Methodological considerations for nitrogen policies in the Netherlands including a new role for research

M.P.W. Sonneveld, J. Bouma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The Netherlands has attempted to follow EU guidelines in developing national policies to reduce pollution of groundwater by nitrates originating from (over) fertilized agricultural land. The EU has not been satisfied with these policies and this is resulting in legal conflicts. National policies have focused on nitrogen budgeting and on fertilization rates, over-simplifying the crucial role of soils during the leaching of nitrates to groundwater. As an alternative, a dynamic approach using simulation modeling is introduced as is illustrated for a study area in the Netherlands. A number of considerations for future policy directions are suggested, including requirements for research: (i) promotion of research aimed at improving and maintaining nutrient use efficiency at farm level; (ii) promotion of joint learning experiences between farmers and researchers, where farmers' organizations could act as "research consortia"; (iii) emphasis on site and time specific management (precision agriculture) in policy development, and provision of site-specific advice via modem information and communication technologies; (iv) clearer guidelines for groundwater monitoring procedures, including additional monitoring at greater depths and consideration of groundwater quality from an appropriate regional perspective; (v) groundwater monitoring should take place at locations selected according to specific hydro-geological characteristics, rather than being executed at random and (vi) clear goals that are defined within existing and future policies at EU and international level, should allow for regional differentiation in indicators; these being the outcome of negotiations between farmers or their representatives, policy makers and researchers. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-511
JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • soil chemistry
  • nitrates
  • nitrate fertilizers
  • leaching
  • water table
  • farm management
  • netherlands
  • land-use
  • nitrate
  • management
  • groundwater

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