitrogen per hectare has decreased from 90 kg to 40 kg, and that of phosphorus has decreased from 30 kg to 4 kg. In recent years, surpluses have not decreased, and differences between growing seasons can be seen as variation in surpluses. Differences in regional averages are mainly caused by the focus of domestic animal and cereal production on different areas.

Field fertilization has an impact on the state of the entire catchment areas of water environments. In areas dominated by agriculture, the nutrient load from fields is the largest cause of loading and eutrophication in water courses. The volume of excess nutrients is an indication of a nutrient load risk, the realisation of which depends on prevailing weather conditions.

The nitrate regulation defines the highest permitted nitrogen fertilizer volumes, and the environmental compensation system for agriculture sets nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer volumes for different plants.

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Description of the indicator

Nutrient balances indicate the efficiency ratio of nutrients used in agriculture, and they help to monitor agricultural nutrient flows.

Nitrogen and phosphorus balances indicate the difference the nitrogen and phosphorus volumes fed to plants and removed from the field through crops (field balance). If the nutrient balance is 0, the fed nutrient volume corresponds with the volume removed from the field. The smaller the nutrient balance is, the fewer nutrients exposed to wash-off will remain in the field. If the nutrient balance is negative, the nutrient volume removed from the field is higher than the volume of nutrients fed through fertilisation.

The calculated nutrient balance does not represent the level of water pollution in the short term, but it helps to assess the water pollution risk.

The regional balance of nitrogen or phosphorus indicates the difference between the input of nitrogen or phosphorus in mineral fertilizer, animal manure and seed and output in harvested yield. National balances include also sewage sludge, potato juice from starch factories, biological nitrogen fixation, nitrogen fallout and output of nutrients in straw that is harvested or burned. National balances are calculated in accordance with the calculation methods of Eurostat.

Åland region is included in national balances, but is reported in regional balances only since 2015.

This indicator is one of the CAP impact indicators.

The indicator will next be updated in autum 2023.