This miracle product is the solution to the manure problem, farmers think

Since the beginning of this year, farmers have been allowed to spread less manure on their land. A punishment from Brussels, because the water quality in the Netherlands is not in order. Farmers now have to dispose of the excess manure at a high cost. Subsequently, fertilizer also has to be purchased at a high cost. And that can be said differently by farmers and science. According to them, RENURE is the solution.

The Netherlands had an exception to the rule for years. Because the growing season of grass is long here, more animal manure was allowed to be used than in other countries. But with the agreement that water quality would not suffer.

Poor water quality
Animal manure and fertilizer contain nitrate. Plants need that to grow. But if the plants do not absorb all the nitrate, especially if they grow on dry sandy soil, some of that nitrate can ‘leach out’ and end up in the groundwater. As a result, water quality deteriorates. Brabant has a lot of dry sandy soil. The water quality is therefore not great, especially in South-East Brabant.

The EU believes that the Netherlands is not doing enough to improve water quality. That is why the EU will phase out the exceptional position (also called derogation) over the next three years. Then farmers are not allowed to apply 250 kilos of nitrogen per hectare to the land, but only 170 kilos. They can then fill this space with fertilizer.

Cost item
The manure that farmers now have left over must be removed. And that costs a lot of money. According to Jan Roefs, director of the Dutch Manure Vervaluation Center, this is a huge expense. “It easily costs a very average dairy farmer 30,000 euros per year to dispose of that surplus of manure.” And that hurts even more, because many of those dairy farmers benefited from the expiry of that exceptional position. The amount of manure produced could all be spread on the land.

“The twist is that crops growing in the Netherlands almost all need more fertilizer than the permitted 170 kilos per hectare. As a result, farmers have to purchase extra fertilizer to meet that need. That is in addition to the price tag for disposing of the animal manure. another cost item. It is just as important that according to scientific insights it will not lead to better water quality, while that is precisely the intention.”

Fertilizer substitute
And while that ‘surplus’ of animal manure can be made into an excellent fertilizer substitute: it’s called RENURE. When processing the animal manure, it is split into two parts. The organic parts and the salts. The salts (nitrate) are comparable to fertilizer and work the fastest.

“You give that fast-acting nitrogen to the plant when it needs it most,” says Roefs. “As a result, the plant can use it better and much less nitrate is flushed out. Ammonia emissions also drop and less fertilizer needs to be made. This way you can complete the cycle in a company much better. This has been scientifically proven convincingly.”

The Netherlands is in favour
In the Netherlands there is hardly any doubt about the usefulness and necessity of RENURE. Outgoing Minister Adema of LNV is going to great lengths to convince the European Commission to quickly admit RENURE to the European market. And now outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte has also made an appeal to the European Commission. But Brussels is hesitant. For example, some Member States have raised eyebrows. They say that if the use of animal manure has to be reduced, it is not fair to be able to use the same animal manure ‘via a trick’.

Livestock shrinkage
In addition, green parties in the European Commission are afraid that allowing RENURE will ensure that the livestock herd does not shrink. After all, marketing manure generates money, so the incentive for shrinkage is less. A new goat path, they say.

According to Roefs, this fear is unfounded. The livestock herd is already shrinking due to measures from Europe and the Netherlands. “In addition, preventing the dragging of manure and reducing the use of fertilizer is only a good thing. The production of fertilizer requires a lot of natural gas, a lot of CO2 is released and that is of course bad for the climate,” says Roefs.

“Fertilizers are needed for all the crops we produce. Even much more than the amount of animal manure available in the Netherlands. I am not saying that RENURE is the solution for all problems, but it is in any case an important part of the solution. Please let’s look at that carefully.”