New FAO Report: Nitrogen Inputs to Agricultural Soils from Livestock Manure. New Statistics

Rome, 9 March 2018 - FAO releases today a Technical Report and new FAOSTAT Livestock Manure data facilitating analysis on the availability, distribution and use of livestock manure, with regional and global trends and comparisons with the agricultural use of mineral and chemical fertilizers. The study was jointly developed by the FAO Agriculture Production Division (AGP) and the Statistics Division (ESS). The new FAO statistics released today contribute to the FAOSTAT agri-environmental indicators and provide, for the first time, information on the availability, treatment, application and loss of nitrogen in livestock manure, by country and over the entire time period 1961-2016. The FAOSTAT data are analytical estimates, meant to provide a first starting point in support of analyses at national, regional and global level. They were compiled using official FAOSTAT livestock statistics and by applying the internationally approved methodologies of the of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2006 Guidelines). The data document the important role of livestock manure in soil applications for crop growth and yield, and can be usefully compared to similar data on the agricultural use of nitrogen in chemical and mineral fertilizers, also disseminated in FAOSTAT.

The global agricultural sector today faces the double challenge of feeding a growing population while preserving the underlying natural resources of land, water and air. In the meantime, already a third of the world’s soils are degraded. Soil and nutrient management techniques aimed at restoring soil health are essential to meeting these challenges. Livestock manure is a source of nitrogen and other useful plant nutrients. It is also high in organic matter and can help address soil deficiencies and improve soil quality. Producing good quality national statistics on livestock manure is therefore essential for sound management and planning to achieve sustainable food and agriculture. Good statistics can help monitor sustainable input managment for efficient crop and livestock production, while minimizing detrimental effects on the environment from losses of excess nutrients to waterways and via atmospheric emissions.

Main Results

The report contains a number of analyses on N trends relevant to crop and livestock production. Specifically, the new statistics show that global manure production and use increased  in most regions over the last fifty years since 1961, largely as a result of the increased livestock population. Stocks of cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats increased 60% over this period, while swine increased 140% and poultry had a remarkable five-fold increase. Global manure production from all livestock increased 66%, from 73 to 124 million tonnes of N from 1961-2016, with manure applied to soils increasing from 18 to 28 million tonnes of N, and N input from manure left on pasture increasing from 48 to 86 million tonnes of N. It is worth noting that N input from mineral and chemical fertilizers (synthetic fertilizers, available in FAOSTAT over the period 1961-2015) grew considerably over the same period, with more than a seven-fold increase from 12 to 102 million tonnes of N. As a result, synthetic fertilizer-N inputs to soils for crop cultivation were smaller than livestock manure in 1961, but are currently four times as large.

The relative contributions of livestock manure and synthetic N sources have profoundly changed over the period analyzed. The FAOSTAT statistics are especially useful in identifying specific regional trends underlying the global ones (see figures below). Most importantly in Africa, the application rates of manure-N increased threefold from about 9 million tonnes of N in 1961 to 26 million tonnes of N in 2016. Synthetic N-fertilizer use (chemical and mineral) showed an approximate 10–fold increase over the same period. Despite this large increase, absolute amounts of synthetic fertilizer-N inputs in Africa were the lowest among all regions over the study period, and within the continent, far smaller than total N inputs from livestock manure.


 Related Events