Phosphor quota challenges Danish dairy farmers

29 June 2018

A new Danish legislation introduces a quota for phosphorus application per hectare. This means that Danish dairy farmers need to strengthen their focus on their use of phosphor. Inspiration from the rest of Europe is used to find solid solutions to the challenges.

Denmark has changed the regulation of animal production. Previously, the regulation mostly focused on nitrogen. With the new regulation, both phosphor and nitrogen quota are in the spotlight. The phosphor quota is primarily affecting the dairy farmers using a Danish derogation from the nitrate directive. The derogation entails that the farmers may increase the amount of nitrogen from 170 kg to 230 kg per hectare. At the same time, the derogation farms must follow special requests regarding the choice of crops, cultivation, and the measuring of the nitrogen and phosphor contents of the soil. Approximately a third of the Danish dairy farmers produces under the derogation from the nitrate directive.

The new phosphor regulation requires that a normal dairy farm has a phosphor quota of 30 kg phosphor per hectare. On the derogation dairy farms, the quota is 35 kg phosphor per hectare. The phosphor from the mineral fertilizer quota is included and represents a serious challenge for the derogation farms.

Limitations on the use of starter fertilizer for maize

With the phosphors quota, the derogation farms will not be able to purchase starter fertilizer for the maize without reducing the application of the cattle manure. Normally, a mineral fertilizer is placed underneath the seed when sowing maize. The value of starter fertilizer is approximately 70 € per cow. Since the Danish farmers have a heavy pressure on the finances, the price of 70 € per cow is a considerable part of the total income.

The phosphor quota pushes farmers to find a new management practice to substitute the use of phosphor in starter fertilizer. One solution could be a slurry spreader, thus being able to deposit slurry exact in the maize row before sowing. Then the mineral fertilizer would be replaced with slurry. Looking across the border, a system from Germany has been identified, which is able to deposit slurry in two levels. A GPS, which is placed on the tractor, allows the seed to be placed directly over the slurry. In 2019, Danish farmers and agricultural contractors will be testing the system.

Inspiration from EuroDairy workshop

A workshop in EuroDairy focused on the estimation of the mineral balances. Here, the Danish representatives were inspired by the Dutch approach in the ANCA tool (Annual Nutrient Cycling Assessment). In Denmark, the milk and arable production are estimated separately. In the Dutch tool, the assessment is joined, giving a better overview and possibility to act on a total farm approach and thereby identifying ways to increase the phosphor utilization. The workshop also showed that the Dutch concentrates had a lower content of phosphor compared to Danish concentrates. By implementing this in Denmark, farmers would face improved conditions when handling the phosphor quota.