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Response: Technology and policy options

Policy. In the developed world, regulations are being introduced to restrict the emission of nutrients in the case of point source pollution, and restrict stocking rate ("manure quota") in the case of non-point source polluters. A cross section of current legislation in some of the developed and developing world is provided in Table 3.3. Regulations include a variety of restrictions on stocking rate and use of fertilizer, manure storage and times and techniques of application, encouraged by government subsidies on manure processing and management.

A variety of measures may be introduced to reduce nutrient surpluses. These include:

• taxation of inorganic fertilizer, in order to discourage unnecessary use where a system is already in surplus;

• maximum application limits and regulation of times of application in order to reduce leaching and volatilization (Box 3.3);

• taxation on feed imports to reduce the significant transfer of nutrients from the already nutrient deficient developing world to the nutrient surplus areas of the industrialized world. Such taxation might be supplemented with, or used as, subsidies for a transfer of nutrients back to the developing world;

• incentives to achieve a more balanced distribution of crop and livestock activities.

Technology. Of particular importance are the following technologies to reduce nutrient surpluses:

• Improved nutrient formulation in terms of incorporating optimum levels of nitrogen into feed and adding enzymes to improve the utilization rate of plant phosphorus. Optimum nutrient ratio and composition management reduce loading the environment with these elements; and

• Improved manure handling and storage are key requirements (Chapter 4) for more efficient use in nutrient deficient areas, and to prevent leaching and pollution of surface water where there is a nutrient surplus. Box 3.8 gives an overview of some of the most common factors which determinine whether the effect of manure is minimal, moderate or severe.

In addition, over the last decade, there has been considerable interest in promoting low-input mixed farming systems, as sustainable and environmentally friendly systems. In the USA, the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, and the LISA (Low Input Sustainable Agriculture) movement, strongly promoted by USDA have been in the forefront. In Europe, the ILEIA (Institute for Low External Input Agriculture) has been one of the prime movers. Mixed farming systems are often especially suitable for low input production. Some of the main technologies which can be used in the livestock sector are:

• use of grass-legume mixtures as the basic feeding system for ruminants. The nitrogen fixation of legumes (such as clovers), can replace the nitrogen lost through milk and meat;

• mixed species grazing (cattle and small ruminants), which increases grass yield, botanic composition and reduces the parasite load;

• genetic improvement focusing on maximum capacity to digest roughage, rather than on concentrate feed consumption, and based on life-time production, rather than on short term lactation yield, to achieve optimum efficiency on the basis of renewable resources;

• housing, which allows adequate movement and is based in the animals' natural social behaviour, produces high quality manure using large quantities of straw;

• disease control based on good feeding and breeding practices, and preferably using organic medicines, to minimize environmental contamination.

Table 3.3: A cross of manure management regulations.




European Union

Maximum stocking rate: 2.0 cows, equivalent to 170 kg N per year in manure

P2O3 in drinking water: 5,000 microgram/l.

Nitrate level in drinking water: MAC: 50 mg NO3/l


Same water standards as KU. Reduction of NH3 emission by 50-75 percent, through low ammonia emission techniques: injection, bans on autumn and winter applications, and covered manure storage. Cost sharing for manure drying and transport to manure deficient regions.

Max. amount of P2O5 in animal manure allowed to be added to the soil to decline as follows:









with levies for every kg of phosphate produced per hectare of farm-owned land in excess of a tax-free amount of 55 kg P per ha. The tax of US $ 0.40 per kg of P2O5 is doubled for production over 87 kg. per ha.


Varies according to me State. Maximum fertilizer rate at 240 kg N per ha, and in some states maximum stocking rates of 3.5-4.5 cows (or manure equivalent) per ha. Manure application (winter) and storage restrictions. Mineral record keeping required.

Unlike Netherlands, most attention is on nitrogen


Varies according to the State. Manure management plans required for all farms (with federal and state sharing cost in implementation) and permits required for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO's). Bans on the direct discharge on surface water.

† Maximum Allowable Concentration

Source: This study.

On the crop side, this has to be accompanied by environmentally friendly low-input techniques, such as zero tillage, manuring and composting, integrated pest management (IPM) etc. Precise information about soil nutrient levels, coupled with economic incentives, not only helps to minimize production costs but also helps to maintain the soil nutrient balance as well as a landscape that is aesthetically pleasing.

The National Research Council of the United States (1989) has provided some excellent guidelines for low-input agriculture.

Low-input farming can have a special attraction to consumers who like to buy "environmentally safe" products under "green" labels and to support eco-farming, organic farming, etc. As for any other food product "green label", food must be subject to clear and strict quality standards (especially regarding residues) and be supervised by reliable quality control systems. Prices of such "organic" food products are between 20 and 50 percent higher than conventionally produced foods, mainly as a result of low volumes and stagnant market share (2 to 5 per cent of the EU market). Producers, who are therefore unable to practice economies of scale, nevertheless have to meet high distribution costs.

Box 3.8 Some parameters for the assessment of impact of manure in temperate environments.


Minimal impact

Moderate impact

Severe impact

Ratio of manure phosphate to crop phosphate

less than 0.9


Over 1.1

Distribution of manure over farmland




Exposure of stored manure to air and soil




Time lapse between manure application and planting date

1-7 days

1-4 weeks

More than 1 month

Time lapse between manure application and working-in

0-1 hr

1-12 hr

More than 12 hours

Use of water with manure application




Organic matter saved from waste




N working coefficient




Source: Brandjes et al., 1995.

"Green label" eggs (free range production) are one of the most widespread products and now have a market share of 5 to 10 percent in the KU. By and large, low-input production has, until now, only proved viable where consumers are ready to pay a premium for "eco-products" and where there is market saturation.


Mixed farming systems, with crops and livestock on the same farm, are likely to be a dynamic element (although a potentially transient one) of the growing livestock sector. Across eco-regions the time frame, in which within-one-farm mixed systems will develop, flourish and recede, will be closely tied to overall economic growth and development.

In the future, mixed farming systems will be subjected to the pressures and opportunities of a more open market economy. Structural adjustment reforms will continue, resulting in less distortions in exchange rates and input pricing. The global trade reform initiated under GATT and the World Trade Agreements will lower import barriers. It will be necessary to establish where a particular system is located in terms of regional nutrient balance and infrastructure links. Strict regulations on manure production and emission are expected to be further strengthened in the OECD countries and should become increasingly important in the mid-income level countries of Latin America and East Asia.

Mixed farming systems have a capacity to absorb and mitigate negative environmental impacts provided that environmental costs are internalized. This capacity is likely to be improved when markets are liberalized. Furthermore, these systems have the largest capacity to benefit from technological innovation. These two factors combined should help mixed farming systems to grow in size and importance as environmental costs force restrictions on industrial systems.

Regional mixed farm

However, as explained in the next chapter, if significant industrial, land-detached systems are developed, opportunities will remain for production in a mixed farming context, by integrating industrial, land-detached units and arable farms in a giant "regional mixed farm".

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