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Data source: Institute for Crop and Soil Science, Julius Kühn Institute

Geographical Area: Germany

This table includes additional information to the above visualized indicators, i.e. a short definition of this indicator and a description of the politically determined target values as well as explaining the political intention behind selecting this indicator.


The indicator represents the annual nitrogen surplus for the agricultural sector, calculated as nitrogen input minus removal of nitrogen, in kilograms per hectare of utilised agricultural area.

Target and intention

Excess nitrogen input into the environment causes pollution of groundwater and surface water, the oversupply of nutrients (eutrophication) in inland waters, lakes and onshore ecosystems, the generation of greenhouse gases and acidifying atmospheric pollutants, each with negative consequences for the climate, biodiversity and landscape quality. For the period 2028 to 2032, a reduction of the nitrogen surpluses of the overall balance for Germany to 70 kilograms per hectare of utilised agricultural area on an annual average should be achieved.

Data status

The data published in the indicator report 2022 is as of 31 October 2022. The data shown on this platform is updated regularly, so that more current data may be available online than published in the indicator report 2022.

Text from the Indicator Report 2022 

The calculation takes into account nitrogen inputs by fertilisers, from biological nitrogen fixation, by atmospheric inputs which are not emitted by agriculture, by seed and planting material as well as imported and domestically produced feedstuff. Nitrogen removal results from plant and animal market products. Nitrogen surplus in its gaseous state can leak to the atmosphere or accumulate in soil or groundwater, enabling nitrogen input to rivers or other ecosystems. Hence, the nitrogen surplus from farming has a direct impact on the development of the indicators 6.1.b “Nitrate in groundwater“, 14.1.a “Nitrogen inputs via the inflows into the North and Baltic Seas“ and 15.2 “Eutrophication of ecosystems“. Nitrogen input from farming into the atmosphere has an impact on indicator 3.2.a “Emissions of air pollutants“ through formation of nitrogen dioxide and ammonia.

The indicator is calculated by the Institute for Crop and Soil Science at the Julius Kühn Institute and the Institute of Landscape Ecology and Resources Management at the University of Gießen. In 2020, fertilisers were the most important component of nitrogen input in the overall balance, accounting for 51.1 % (86 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare). Feedstuff contributed 36.9 % (62 kg/ha), the biological nitrogen fixation 8.2 % (14 kg/ha) and the non-agricultural emissions 1.9 % (3 kg/ha) to nitrogen input.

The relevant time series for the indicator is based on the moving five-year average of the total balances of the relevant year as well as the two preceding and subsequent years. Thereby, yearly meteorological and market fluctuations, which cannot be influenced by farms, are balanced. The indicator does not provide an interpretation regarding the regional distribution of nitrogen surpluses.

During the period from 1992 to 2018, the moving five-year average of nitrogen balance decreased by 25.4 % (from 116.6 to 87.0 kg per hectare and year). The decline of nitrogen surplus until 2010 resulted from diminished use of fertilisers and diminishing numbers of livestock in the new Länder.

Until 2015, nitrogen surplus stagnated. The marginal decline of the indicator in the remaining course of the time series is based on a minor reduction in mineral fertiliser use and improved harvest yields resulting from technical advances in plant production and breeding (more efficient nitrogen fertilisation, variety spectrum) combined with the simultaneous expansion in the cultivation of high-yield crop types (maize, wheat) as well as improved feed conversion by livestock.

Since 2015, the nitrogen surplus decreased and the recent reduction was 4.9 % in 2018. It is uncertain, to what extent extreme agroclimatic conditions (drought from 2018 until 2020) and the amended fertiliser regulation released in 2017 contributed to this positive trend. A reduction to 70 kg/ha is only possible, if this trend continues in the next years.

The synoptic table provides information about the evaluation of the indicator in previous years. It shows if the weather symbol assigned to an indicator was rather stable or volatile in the past years. (Evaluation of the Indicator Report 2022 )


2.1.a Nitrogen surplus in agriculture


Reduction of the nitrogen surpluses of the overall balance for Germany to 70 kilo-grams per hectare of utilised agricultural area on an annual average between 2028 and 2032






Evaluation <p>Wolke</p>