The European Union (EU) has embarked on an ambitious journey by adopting the Green Deal. To overcome the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, “Europe needs a new growth strategy that will transform the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, economic growth is decoupled from resource use, and no person and no place is left behind.”
The farming sector and the agri-food value chain are vital in helping to achieve the EU ambition of becoming the first climate-neutral continent. Farmers are the custodians of the land. As of 2016, EU farms used 39 percent of the total EU land area for agricultural production.
Fertilisers provide crops with the nutrients they need to grow. But excess amounts of nutrients can also be a source of air, soil and water pollution. The Farm to Fork Strategy, therefore, has an aspirational goal of reducing nutrient losses by 50 percent by 2030.
Farmers can reduce nutrient losses by improving nutrient use efficiency, as these are two sides of the same coin. With our extensive agronomic knowledge and portfolio of solutions, Yara can help farmers increase nutrient use efficiency. Farmers can do this by using precision and digital farming tools and by adopting optimal nutrient management practices, applying the right fertiliser at the right time, in the right dose and at the right place.
By using best practices and solutions that exist today, European farmers can already:
This example assumes that mineral fertilisers are produced using the best available technology and relates to major crops (e.g. cereals) grown in major EU countries.
Yara shares the Farm to Fork ambition of ensuring long-term soil fertility. Soil health is vital for robust crops and sustainable agriculture. If nutrients removed from the soil at harvest are not replaced, then soil health will decline and can lead to soil degradation.
Applying adequate amounts of organic biomass and required nutrients, in the form of organic or mineral fertilisers, boosts crop growth and improves soil organic matter content and soil carbon sequestration. Yara helps improve soil health through:
An example of how Yara supports carbon sequestration is through the newly launched Agoro Carbon Alliance, which leverages Yara’s deep agronomic knowledge. Farmers can earn additional revenue from positive climate action by producing Farm Carbon Credits or climate-smart certified crops. The European Commission plans to launch a carbon farming initiative this year.
Helping food systems in Europe mitigate and adapt to climate change is an important aspect of Farm to Fork and the Green Deal. We work to reduce the carbon footprint of fertilisers both during production and in the field.
The nitrate-based fertilisers we produce have considerably lower carbon footprints due to the nitrous oxide (N2O) abatement technology Yara has installed compared to producers who don’t use this technology. Yara’s nitrate-based products have carbon footprints that are 50 to 60 percent lower* compared to available regional averages (i.e. in Russia, China, the Americas, Oceania, Middle East and Africa).
Yara is also investing in green ammonia and hydrogen with the goal to offer carbon-free fertilisers, which would greatly contribute to further lowering agriculture’s climate footprint. We're partnering with Lantmännen, a Swedish farmer cooperative, to decarbonize the food chain by introducing fossil-free fertilisers. We’re also partnering with Statkraft and Aker Horizons to establish Europe’s first large-scale green ammonia project in Norway, enable the hydrogen economy and accelerate the green energy transition.
Yara, with its expertise and solutions, also supports farmers in climate adaptation by helping crops to grow healthier and offset stress conditions, which are becoming more common because of climate change. For example, we‘ve developed a range of biostimulants that make plants more resilient to climate change.
*Source: Hoxha, A. & Christensen, B. (2019). The Carbon Footprint of Fertiliser Production: Regional Reference Values. International Fertiliser Society, Proceedings 805.
The Green Deal sees a need for scaling up and promoting circular business models and has set an aspirational goal of increasing the share of EU farmland under organic farming to 25 percent by 2030. Yara believes the circular economy will change agriculture, requiring a shift in the entire food industry.
Through our strategic partnerships with waste management and food companies such as Veolia, and by leveraging our crop nutrition knowledge, we’re working to find optimal ways to recycle nutrients that would otherwise end up as waste and then process these to produce organic fertilisers.
Responding to needs from the organic farming segment, we’ve launched two organic fertilisers, both based on plant and animal by-products, which have been approved for the organic cereal segment in Finland. Both grades have a high nitrogen content of up to 10 percent.
Yara has also commercialised a product in Spain made from fish by-products and guano, targeting mainly vineyards, with the Italian market expected to follow suit. We continue to work with farmers at our research centres in Hanninghof, Germany and Kotkaniemi, Finland to develop new organic offerings.
One of the flagship initiatives of the Green Deal – the zero pollution vision for 2050 – is for air, water and soil pollution to be reduced to levels no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems, that respect the boundaries with which our planet can cope, thereby creating a toxic-free environment.
Ammonia emissions from the use of mineral nitrogen fertilisers, which can significantly deteriorate air quality, can be reduced from the outset if farmers choose a different nitrogen form. Replacing all urea-based fertilisers with ammonium nitrate-based products could prevent 63 percent of overall ammonia losses from fertiliser application in Europe. That would not only contribute to reducing nutrient losses (in the form of ammonia), but also contribute to cleaner air in Europe.
Protecting and improving water quality and reducing pressure on water resources is another Farm to Fork aspiration. EASYFEED is an innovative plug-and-play solution under development by Yara that makes it easier and more cost-effective for farmers to get started with fertigation.
Fertigation is a mix of fertiliser and irrigation that optimises water and fertiliser use while also reducing carbon emissions. A trial Yara conducted using fertigation to grow potatoes in collaboration with partners within the food chain and irrigation installation sector showed impressive results: A 31 percent reduction in water use and a 36 percent reduction in CO2 equivalent per ton as well as a 20 percent increase in yield and 10.5 percent more profit after drip investment costs.
This shows how Yara can contribute to more efficient water and nutrition use in Europe, which is especially important around the Mediterranean Sea, where the global warming effect is 20 percent faster than the global average, and freshwater reserves could drop by 15 percent in the coming decades.
For more information on specific issues check out these related articles.
Improving nitrogen fertiliser efficiency is one way your farm can become more productive, profitable and sustainable. Try our quiz to find out how you can improve your farm's nitrogen fertiliser efficiency.