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Ökologischer Betrieb
© BLE, Bonn/Thomas Stephan
Ökologischer Betrieb
Institute of

BW Farm Economics

Economic assessment of nitrogene fertilization strategies in open field vegetable production


Economic assessment of nitrogene fertilization strategies in open field vegetable production

Optimisation nitrogen fertilisation
© Thünen-Institut
Optimisation nitrogen fertilisation

Economic assessment of nitrogene fertilization strategies in open field vegetable production

Nutrient management is particular challenge in vegetable growing. Many vegetable crops have a high nitrogen requirement. A lack of nitrogen is related to a risk of high losses in quality and yield. The new fertilizer ordinance poses new challenges for vegetable producers in order to guarantee sustainable and profitable production and at the same time reduce the risk of nitrate leaching to ground water.

Background and Objective

Innovative fertilization strategies can increase nutrient efficiency and minimize the risk of nitrate leaching. Thus, they have a high relevance for the ecological and economic sustainability of vegetable farms. The aim of the project is to evaluate innovative fertiliser strategies with regard to their applicability from an economic point of view and with regard to the new requirements resulting from the amendment of the Fertiliser Ordinance.

Target Group

Vegetable growers

technical advisors for vegetable production




In a period of three years, project partners implement and test innovative fertilization
 strategies on vegetable farms in three major horticultural production regions: Niederrhein, Pfalz and Knoblauchsland. Direct and indirect costs of the new fertilization strategies are assessed by the Thünen-Institute of Farm Economics in order to identify efficient strategies. Specific characteristics such as farm structures, regional characteristics and crop requirements are taken into account. Also the risks of changes in yield level and product quality are considered. Project results will be presented in workshops where growers and advisors will have the opportunity to comment and discuss.

Data and Methods

The economic assessment of new fertilization strategies is based on
selected production systems of different crops in the study regions, based on the typical farm approach. Therefore, models of production systems are established with technical and economic parameters each representing a specific crop crop, region and type of farms. Three main sources of data are used to establish the typical production systems:accounting and plot-related literature/statistics, technical advisors and farmers. The typical production system models are discussed with expert panels of farmers and advisors, and adjusted according to expert opinion as necessary. These typical production systems serve as reference scenario (baseline). The data from on-farm testing of the new strategies are then used to derive technology adoption scenarios to assess costs and benefits. Rather than calculating costs for individual farms, the results from the typical production system analysis allow more general conclusions that refer to the different crops and farm types.

Our Research Questions

Which innovative measures in nitrogen fertilization are viable under the amended fertilization ordinance for vegetable producers to ensure sustainable and profitable production and to reduce the risk of nitrate leaching?


The results show that measures to optimise nitrogen fertilisation could be implemented in all project regions so that fertiliser costs could be saved without impairing the yield and quality of vegetable crops. The implementation of measures entails an additional expenditure of labour, machine costs and material, e.g. for carrying out Nmin samples, calculating fertiliser amounts or for the cultivation of catch crops. However, the model calculations show that these costs are offset by benefits. The saving of fertiliser costs alone usually compensates for the additional expenditure. In the discussion with farm managers, however, it becomes clear that they sometimes give greater weight to labour input required than to savings in fertiliser costs, since the workload during the growing season is very high. The results of the model calculations are presented in more detail in the publications listed below. Further analyses are currently being carried out to assess the risk of a change in fertiliser management.

Links and Downloads

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • Landwirtschaftskammer Nordrhein-Westfalen
    (Bonn, Kleve, Münster, Deutschland)
  • Amt für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten Fürth
    (Fürth, Deutschland)
  • Dienstleistungszentrum Ländlicher Raum Rheinpfalz
    (Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, Deutschland)
  • Leibniz-Institut für Gemüse- und Zierpflanzenbau
    (Großbeeren, Deutschland)

Funding Body

  • Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE)
    (national, öffentlich)


4.2016 - 6.2021

More Information

Project status: finished

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