Crops require an adequate supply of nutrients for healthy growth and to maintain satisfactory yields and product quality. The growth and harvest of a crop removes these nutrients from the soil’s reserves, which then must be replenished.
However, unless preventative measures are taken, nitrogen losses to the atmosphere can occur when these latter products are progressively transformed into the nitrate form in the soil. This increases emissions from the field, reduces their nitrogen-use efficiency and it is harmful for our ecosystems and health. The management of nitrogen is therefore important, especially in agriculture, which is the biggest user of nitrogen in the world.
With the objective to reduce water pollution from loss of nitrogen from agricultural activities the European Union adopted in 1991 the EU Nitrates Directive which was complemented in 2000 by the Water Framework Directive. The directives promote the use of several good agricultural practices to prevent the loss of nitrogen into the environment.