Nutrient balancing

Excessive nutrient addition to agricultural soils both runs the risk of polluting surface and ground waters, and results in a considerable financial burden to farm businesses (where additional nutrients are bought onto the farm) for little if any benefit in the form of yields and/or profits. One commonly advocated method of reducing these problems is the use of nutrient budgeting.

A nutrient budget is a management tool for farmers that can help identify the flow of nutrients (chiefly nitrogen, phosphate and potassium) through the farm system, and can be used to help identify ways in which nutrients can be used more efficiently, minimising losses. A nutrient budget report should be able to show how effective the farming system is at transferring input nutrients to farm outputs (i.e. the products produced on the farm for sale). Crucially, it should also be able to identify what proportion of the input nutrients are surplus to requirements (and available for leaching), or indeed whether if the system is struggling on a nutrient deficit, in which case yields may not be at their optimum. The technique is also used more and more frequently by crop assurance schemes and for regulatory control as evidence of sound nutrient management.

AERU have worked on a number of nutrient budgeting projects, and as a result have developed a range of tools for assisting in the on-farm management of nutrients. Key amongst these have been:

In addition, the use of nutrient forms a part of many of the LCA-based projects undertaken by the team.

For details of these and our other nutrient management capabilities, visit out case studies page, or contact us on

University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2017.