Keywords: soil analysis, analytical methodologies, agro-climatic regions, fertiliser recommendations, European comparisons.
A stocktake study, in the framework of the EJP Soil programme took
place across 23 European countries to formulate recommendations for harmonising methodologies for delivering fertilisation guidelines. The stocktake revealed substantial differences in the content, format and delivery of current fertilisation guidelines across Europe. Substantial differences exist in soil test methods and how crop nutrient requirements are calculated; even between neighbouring countries, with similar soil types, cropping systems and within the same environmental zone.
The general consensus among all participating countries was that harmonisation of fertilisation guidelines should be increased, in terms of shared learning in the delivery and format of fertilisation guidelines and mechanisms to adhere to environmental legislation. However, it was recognised that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to harmonise soil test data and agronomic requirements at EU-level due to differences in soil types and agro-ecosystems.
Nevertheless, increased future collaboration between neighbouring countries within the same environmental zone was seen as potentially very beneficial, and would contribute to the European Green Deal vision. Particularly, advancement of precision agriculture technology, enabling greatly increased nutrient use efficiency at farm and field level through more site-specific and precise fertiliser placement, and improved rate and timing of nutrient application, could be potentially very beneficial. Shared learning in the use of earth observation technology to generate maps of soil properties, soil nutrients or crop yield variability to make interpretations and contribute to decision making tools would be a potential way of harmonising the methodologies for creating fertilisation recommendations. Country-specific methodology and a lack of harmonisation prohibits the comparison or joint analysis of internationally recognised parameters to evaluate soil nutrient interactions and crop response. While complete harmonisation should not be an end in itself, methods to improve nutrient use efficiency and minimise environmental impact, at field, farm, national and international level, should be the priority.