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Nutri2Cycle - Nurturing the Circular Economy

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Nutri2Cycle - Nurturing the Circular Economy

The Nutri2Cycle project recognizes Europe’s need to tackle the current nutrient flow gaps in European agro-ecosystems in order to decrease environmental pollution, safeguard the quality of life and improve EU independence for energy and nutrients. Nutri2Cycle addresses these needs by benchmarking the current N, P and C flows as a starting point to re-design (using scenario-analysis) and test new business models in nutrient management (‘prototypes’) to mitigate emissions and close the nutrient flow gaps.

Background and Objective

Intensified European agriculture is crucial for the EU food supply and self-sufficiency, but it also generates environmental challenges related to GHG emissions and nutrient related pressure (eutrophication). In addition, European agriculture is under economic pressure due to its high dependency on import of primary nutrients and energy. Nitrogen (N) has been highlighted as one of the three “planetary boundaries” that have been exceeded beyond supportable levels alongside climate change and biodiversity loss. In addition, ineffective management of manure and other fertilizing products results in eutrophication of water bodies with nitrates as well as elevated volatile ammonia emissions threatening biodiversity adjacent to agricultural activities. Phosphorus (P) has been highlighted and was placed on the “Critical Raw Material” list by the European Commission, considering the European continent is dependent on import to secure its own agricultural production (and hence food security). Carbon has been insufficiently investigated and even overlooked in past nutrient oriented research, yet N-, P- and C-cycles are intertwined and need to be examined within a single methodological framework. Carbon is of primary importance as (effective) carbon in organic matter returned to soils, which plays a vital role in abatement of soil degradation and maintaining soil fertility. Nutri2Cycle addresses the current gaps in the N, P and C cycles of different European agricultural systems and the related environmental problems by implementing more mature and sustainable farm prototypes including innovative technologies to better close the loops whilst having a positive trade–off with productivity, quality and environmental impact. These prototypes will serve as an innovation engine to further extrapolate the farm level impact to regional and European level impact.

Target Group

Agricultural farm managers, advisers, agro-industrial stakeholders, representatives of associations and politics


A farm level analysis of N-P-C flows will be performed for 8 different, agro-typologies (this is animal production (pig/poultry/cattle), plant production (cereals/maize, vegetables, orchards (incl. agroforestry), agroenergy systems and byproduct processing). The role and impact of land-use intensification on these flows will be investigated and the impact factors will be identified. In order to generate positive effects for GHG mitigation and nutrient household at farm level, sustainable agricultural management systems and innovative technologies will be proposed, tested and implemented. Assessment of 3 innovations per typology aimed at closing nutrient loops and efficient mitigation measures, of which 1-2 per agrotypology are further developed into full scale prototypes.

The CAPRI model (Common Agricultural Policy Regionalised Impact Modelling System) which is the currently most suitable model for depicting agricultural production processes, nutrient and carbon flows, farm economics and commodity markets within one model system, uses the gathered data from the farm prototypes (farm level) and extrapolate the impact assessed at farm level to the regional, national and EU level on a high resolution but also consistent scale. Using the CAPRI model the aggregated environmental, economic and social effects of an increase of the developed innovative technologies on a larger scale (member state and EU level) can be assessed. The results provide support for policy recommendations towards nutrient use in the EU.

Data and Methods

Our Research Questions

To what extent can the developed prototypes and technologies close the identified gaps in the nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon cycles in the EU Member States?

What are the environmental impacts (e.g. the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions) of these measures at regional, national and EU level?

What are the potential economic impacts of the implementation of these measures for the different types of agricultural holdings at regional, national and European level?

Links and Downloads

Involved external Thünen-Partners


10.2018 - 9.2023

More Information

Project funding number: 773682
Funding program: EU – Horizon 2020 – Societal Challenge "Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Marine, Maritime and Inland Water Research and the Bioeconomy"
Project status: finished

Publikationen zum Projekt

  1. 0

    Rieger J, Stepanyan D, Gocht A, Gunarathne A, Behrendt L, Osterburg B (2024) Nutri2Cycle - Förderung der Kreislaufwirtschaft. Braunschweig: Thünen-Institut für Betriebswirtschaft; Stabsstelle Klima, Boden, Biodiverstität, 2 p, Project Brief Thünen Inst 2024/13, DOI:10.3220/PB1712228437000

  2. 1

    Rieger J, Stepanyan D, Gocht A, Gunarathne A, Behrendt L, Osterburg B (2024) Nutri2Cycle - Nurturing the circular economy. Braunschweig: Thünen Institute of Farm Economics; Coordination Unit Climate, Soil, Biodiversity, 2 p, Project Brief Thünen Inst 2024/13a, DOI:10.3220/PB1712229209000

  3. 2

    Rieger J, Freund F, Offermann F, Geibel I, Gocht A (2023) From fork to farm: Impacts of more sustainable diets in the EU-27 on the agricultural sector. J Agric Econ 74(3):764-784, DOI:10.1111/1477-9552.12530

  4. 3

    Antón A, Bonmatí A, Bruun S, Fangueiro D, Lesschen JP, Pereira E, Rieger J, Stepanyan D, Bamelis L, Stoumann Jensen L (2022) Nutri2Cycle : D.1.1 Report on indicator set for comparison and benchmarking. 32 p

  5. 4

    Lesschen JP, Groenendijk P, Oenema O, Stoumann Jensen L, Bruun S, Rieger J, Antón A, Bamelis L, Meers E (2022) Nutri2Cycle : D.1.2 Protocol for the mapping, analysis and benchmarking of CNP flows and their stoichiometry in farming systems. 34 p

  6. 5

    Oenema O, Lesschen JP, Rietra R, Rieger J, Stokkermans L, Hendriks C (2022) Nutri2Cycle : D.1.3 Driving forces of farming systems and their impacts on CNP ratios and flows. 91 p

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