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Veerle Verguts

Flemish Land Agency, Brussels, Belgium

"Perspectives on agricultural nutrient management policies in Flanders. A pressure-impact analysis of current policies to identify new possibilities of mitigation“

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Since the early nineties, policies on nutrient management to reduce nutrient losses from agriculture towards ground and surface water are in place in Flanders. These policies are based on three principles: (1) a source-oriented approach, (2) balanced fertilisation and (3) manure processing. With the last major revision of the manure legislation in 2007, the whole of Flanders is designated as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, a first derogation was granted, a system of tradable nutrient emission rights was installed and manure processing certificates were introduced.

In the following revisions of the action programmes in execution of the Nitrates Directive the focus was on balanced fertilisation with further limitation of effective nitrogen fertilisation and the introduction of phosphorus fertilisation rates based on the soil P-status. The last action programme introduced a first step towards an area-oriented approach, differentiating measures between focus and non focus areas.

In preparation of the sixth action programme an ex-post analysis of the Flemish nutrient management policy is executed, using the DPSIR-framework. Livestock density and agricultural land use are identified as the main drivers for nutrient losses, while the OECD soil nitrogen balance and an equivalent for phosphorus is used as an indicator for the pressure from agriculture on water quality. The impact of nutrient losses from agriculture is estimated making use of water quality monitoring data per water body and the specific agricultural monitoring network in execution of the nitrates directive.

In first instance, the ex-post analysis is qualitative in nature describing the evolution of the main indicators during the last decade. Also further quantitative analysis using statistical and mechanistic, spatial-distrubuted models is performed.

The results of the ex-post analysis will be used in an ex-ante evaluation of possible policy scenarios for further decision making on the sixth action programme and the third generation river basin management plans.