DENMARK - The Danish Government has been urged to relax environment regulations to allow Danish farmers to add more fertiliser to their land.
A move to increase the fertiliser allowance would improve yields in grain production and also improve the protein quantity in the grain and improve the feed quality for the pig population.
With many pig farmers in Denmark also growing grain on their farms for feed, an improvement in yields and quality would mean they would also be less reliant on imports of soy and feed grain.
“Crop production is a part of the economy on the farm, but nitrogen use has been dramatically reduced over the years,” said Asger Krogsgaard (pictured), vice chairman of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council and Vice President at Danish Crown.
“We need to use more nitrogen to produce more crops with better protein.
“We have to import grain and crops for feed and this is the main problem right now.”
Mr Krogsgaard added: “Last year we were looking at a price level for pigs where we were sure we would make money out of pig meat.
“However, we have had a market where grain prices have gone up and meat prices have gone down.
“However, the conversion of feed to meet is looking more positive now.”
Studies carried out by Aarhus University and the Danish Pig Research Centre have shown that if farmers could put more fertiliser on their land then it would offer an opportunity to reduce imports of soya used for animal feed by up to 25 per cent.
Last week, Aarhus University published figures that show that Denmark under fertilises its fields and that yields could be increased by 3 to 5 hg per hectare. Low supply of nitrogen to the soil has also meant that the protein content in cereals has fallen by about two per cent over the past 20 years.
The Danish Pig Research Centre has calculated this as an overall loss of more than DKK 420 million per year for Danish pig producers on the basis of a self-sufficiency rate of 60%. The loss accounts for approximately DKK 18 per pig from birth to slaughter.
“If we could fertilise our fields at a more appropriate level, the protein content of cereals would also increase by two percentage points, which would reduce the requirement for imports of soya by up to 25 per cent. We would achieve more sustainable production and a higher level of self-sufficiency,” said Chairman of the Danish Pig Research Centre, Lindhart B. Nielsen.
He said it is exasperating that European farmers are allowed to apply slurry at a rate of 170 kg nitrogen per hectare, whereas Danish pig producers may only spread up to 140 kg nitrogen per hectare.
“The restrictive regulations result in an overall loss of more than half a billion kroner for Danish pig producers. We need a boost to the agricultural economy in general. And at the same time, our production would be significantly more sustainable because far less soya would need to be transported over long distances,” said Mr Nielsen.
Nicolaij Norgaard, the director of the Danish Pig Research Centre added that if farmers could raise the animal units per hectare from 1.4 to 1.7 then this would help to increase the amount of manure they would be allowed to put on the fields.
“We need to increase the protein level of wheat to give better feeds and reduce soybean imports,” he said.