AgroGreen-SUDOE concludes with the launch of free digital tools for crop sustainability

The war in Ukraine has put fertilizers in the spotlight of the general public after increasing their price between 90% and 100% in two years. This increase is one of the factors behind the spectacular rise in the cost of food. However, the use of fertilizers can and should be reduced in favor of the economic and environmental sustainability of the agricultural sector. As quantified by the Secretary General of Agriculture and Food of the Government of Spain, Fernando Miranda, “In our country there is an excess of between 800 and 900 thousand tons of nitrogen fertilization each year.”

This was stated by the general secretary at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia de Lisboa (ISA) during the final day of AgroGreen-SUDOE. This is an international cooperation project that for almost three years has involved nearly thirty entities from Spain, France and Portugal with an ambitious objective: to improve the sustainability of the agricultural sector by optimizing the use of fertilizers and water. A macro effort that Fernando Miranda has praised from the lectern for providing tangible tools to producers and providing solutions to real problems for the whole of society.

After the inauguration by Fernando Miranda and the president of the ISA Management Council, António Guerreiro de Brito, the project coordinator, the CEIGRAM-UPM researcher, Alberto Sanz Cobeña, summarized the work of these years. Sanz has highlighted the difficulty of carrying out the project once the Covid-19 pandemic was unleashed and has provided a reflection on the personal evolution of the team over these years: “It has shown us the need to advance in policies that facilitate the family reconciliation […] Those who have it most difficult in this sense are still women, who still spend more time in the field of care”.

And it is that AgroGreen-SUDOE has been developed with a gender approach, as has been reflected in one of the round tables in which farmers from the three countries have discussed the need for greater representation and participation in decision-making of the women to achieve more sustainable agrarian systems. Representing Spain, the Extremaduran winemaker Catalina García Reyes, president of the rural women’s organization Fademur Extremadura, has pointed out the need for quotas for women “until real equality has arrived at entities that, such as cooperatives, move the environment rural”.

In successive debate tables and presentations, in addition to knowing in depth the context of agriculture and sustainability in southwestern Europe, the positions of farmers, consumers and researchers have also been brought closer.

As Cláudia Marques-dos-Santos, from ISA, has recalled, “The concept of sustainability was born in 1987 and has been forgotten for too long”. Susana Correia, from the DECO consumer association, has indicated the knowledge that already exists today on this issue and even the sensitivity towards sustainable productions: “57% of (Portuguese) consumers tell us that they already pay attention to the labels that reflect more sustainable practices”. This is good news in a country that this month announced the creation of a fair price identification stamp for producers.

However, Javier Alejandre, from UPA, has reflected on this: “The consumer advocates in his language for sustainability, proximity, quality and health when making the purchase, but at the moment of truth he opts for the price”. In the organization’s opinion, the responsibility should not fall on consumers, it is more effective to put a legal stop to abusive practices in the chain.


One of the milestones of AgroGreen-SUDOE has been the creation of the first free nutrient calculator that is now available on the website and that will help Spanish, French and Portuguese farmers to optimize the use of fertilizers in their crops.

David Erice, a technician from the Union of Small Farmers and Ranchers, is one of the ultimate managers of this new tool and has been in charge of presenting it to the public. “Your life begins now”, he has declared, indicating that the calculator will increase the data and possibilities and, therefore, improve its benefits for the several million farmers that operate in the three countries.

The tool presented by UPA helps the farmer to select, depending on his needs, the best types of fertilizers, or combinations of them, in addition to the precise amounts thereof. This has a direct impact on the profitability of the farms since fertilizers account for between 35 and 40% of the total costs in rainfed crops in Spain and between 25 and 30% in irrigated crops.

In addition to economic reasons, reducing the use of this input is crucial to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. This is not a novelty for professionals in the field, who have been trying to improve its use guided by regulations. In fact, those that have dealt with this issue are very recent, such as the nitrate regulations or the latest CAP.

Access the nutrient and fertilizer calculator here


Lastly, the researcher Alberto Sanz returned to the stage to explain, this time, another tool created within the AgroGreen-SUDOE project, the viewer for agro-environmental impacts linked to different agricultural management scenarios in the watersheds of the three countries.

The information in the viewer is exhaustive and low in detail, even at the provincial level. Its managers have used the storytelling technique to facilitate the dissemination of this knowledge and raise awareness among all audiences of the necessary efforts to control fertilizers, as well as water resources. As well as the nutrient and fertilizer calculator, the viewer is also available on the website.