Nutrient balance (nitrogen and phosphorus)

The "Nutrient balance (nitrogen and phosphorus)" fact sheet analyses the evolution of the balance of fertilizers nitrogen and phosphorus on the soil surface.


The incorporation of nutrients into soils, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, is essential for the promotion and maintenance of crop development.

Maintaining a healthy balance between the nutrients incorporated into the soil and the nutrients removed by the plants is essential, since, on the one hand, a deficit of nutrients in the soil can cause a fertility problem with the subsequent implications on crop quality, but on the other hand, an excess of nutrients could lead to pollution, not only of soil but also of water and air.

The calculation of the nutrient balance (nitrogen and phosphorus) results from the difference between the incorporation of these nutrients into the soil and their removal by the crops (Nutrient balance = Incorporation - Removal).

This fact sheet concerns mainland Portugal, the Autonomous Regions of Madeira and the Azores and will be updated annually.

Objectives and targets: 
  • Support agricultural and forestry practices that contribute to the improvement of the environment and the conservation of resources (water, soil, air) in articulation with sustainable and competitive agricultural production;
  • Ensure the proper nutrition of crops, correcting possible shortages and avoiding excess nutrients in order to provide high-quality productions while preserving soil, water and air quality;
  • Adopt appropriate fertilization techniques, taking into account the various factors involved in the dynamics of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil, in order to favour its absorption by crops and to reduce its losses in runoff and/or infiltration waters, as well as in air emissions.


Progress analysis:

Apparent consumption of fertilizers, expressed in nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P2O5) and potassium (K2O) macronutrients was 182 thousand tons in 2018, reflecting a decrease of 4.9% compared to 2017.

Over the past 18 years diverging trends have been identified with regard to the balance of nitrogen and phosphorus:

As regards the nitrogen balance, there was an increase of 2.9% between 2000 (154,549 tonnes) and 2018 (158,950 tonnes);

In what concerns the phosphorus balance, similar values were found between 2000 (20,557 tonnes) and 2018 (20,542 tonnes).


Last update: 
Tuesday, 20 August, 2019