ESPP, with support of the EU (DG GROW), is launching work to identify what data is needed on nutrient stocks and flows by industry, agriculture and decision makers, to support stewardship decisions, circular economy objectives and management actions, and how this data should be monitored.
This targets phosphorus (P), potassium (K), possibly other nutrients. Existing work is already underway on nitrogen, e.g. INI http://www.initrogen.org/europe - there are links and experience transfer, but duplication should be avoided.
To date, around 20 phosphorus flow studies have been published in different countries and regions of Europe (see below). However, the methodologies used, sectors covered (agriculture, industry, households etc. ), spatial scales and time-horizons are very variable so that results cannot be compared. Many regions have no useable phosphorus flow data. Data for other nutrients is even more scarce and disjoined. Where data is available, it is not readily accessible to stakeholders and is not orientated towards identifying points of possible effective action. Data is rarely updated, so following results of system changes or of impacts of nutrient management actions is not possible.
The need for improved knowledge of phosphorus flows was the first conclusion of the European Commission Consultative Communication on the Sustainable Use of Phosphorus (Staff Working Document SWD(2014)263final): “In terms of ascertaining the extent of phosphorus supply and demand, … the replies pointed to a need to increase the knowledge base.”
Phosphate rock is on the EU list of Critical Raw Materials and an MFA (materials flow analysis) is currently underway. The stakeholders meeting already confirmed the considerable insufficiencies of information currently available to input to this MFA. Now is therefore the time to start to complete the information base in preparation for the next MFA exercise planned in three years’ time (2017).
To launch this work, a workshop is organised in Ghent, 3-4 September 2015 (with Biorefine and Ghent University). This will look at both the gaps in scientific knowledge and methodology for nutrient flow analysis, the operational needs of industry actors and decision makers, and the capacity of data monitoring bodies.