On the 3rd and 4th of December the second edition of the ManuREsource conference took place in Ghent. This international conference focuses on all aspects of management and valorisation of manure and therefore, is unique in its kind. Good management of manure on the farm, as well as the vision of local authorities and the European commitment for a more circular economy have been discussed. New technologies for the processing of manure were highlighted and there were punchy discussions on the topic of an “European manure market”. Over 170 participants from 21 different countries were welcomed on the second edition of the ManuREsource conference. Manure remains a very topical issue!
Prior to the conference, a guided visit was organised to the company Fertikal, located in the port of Antwerp. Fertikal is manufacturer and seller of organic and organo-mineral NPK fertilizers worldwide. The international participants were impressed by the organized and large-scale approach of the export of nutrient excesses from Flanders.
Also, a demonstration was given by the sponsor D-Tec, who has developed a Near Infra-Red (NIR) sensor to register in real time the composition of manure in the slurry tank. This mobile system offers farmers/manure processors the possibility to do a real time detection of the nutrient levels in manure, and has great potential for the future.
Sibylle Verplaetse from the Flemish Cabinet of the minister for environment, nature & culture, expressed in her opening speech the necessity for more cooperation concerning manure management. This set the tone for the debat with policy makers from Germany, UK, Netherlands, Finland, Wallonia and Flanders. Member states with local nutrient excesses have become the rule rather than the exception in Europe. Each government has a different approach on the manure problem, despite the overall EU policy.
Francesco Presicce of the European Commission emphasized the opportunities of the revision of the European Fertilizer regulation (EU 2003/2003) for a more circular approach of the nutrient problem. A revision could enable a harmonised European market for organic fertilizers such as processed manure and digestates. From the public and the panel some critical questions raised involving the definition of “chemical fertilizer” and “animal manure” in the Nitrates Directive, which conflicts with the recovery of manure-nutrients for use as mineral fertilizer.
Mr. Presicce emphasized that products from manure with similar characteristics as mineral fertilizers can be acknowledged as a mineral fertilizer by the Nitrates Comité.
During the panel debate different regional differences were exposed. Finland is at the start of a manure legislation, and wants to include local authorities in a relocalisation of the livestock and agriculture, to avoid local concentrations of manure production.
Wallonia was kind of an outsider, because no local manure excesses occur. The Walloon government strongly believes in the recycling concept on level of the farm, and wants to avoid external inputs where possible. If the European regulation would foresee a harmonised manure market, Wallonia is prepared to revise the ‘waste’ statute of manure under certain conditions.
Flanders, and increasingly the Netherlands, are front runners when it comes to the collection of data of fertilizer usage and manure composition, but also for the follow-up and tracing of transports. These two European member states have the highest control on the implementation of the manure policy. The German region Niedersachsen has shown a great deal of interest, and hopes to start as soon as possible with their data collection.
All panel members fully agreed the numerous international manure transports make data exchange indispensable.
When striving for a circular economy in Europe, a level playing field for fertilizers derived from animal manure and fertilizers from the chemical industry is indispensable. The characteristics and the composition of the fertilizer determines its position on the market. There is a twofold task for researchers on one hand and policy makers on the other hand: offer adequate evidence that the characteristics of the manure-based fertilizer approaches the characteristics of a mineral fertilizer, and provide sufficient flexibility in the legislation to determine the status of the fertilizer on the base of the availability of the plant and composition.
What followed was an extensive overview in several parallel sessions of international research on fertilization, energy production, technological innovations, nutrient recovery, environmental impact, quality of the manure products, etc.
Not all countries are confronted with a high nutrient pressure, in some regions the nutrient balance is in equilibrium or there is even a lack of nutrients resulting in an impoverishment of the soil. This time, the program provided a platform for a presentation of the Swedish and Polish agricultural situation.
Again the conference was an excellent opportunity to exchange experiences cross-border and to meet inspiring people. The recent revision of the ‘Circular Economy Package’, including the revision of the Fertilizer regulation, is a promising evolution for facilitating the marketing of organic fertilizers and bio-nutrients. Still, a lot of work needs to be done to create a level playing field for fertilizers. In the years to come, the task for researchers as well as policy makers is very clear: there’s a need for a sound scientific basis about the characteristics of fertilizers, generated from animal manure, as well as a revision of the European legislation concerning the determination of the status of the fertilizer.
The organisation is already looking forward to the third edition, which will take place in December 2017. The location is not yet known, but a transfer of the conference abroad is not excluded!