Nutrient Efficiency and Agricultural Water Protection
Not only does fertilisation help maintain good yields, it also guarantees the quality of our food. In addition to its many positive effects, however, it can also exert negative influences on our environment.
Plants need nutrients in order to grow properly and to provide us with high-quality food. When present in excessive quantities, however, nutrients can pose a risk to our environment, leading, for example, to high nitrate levels in groundwater or to excessive phosphorus levels in rivers and lakes.
Consequently, the aims of agricultural production and the conservation of our environment and resources may be at variance with one another.
For this reason, Agroscope is investigating the interaction between fertilisation, plant and soil in numerous field trials conducted under varied conditions. The results not only help farmers fertilise their crops in a plant-compatible and environmentally friendly manner, but also contribute to the search for options on the sensible reuse of nutrients in farmyard manure, compost and appropriate recycling products.
Agricultural fertilisers can contaminate the aquatic environment. Agroscope is investigating the areas which contribute most to aquatic pollution.
When a farmer cultivates his fields and applies manure or fertiliser, some of the nutrients contained in the soil and fertilisers can get into the aquatic environment. In the past various drinking water catchments had to be shut down because of excessive nitrate levels. Other possible consequences of nutrient inputs to surface waters are fish death following "slurry accidents", and impaired bathing quality due to increased algal growth.
It is unclear which agricultural fields lose particularly high amounts of nutrients. Agroscope is therefore investigating which the "contributing areas" are and how the losses on these can be reduced. To do this our researchers firstly carry out extensive model calculations and secondly take measurements in the field and in special facilities (lysimeters). Once the "contributing areas" have been identified, they can be targeted for suitable measures against nutrient leaching.