Transformation for sustainable nutrient supply and management (trans4num)


Today’s agriculture is highly dependent on external nutrient inputs, and in particular mineral fertilisers supplying nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium, and other elements, which are indispensable components of many intensive farming systems. However, overuse of nutrients in these intensive systems come with risks such as increasing environmental challenges caused by nitrate leaching into the surface and groundwater, ammonia volatilization resulting in air pollution, acidification effects on semi-natural ecosystems.

Nature-based solutions (NBS), such as bio-based fertilisers, enhanced agricultural practices and technologies etc., come with immense potential to positively change intensive agricultural land use in Europe and beyond: to move towards net-zero environmental impacts while achieving food and water security and meet climate goals, however, the application of NBS is still limited.

The overarching ambition of current project (trans4num) is to substantiate and broadly promote the NBS approach for sustainable agricultural practices in Europe and China with a particular focus on nutrient management (bio-based nutrient sources, sustainable crop rotations, integrated management practices).

trans4num will contribute to the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy with their ambition to reduce nutrient losses to the environment from both organic and mineral fertilizers by at least 50% by 2030, while ensuring no deterioration in soil fertility, as well as China’s ambition towards reaching its climate actions, particularly having CO2 emission peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, and to the ambitions of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at COP 15.

To do so, trans4num will develop and implement a social-ecological transformation (SET) approach tailored for the inter- and transdisciplinary research on NBS for a more sustainable nutrient management in regions with intensive farming systems. In particular, trans4num will:


  • Develop a disaggregated understanding of NBS potentials for achieving sustainable agricultural practices;
  • Understand and analyse the complex interdependencies of applying NBS;
  • Develop a dynamic, smart nutrient management tool to support decision making for optimal nutrient supply;
  • Assess the (net) impact of technological and social innovations as well as policies related to NBS.


Read about the project and its results at the project homepage