Economic gains from targeted measures related to non-point pollution in agriculture based on detailed nitrate reduction maps

Brian H. Jacobsen, Anne Lausten Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


From 1990 to 2003, Denmark reduced N-leaching from the root zone by 50%. However, more measures are required, and in recent years, the focus has been on how to differentiate measures in order to ensure that they are implemented where the effect on N-loss reductions per ha is the greatest. The purpose of the NiCA project has been to estimate the natural nitrate reduction in the groundwater more precisely than before using a plot size down to 1 ha. This article builds on these findings and presents the possible economic gains for the farmer when using this information to reach a given N-loss level. Targeted measures are especially relevant where the subsurface N-reduction varies significantly within the same farm and national analyses have shown that a cost reduction of around 20-25% using targeted measures is likely. The analyses show an increasing potential with increasing variation in N-reduction in the catchment. In this analysis, the knowledge of spatial variation in N-reduction potential is used to place measures like catch crops or set-a-side at locations with the greatest effect on 10 case farms in the Norsminde Catchment, Denmark. The findings suggest that the gains are from 0 to 32 €/ha and the average farm would gain approximately 14-21 €/ha/year from the targeted measures approach. The analysis indicates that the economic gain is greater than the costs of providing the detailed maps of 5-10 €/ha/year. When N-loss reduction requirements are increased, the economic gains are greater. When combined with new measures like mini-wetlands and early sowing the economic advantage is increased further. The paper also shows that not all farms can use the detailed information on N-reduction and there is not a clear link between spatial variation in N-reduction at the farm level and possible economic gains for all these 10 farms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-275
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2016


  • Cost-effectiveness
  • N-risk mapping
  • Nitrate reduction
  • Non-point pollution
  • Site specific regulation
  • Spatial distribution
  • Targeting

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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