Main research question/goal
On request of the European Commission - DG Environment, a consortium of research and practice institutions in Flanders is performing this benchmark study to evaluate the nutrient legislation and innovative techniques for nutrient management in horticulture in Flanders and other European regions. The aim of the project is twofold. Firstly, the legislation about nutrient use in horticulture will be compared for different regions in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and Poland. Secondly, innovative techniques and strategies for reduction of the nutrient losses in horticulture will be collected and evaluated in the same proposed regions. This will result in an overview of promising techniques on this subject. The position of Flanders relative to other European regions will be evaluated, and an action plan for horticulture in Flanders will be developed.Research approach
The benchmark focuses on the current knowledge of sustainable and innovative techniques of vegetable and ornamental plant production. The selected techniques focus on innovative fertilization, crop residues management, crop rotation, organic matter management and soil quality practices in horticulture. The necessary information will be gathered by visits to the selected regions. The benchmark is based on standardized questionnaires, i.e. one questionnaire for each technique or strategy for nutrient loss reduction in horticulture. The gathered information will be presented at the international conference ‘NUTRIHORT: Nutrient management, innovative techniques and nutrient legislation in intensive horticulture for an improved water quality’. The techniques are related to both conventional and organic agriculture, are used both for vegetables and ornamentals, and do include applications for horticulture in open air and greenhouse horticulture (both cultures in soil and soilless cultures). Relevance/Valorisation
Production of vegetables and ornamental plants in the open field or greenhouses is challenging because of the need to balance high productivity and sometimes late harvests with lowering nutrient losses to the environment. The nutrient enrichment of soil and water disrupts the natural processes in agro-ecosystems and leads to decreased biodiversity. High concentrations of nitrate or phosphate can cause eutrophication of the surface and coastal water. Leaching of nitrate or phosphate to the groundwater can pose a problem for drinking-water production. Growers urgently need to find and implement more sustainable strategies for the intensive production of vegetables, potatoes, flowers and ornamental trees. This project will result in a report about the applicability of innovative cultivation and fertilization techniques for vegetable and ornamental plant production, including policy recommendations on nutrient legislation.