Miguel Quemada, researcher at CEIGRAM (ETSIAAB, LA UPM) was invited to the expert workshop ‘EU agricultural commodity markets’ organized by the European Commission last 24th October (Brussels), in which he presented Agri-environmental Indicators for the EU focused on nitrogen use efficiency in agricultural and livestock production systems. Participants included high-level policy makers and modelling and market experts and the workshop provided a forum in which to present and discuss recent and projected developments in the EU agricultural and commodity markets, and to outline the reasons behind observed and prospective developments.
Highlights from Prof. Quemada presentation are:
– A simple and robust monitoring protocol ensured consistency in N farm-gate balances and allowed comparison of performance among farms. The differences in N indicators between farms were mainly related to differences in farm type and management. The two dimensional N input/output conceptual diagram provides an excellent framework to analyze farm performance.
– Accounting for external losses in feed import and manure export has a large effect on animal farm indicators and need to be corrected for to avoid misleading interpretations.
– Intensive agricultural systems may become more environmental friendly by increasing NUE and decreasing N surplus. Adjusting application to crop demand is crucial and can be achieved by using traditional soil, water and plant tests, applying new remote sensing technologies or structural changes (crop rotation modifications, new delivery systems). All these strategies have a cost for the farmer.
– In general, environmental policies are not limiting productivity of cropping systems but increasing the production cost, which decreases economic benefit. Some agricultural systems with high productivity have to go through an extensification process (i.e. reducing inputs and yield) to accomplish environmental requirements.