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Sustainable Nutrient Management

There are at least thirteen nutrients that are essential for plant growth. Their cycles not only affect soil fertility and thereby the size and quality of crop production, but also the robustness of the surrounding aquatic ecosystems and air quality. Their presence in sufficient amounts and at the right times is crucial for crop production. Incorrect management of the nutrient cycles can, on the one hand, lead to soil depletion with consequences for our livelihood and, on the other hand, to serious air and water pollution.


The department has access to unique facilities for research in the effects of nutrient cycling on crop production and the environment:

  • Long-term studies in various soil types for elucidation of interactions between management and nutrient availability and subsequent consequences for crop growth and emissions
  • Experimental mini-wetlands
  • Semifield, greenhouse and climate chamber facilities for studying nutrient cycling under controlled conditions
  • Laboratory facilities and equipment for nutrient analyses and process studies
  • Access to farm-specific databases containing information about production, nutrient utilisation and finances
  • Mobile sensors for area coverage mapping of crops and soil
  • Models that enable simulation and estimation of crop growth and nutrient emission

For the past decades, the Department of Agroecology has been very active with regard to nutrient cycling in order to optimise production and minimise losses. These efforts have been intensified in recent years. 

Central to these efforts are measures for improving utilisation of nutrients from plant residues and fertiliser (commercial fertiliser, animal manure and residues), reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing impacts on the aquatic environment, and ensuring soil fertility. Our efforts range from basic research to applied research with the aim of ensuring that agricultural soils continue to be a suitable basis for optimising nutrient supply in a sustainable plant biomass production. 


The efforts within Sustainable Nutrient Management are carried out across the department’s six research sections. We call on significant key skills within microbiology, plant nutrition and physiology, soil chemistry, system analysis and life cycle assessment. The efforts are distinguished by being based on solid, internationally recognised expertise on the levels of process, field, landscape, system and sector, and that we work on a scale that is authentic in relation to current issues.

Our research contributes significantly to the department’s research-based policy support in areas such as fertilisers and norms for fertilisation as well as targeted area regulation and measures.

We also have a strong focus on collaboration with the industry with relevant parties in the agricultural sector, and on dissemination of results and knowledge to farmers, advisers, related industries and the general public. Our researchers offer research-based teaching on the bachelor and master programmes Agro-Environmental Management and Agrobiology and participate in the teaching of students in a strong PhD programme.