Phosphorus (P) losses from agricultural fields can cause eutrophication and ecological deterioration of surface waters. Although there is no general European Phosphorus Regulation or Directive, some European Member States address the agricultural phosphorus losses via national or regional legislation restricting the application of phosphorus. Most of this legislation concerns implementations of the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) in terms of National Action Plans, the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/IEC) in terms of River Basin Management Plans and the Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU). In 2014, we inventoried this phosphorus legislation in European countries. Some of these countries (or regions) do not have direct phosphorus application restrictions in addition to the chemical fertiliser N and manure N restrictions in the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. Other countries or regions have detailed, differentiated maximum phosphorus application standards. The diversity in systems used, e.g. maximum application standards, balance system, etc., complicates the comparison of international regulations. The regulations also restrict different types of phosphorus fertiliser: all types, only manure, only chemical fertiliser, etc. Some countries take only half of the phosphorus content in certain fertiliser types (compost and/or organic fertilisers) into account. The crop phosphorus export depends upon the crop type; for this reason, several countries and regions have crop type dependent maximum phosphorus application standards. We have compared the maximum application rates for grassland, maize, cereals, potatoes and sugar beets among Member States. Focusing phosphorus application restrictions on the high-risk P areas is likely to be the most effective way to reduce agricultural phosphorus losses. A few Member States do this by relating the maximum phosphorus application rates to the soil P status: higher/lower limits for lower/higher soil P content. The success of this approach depends upon the suitability of the soil P measurement method for estimation of P losses, and the extent of the difference between the crop P export and the application limit. The hydrological conditions and connectivity between the field and surface water are not taken into account, despite their value for a real P risk approach. Phosphorus transfers to surface waters by erosion and surface runoff can be restricted by installing a buffer zone where no fertilisation is allowed along waterways. The width of the zone (0.5-500 m) and the type of fertilisation restricted varies widely among Member States. We conclude that phosphorus legislation in European countries and regions varies from no direct regulation to strict maximum phosphorus application rates that depend upon fertiliser type, crop type, soil P content, etc. Minimising the P losses to surface waters will be facilitated if policymakers use a more agro-environmentally sound approach for restricting P fertilisation.
|Publication status||Published - Jun-2014|