Phosphorus recycling in organic farming

Besichtigung Feldversuch Öko-PBild vergrößern

Alternative phosphorus fertilizers (P-recyclates) to increase the yield of legumes and cereals in organic farming (short name: Öko-P) - A project of the European Innovation Partnership "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability" (EIP-AGRI)

Project information

Phosphorus is becoming an increasingly limiting factor in the production of crops in Organic Agriculture. The core idea of ​​organic farming is to conserve resources through sustainable practices and to strengthen internal nutrient cycles, but with farms becoming more specialized, it is becoming increasingly challenging to keep nutrient cycles closed at a farm level. With the production and sale of goods, nutrients leave the farm and phosphorus deficits arise.

The possibilities to compensate for these deficits in organic farming are limited to organic manure and rock phosphates. The use of the latter is matter of controversial debates as rock phosphates are imported from non-EU countries and often contain considerable amounts of lead, cadmium and uranium, which are carried into the soil with fertilization and is absorbed by plants. In addition, rock phosphate often shows a poor availability of phosphorus to plants and global deposits of rock phosphate are finite.

For several years now, research has been carried out on the recovery of phosphorus in wastewater treatment. The resulting recycling fertilizers can function as a substitute to replace the controversial rock phosphates in organic farming. Some of these products have already been tested for their effectiveness in container tests, but practical field tests under the conditions of organic farming have been rare so far. For the implementation of such P-recycling fertilisers in organic farming, it is important that the phosphorus becomes available to the plants in the course of a crop rotation. This is often not the case for rock phosphate and is therefore a problem for organic farmers.

In this project, five different P-recycling fertilisers from different production pathways are tested in cooperation with organic farmers. The aim is to establish a holistic concept that integrates the innovative recycled P fertilizers in a crop rotation and to evaluate the effectiveness, economy and sustainability of this concept.

The findings aim to offer solutions for challenges in organic farming, especially with regard to space efficiency. Project results are conveyed to practitioners in special workshops and at field days. Since the worldwide exploitable P-reserves are finite and the rock phosphates have to be imported from non-EU countries, price increases will occur for P-fertilizers in the near future. This means that alternative phosphorus fertilizers can also be of interest to conventional farms.

Project goals

  • Manufacturer-independent testing of the effectiveness, safety and economic suitability of recycled P fertilizers under practical conditions of organic farming.
  •  Development of recommendations for the use of recycled P fertilizers.
  •  Support for the approval of recycled P fertilizers in the event of a positive test (fertilizer law, EU eco-regulation).

 Grant recipient

  • Chamber of Agriculture North Rhine-Westphalia

 Members of the operational group

  • Chamber of Agriculture of North Rhine-Westphalia (lead partner), Department of Organic Farming
  • Bingen University of Technology, Chair of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, Prof. Dr. Thomas Appel
  • Rhenish Friedrich Wilhelm University of Bonn, Chair of Agroecology and Organic Agriculture, Dr. Daniel Neuhoff
  • Farm Mühlenhof, Halle
  • Farm Kroll-Fiedler, Warstein-Belecke
  • Farm Weber, Warstein-Suttrop

 Associated partners:

  • Farm Gut Körtlinghausen, Rüthen
  • Farm Höfferhof, Much
  • Farm Haus Holte, Dortmund

Period of funding

01.02.2020 – 31.12.2022

Contact persons at the Chamber of Agriculture North Rhine-Westphalia

Hannah Fischer
Gartenstr. 11
50765 Cologne
Phone: +49 221 5340-487

Tim Wantulla
Gartenstr. 11
50765 Cologne
Phone: +49 221 5340-525


The project is financed from the programme for the promotion of projects within the framework of the European Innovation Partnership "Productivity and Sustainability in Agriculture" (EIP Agrar), which is an integral part of the NRW Rural Area Programme 2014-2020 and is jointly funded by the EU and the state.

Ministerium für Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen
Europäischer Landwirtschaftsfonds für die Entwicklung des ländlichen Raums: Hier investiert Europa in die ländlichen Gebiete

More informationen about EIP Agrar