Agriculture in 3D – minerals, livestock and farmland – part II

It’s been a long time since part I of this post! Partially, because of other obligations but also because of an issue with our 3D-graphs not being accessible. Now they are available again and it’s time for the second part of the post on the issue of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in European agriculture.

manure spread over farmland

photo by Hans on Pixabay

For decades agriculture became more intensive in several European countries and as a result the amount of manure went up. Manure is a fertiliser, but when the amount of minerals exceeds the need of the farmland, it will be more of a poison. As more and more manure was deposited on the farmland, all kinds of side-effects came up as a result of this dumping. To understand the negative impact of the surplus this article can offer some insight.

Currently we have a climate crisis, but in the past we have dealt with acid rain and the ozone depletion. Acid rain was and is actually connected to the Nitrogen issue.

Dying forest

photo by alegria2014 on Pixabay

In the end it all comes down to the area of farmland related to the number of livestock held in this area. We don’t want to limit the number of animals – on the contrary with e.g. “megastables” coming up – but at the same time the surface of a country won’t increase (apart from legal tricks perhaps). How to get rid of the dung, holding these minerals? The easiest way is to dump it on the farmland, but this is not a sustainable solution. A long time ago, the EU came up with laws to reduce the surplus and here we are! To see whether these laws are successful, we put a couple of values in a table and generated a 3D-graph with the help of the AnRep3D generator. The data were mainly obtained from Eurostat.

The N- and P surplus-values were converted to gram per square meter of surplus (g/km2). The surface of farmland is in km2. LiveStock Units (LSU) are a way to translate different kinds of animals (geese, sheep, cattle, horses of even mooses) to a uniform value which can be used in calculations. Here we use thousands of them (kLSU = kilo-Livestock Units)

Lady with horsesPhoto by langll on Pixabay

The 3D-graph (showing the N and P surplus in relationship to the area of agricultural land and the number of LiveStock Units) is available. Below we present a couple of screenshots from different angles. Double-click a screenshot to see the live 3D-graph in your browser. Below the screenshots is an explanation of how to manipulate the 3D-graph. (Be aware: WebGL and Javascript have to be enabled, but that’s the common default setting).

3D-graph agriculture from different angles

Double-click the screenshot to see the live 3D-graph in your browser. For manipulation: Clicking the right mouse-button, moving the mouse up and down will zoom the graph in and out. Clicking left and moving the mouse will tilt the graph in different directions (or move the observer’s viewpoint around a fixed graph – it’s relative of course). Double clicking in the graph translates it and moves the centre at the same time. As a result the way the graph tilts will change. Just try it. If you don’t know how to get the normal position back, just refresh the graph.

What do we learn from the 3D-graph behind the screenshots? We can see that larger countries seem to have a smaller surplus than the smaller ones. (As the order is from large surface to small from left to right, it’s easy to recognise.) One of the reasons is that they also have a lower Livestock to Area ratio (kLSU/km2) However, it’s not a linear relationship. E.g. the UK has an issue with high suplus-value, despite the large surface of agricultural land. Spain, with a higher number of (k)LSU and a comparable surface has a lower surplus. Greece, have about the same surface for agriculture as Ireland, has a larger surplus despite the much lower LSU-count. For Spain the surplus went up from 2013 (front) to 2014 and 2015 (mid and rear), but Poland managed to reduce the surplus in 2014, but it went up again in 2015. If we can concentrate on the kLSU/km2 ratio (the shape of the “buildings” as seen from the top), we can see Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium have a high ratio and their surplus is (very) high as well. Countries like Sweden and Austria have lower ratios (lower kLSU, larger area) and their surplus-values are much lower indeed. Yet, manure is not the only cause of the surplus and sources outside of agriculture are attributing as well.

GeesePhoto by Skitterphoto on Pixabay

Finally the green part is interesting. The surplus-value for Nitrogen (mainly ammonia and nitrate) is represented bu the yellow part of the building. The green part represents the P part (almost solely phosphate). Phosphate can endanger water quality by causing algae bloom. We can clearly see that Spain has a higher P-surplus than France with the N-ratio being the opposite. The same applies to Denmark in comparison with the Netherlands. Of course the surplus is also related to the amount of mineral needed in the soil. With a low level of certain minerals, the surplus could be lower – but not necessarily for both N and P. Then, the composition of the manure (coming from different types of animals, that is) can also cause differences between the surplus-values for N and P.

Well, that’s it for now. Next time we will revisit Energy once more, before turning back to Finance. Hopefully it is understood that AnRep3D has a lot of potential in different areas! For more information about the generator of 3D-graphs, please have a look at our website. There a  free 3D-graph package (zip) can be downloaded, unpacked in a folder and the .jar file can be used immediately. For a better understanding of the generator we have a couple of short movies at our youtube-channel. Our email-address is and you can follow us on Twitter: @AnRep3D

About AnRep3D

AnRep3D is the new company, founded after the handover of Scientassist (together with VRBI) to one of my sons. From now I will focus on three-dimensional graphs for the financial markets, showing the main figures from annual reports in comparison. As per 2021 a second product is available: EnRep3D. It is meant to visualise energy. Although the engine is the same, the texts, manual, website and examples (including blogposts) are focused at energy.
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