Environmental pressure as a result of agricultural activities based on data from the Farm Accountancy Data Network 2005-2008

Sonia Lenders, Joost D’hooghe, Tom Coulier

November 2010

Since 2005, the Farm Accountancy Data Network (Landbouwmonitoringsnetwerk, LMN), which is managed by the Division for Agricultural Policy Analysis of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, has been gathering data about the use of energy, pesticides, water and fertilizer in addition to basic economic data. The LMN consists of 720 agricultural and horticultural businesses that are representative of the Flemish agricultural profession. The extrapolation of these sample data to the reference population gives an idea about the entire Flemish agricultural sector. How did the use of these environmental indicators evolve during the period 2005-2008 and is there a plausible explanation for this?

In collaboration with the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek, VITO), direct energy use by agriculture was calculated to be 28.1 PJ in 2008. This figure includes non-professional businesses, contract work, purchased heat, greening, forestry and fisheries. The latter consumes about 2 PJ. Compared to 2007 this amounts to a 5% decrease. This reduction may well be explained by a reduction in terms of the area covered with greenhouses. After all, most of the energy consumed (55%) is used for heating greenhouses. Petroleum continues to be the main energy source, but there is also a clear shift to natural gas. Energy from CHP is on the rise and increasingly installations are managed by the horticulturist himself.

In 2008, 2.9 million kg active substance of Plant Protection Products (PPP) were used. Half of these PPPs are fungicides, one third are herbicides. Most of these PPPs are used on potatoes (32%) and on fruit trees (23%). The peak in 2007 is due to the extremely wet summer, which resulted in a higher use of fungicides. The use per hectare was calculated for the most important crops. Active substance, however, is not a suitable indicator to calculate the environmental impact. Sustained efforts have been made to reduce the use, but additional measures are sure to be implemented.

In 2008, the agricultural sector used 48 million m³ of water. During 2006, which was a dry year, this figure rose to nearly 54 million m³. The majority (56%) of the water is pumped up from the ground by the farmers themselves. Greenhouse horticulture uses the largest share by far, but from an environmental point of view this sector is the best in class, because it gathers a lot of rainwater through greenhouses and stocks this rainwater in basins. Many businesses are already implementing some form of water conservation. By contrast, water purification techniques are relatively complex and expensive to acquire. The monitoring and maintenance of these systems are also obstacles.

The following figures were calculated in 2008 in terms of the use of fertilizer: 63 million kg of nitrogen and 1.9 million kg of phosphorus. Compared with 2005 consumption has dropped with 11% and 53% respectively. One explanation is the stricter fertilization standards in 2007 as a result of the application of MAP-III and the high fertilizer prices in 2008. Use per hectare has been calculated for the most important crops. The use of fertilizer is determined by crop requirements but also by the soil, as is evident from the averages for each agricultural region. Heavy precipitation leads to leaching, particularly of nitrogen. Substitution with animal manure is not always practicable.

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Lenders S., D’hooghe J. & Coulier T. (2010)
Milieudruk vanuit de landbouw op basis van gegevens van het Landbouwmonitoringsnetwerk 2005-2008
Departement Landbouw en Visserij, afdeling Monitoring en Studie, Brussel.



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