Development of sustainability strategies in the agri-food system-regional nitrogen management
Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University
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Nitrogen (N) is necessary and fundamental to the global food and biomass production, and at the same time, the intensification of agriculture has resulted in excess use- and losses of N, which impairs water quality in streams, lakes, coastal waters, and contributes to groundwater pollution. Denmark’s agricultural production is intense and farmland covers more than 60 % of the land, which have resulted in local N water pollution problems. These unintended consequences of agricultural production in Denmark have raised awareness among citizens, NGOs, politicians and research to deal with the problem. However, regional N management is contested by farm and agricultural interest, why solutions call for stakeholders to collaborate, that the agri-environmental policies are targeted, accepted and legitimized to and by stakeholders and that research highlight best practice examples of how sustainability can be achieved through interdisciplinary studies. Finding the right suit of measures to reduce N pollution in Denmark is difficult and needs a comprehensive view on the agri-food system. In this presentation, results from the Danish Nitrogen Mitigation Assessment: Research and Know-how for a sustainable, low-nitrogen food production (www.dnmark.org) are presented. Different strategies - consumer driven, integrated practice and policy solutions – are presented to achieve N source control and mitigation of the unintended consequences of excess N. Specifically, the indirect link between human (over) consumption of proteins and agri-environmental problems is investigated by looking at how building awareness about protein consumption and N-footprint can contribute to a changed consumption behavior towards a more sustainable pathway in the Danish agri-food system, beneficial toward sustainable groundwater in agriculture.