A new tool to increase the sustainable use of nutrients across the EU

As part of the new common agricultural policy (CAP) proposals for 2021-27, a new tool is being developed to help farmers manage the use of nutrients on their farm. The Farm Sustainability Tool for Nutrients (FaST), proposed in the framework of the Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs), aims to facilitate a sustainable use of fertilisers for all farmers in the EU while boosting the digitisation of the agricultural sector.

The CAP proposals include high ambitions for environmental and climate action and the digitisation of the agricultural sector. In line with those objectives, the FaST aims to contribute to the increase of competiveness, climate change action, and environmental care.

To be used by farmers and free of charge, the FaST tool will automatically provide information on the parcels selected, including crops, the number of animals on the farm and the amount of manure generated by them. Additional data will also be available for nutrient management such as data on soil, the proximity of protected areas and legal limits on the use of nutrients. Accessible via mobile phones, PCs or tablets as a digital tool, the user can accept or edit the data provided. From this, the tool will propose a nutrient management plan, which gives customised recommendations on crop fertilisation for the farm selected.

Its use will bring environmental benefits, such as reducing nutrient leakage in ground water and rivers, as well as positively contributing to soil quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The tool will also make sense from an agronomic perspective. It will help decrease the use of nutrients, when there is over-fertilisation or increase crop yield, when there is under-fertilisation. In both cases, this will lead to an increase in farmers´ revenues and efficiency.

The simplification of the farmers’ tasks is another main advantage of the FaST. Data entry and input duplication, for example the manual introduction of the same data for different administration bodies, will be significantly reduced. Moreover, due to its wide scale use, the tool can serve as a basis for additional digital services provided by the market or public administrations, further facilitating the digitalisation of the management of the CAP.

The European Commission may contribute to the design of the FaST and provide support with data storage and processing service requirements. The functionalities and services of this common platform will be fully customised in each EU country to ensure that the tool is adapted to the local conditions, takes advantage of the existing knowledge and provides the desired economic and environmental benefits.