MLS 1.5: Crops

Integrated P management in Beilangzhong crop production (Version 1*, April 22, 2013)

The well-balanced input of phosphorus plays a key role for crop growth since it is the indispensable and important component of organism. An excessive phosphorus supply could cause severe environmental problems, such as eutrophication. According to the fact that China with about 20% of the world population uses 40% of the world fertlizers, we may suspect that there is also an overuse of phosphorus in Chinese crop production. The improvement of phosphorus management in the agricultural production system is therefore urgently needed. For better practical understanding, the Mutual-Learning Session on Crops production will get granular on the phosphorus use in the suburb of Beijing. As a case examination, the crops production in Beilangzhong will be visited during this Mutual-Learning Session with an intense discussion about key challenges afterwards. We will look at mineral and organic fertilizer use on smallholder and large-scale farming.

The organizers of the Global TraPs World Conference in Beijing would like to invite key fertilizer producing companies, farmers and interested scientists to join the Mutual Learning Session on crops production. The objective of the session is to provide a protected room for discussion, further thoughts and new ideas about the integrated phosphorus management for crops production by taking a deeper look into the case example of smallholder farming in Beilangzhong. The MLS also provides the opportunity to talk to key agents, which are Chinese farmers. We will explore by what means the current practice of fertilization may be improved and whether transdisciplinary processes or the Backyard model approach is seen as a valuable strategy.

The key questions that will be addressed are: "What means are available to avoid P losses and to increase its use efficiency? What innovations in P fertilizers are needed? How can smallholder farmers obtain reliable access to learn how to use phosphorus effectively? What policies are needed?"      


* This is the first version of the description of what will be dealt with in the MLS 1.5 Crops and provides only a rough description of what will be discussed. A group of practitioners and scientists are currently revising this abstract and composing a booklet which will prepare all participants for the MLS on June 18. Please contact Clemens Olbrich <>, member of the TD Support team or Anh Pallas, Science manager of Global TraPs if you want to join<>.

Summary report of MLS 1.1 Manure and MLS 1.5 Crops of the 1st Global TraPs World Conference, Beijing 2013 (written 8/2013; released 3/2014)

Preliminary note: The following text comprises the orientations discussed and identified in the Mutual Learning 1.1)  Moritz Engbers (PhD student Leuohana University, Germany) and Clemens Olbrich (MSc student, University of Oldenburg, Germany), facilitated this Dialogue Session of the 1st Global TraPs World Conference, July 18-20, 2013 and are responsible author of this summary. Seventeen people, 13 scienctists  and 4 practitioners collaborated in this joint session . For further questions, please contact Prof. Ulli Vilsmaier, Leuphana University, Lüneburg ( or Prof. Roland W. Scholz, Fraunhofer  IGB (


Focus of the MLS 1.1 was to identify and discuss options to improve manure management from a sustainable phosphorus management perspective. It was partially merged with MLS 1.5 that focused on cropland management in vicinity of peri-urban industrial-scale animal husbandry operations. Therefore, both MLS 1.1 and 1.5 were jointly held at a Pilot Pig Farm in the Shunyi District of Beijing on June 18, 2013. The visit gave the opportunity to gain practical insights into a large-scale Chinese pig breeding and fattening farm with its biogas plant and composting facility. The different farm sectors, including adjacent small-scale cropland (“Ecological Feeding Gardens”), orchards and greenhouse-vegetables were also visited. Furthermore, there was an exchange of perspectives between the participants and the operators and technicians of the biogas and composting plants, as well as local farmers on manure management. The two MLS then split up for group discussions in the afternoon.

Mineral phosphorus is a limited resource.  Currently, there is no global systems analysis on phosphorus production and recycling through manure. The estimated amount worldwide is 22 Mt, with a loss of phosphorus in manure by 6-9 Mt due to inefficient use. A stronger integration of economic, environmental and animal production perspectives is therefore required.

Key questions raised during the session were

  1. to identify implementation demands at farm level
  2. to identify future research demands
  3. to increase the availability of manure from farmers (local and regional scale)
  4. to improve commercial manure production, including a better labeling of nutrient contents in the marketable organic fertilizers
  5. to diversify the manure products in order to better adapt to crop-specific market demand
  6. to increase the acceptance of farmers to use manure as a fertilizer
  7. to prevent over-fertilization with mineral and organic nutrients
  8. to improve the geographical distribution of manure, including to outlying regions with lower soil organic matter and plant available nutrient contents
  9. to identify policy orientations for manure management
  10. to discuss a follow-up process for the case.

Important steps to optimize the phosphorus management on the pilot farm and comparable settings would be to increase soil testing and to find cheaper ways to analyze the nutrient content of manure. Therefore, the participation of local farmers and extension services is important. Further trainings and demonstration work (e.g. in cooperation with universities) would enable farmers to do their own soil testing and improve their knowledge on the amount of nutrients in manure. That would lead to a more efficient application of organic and mineral fertilizers. Furthermore, subsidies for conventional mineral fertilizers should be reduced and policies established to control the rate of nutrient applications.

Policy orientations

There is an increasing need for manure management and also new potential because of increasing numbers of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in China. This calls for a re-coupling of animal and plant production on an altered scale, for technology development, for spatial planning and even nutrient balances including utilizing the organic matter. Critical points which ask for research, development, and implementation are:

  • Reuse of water that avoids water scarcity and environmental pollution
  • Development of composting and other treatment technologies
  • Pelletizing (pelletization)
  • Meaningful biogas and other energy production
  • System view, including feed and resulting manure optimization
  • Proper health protection, production, hygienization, and use
  • Proper government policy processes for transition (spatial planning, subsidies, recycling)