Main authors: R.K. Laursen, F. Bondgaard, P. Schipper, K. Verloop, L. Tendler, R. Cassidy, L. Farrow, D. Doody, F. A. Nicholson, J. R. Williams, I. Wright, J. Rowbottom, I. A. Leitão, A. Ferreira, B. Hasler, M. Glavan, A. Jamsek, N. Surdyk, J. van Vliet, P. Leendertse, M. Hoogendoorn and L. Jackson-Blake.
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »R.K. Laursen et al. (2019) Evaluation of Decision Supports Tools. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 5.2 216 pp


A comprehensive review and survey of Decision Support Tools (DSTs) currently in use in the FAIRWAY case studies is described in »Survey and review of existing decision support tools. Of the 36 DSTs  identified as most relevant, 12 were selected for further investigation to see if a tool developed in a particular national context could be used or provide inspiration elsewhere (»Evaluation of decision support tools). Here we describe the tool evaluated for potential use in the Dravsko Polje case study.

Contents table
1. Selection of DST to evaluate in Dravsko Polje case study 
[Note: Because of the resolution of the images, it is difficult to see the detail in some of the figures and tables. See the »full report for more legible originals.] 

1. Selection of DST to evaluate in Dravsko Polje case study

The Annual Nutrient Cycling Assessment (ANCA) Tool was developed in The Netherlands ( The ANCA (Dutch: KringloopWijzer) is a farm specific tool for assessment of soil surplus of N, P and C within dairy farms (cycling from feeds, to herd, to storage, to soil, to crops and back to herd) and emissions by losses from this imperfect cycle. The N surplus based on the soil balance can be used as indicator for both losses to surface water and groundwater. Currently ANCA is a widely used tool to provide farm-specific environmental performance figures. Since all output is produced using traceable and reliable input data, ANCA may also be used for licensing, or evidencing environmental performance. The model outcomes help dairy farmers to demonstrate to the authorities and dairy industry that they have produced their milk in accordance with sustainability standards. Since 2018 almost all Dutch dairy farmers (16,000) are obligated to use this tool (web version) which is freely available for registered farmers. If they comply with the standard values in the tool they are rewarded with 1 EUR per 100 kg of milk.

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Figure 43

In Slovenia the only tool that helps farmers improve their nutrient management is the Načrtovanje gnojenja Tool for developing individual fertilizer plans. The tool is similar to those in use in other EU countries. The tool is intended to assist agricultural advisers and farmers to optimize fertilizer use in all agricultural sectors, most notably in horticulture and field crop agriculture. With its help, we can quickly calculate the recommended quantities for phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen fertilizers, both with organic as well as with easily soluble mineral fertilizers, as well as the need for land lime. We can make annual or multi-year fertilization plans, while at the same time we can plan the correct crop rotation and take into account the amount of organic fertilizers on the farm. However, the tool has limitations in that it is based on standard fertilizer guidance (Smernice za strokovno gnojenje), which is a collection of the main fertilizer application instructions based on literature, experience, plant development observations, and chemical analyses of soil and plant parts and not on long-term field trials in Slovenia. The guidelines are in line with the regulations and requirements for the quality of crops and the preservation of a clean environment, and aim to set a broader framework that is not based solely on political decisions or fashion trends, but on rational expert findings. One of the limitations is that the results of soil analysis and fertiliser plans are not stored centrally and spatially represented but a rather stored individually on farms in a print version.

Hence, DSTs for better assessment of nutrient cycles at farm level and soil quality and fertility are needed in Slovenia.


2.1 Assessment

Similar tools are not in use in Slovenia. The testing included 5 farmers from water protection areas in the Dravsko polje area (Figure 44) (»Dravsko Polje, SI case study).

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Figure 44
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Figure 45

The objectives of testing the ANCA tool were to help farmers to:

  • meet demands of society,
  • overview their farm and to focus on weak spots and improvements in nutrient management.

By testing and later adapting the tool, we would like to encourage farmers in the Dravsko polje area to more closely monitor their farming practices and thus the effect of their management practices on the ground water. In the case that the tool turns out to be appropriate, we will propose that a modified version of this or similar tools should be used at national level (all water protection areas with N concentration problems).

Use of this tool has multiple effects on stakeholders:

  1. Environmental agency: New management practices of farming impact on the water protection area and water quality improvements;
  2. Farm advisors: Advisors can easily convince farmers to implement new technology in practice;
  3. Farmers: Overview of their farm management and focus on weak spots, as well as for demonstration of sustainability standards to the authorities and to the general public.

2.2 Testing

We included in the testing 5 dairy farms of different sizes (Table 45).

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Figure 45
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Figure 46


  • Slurry is surface-applied, which results in high ammonia emissions (In the Netherlands it is not allowed to broadcast slurry).
  • Poor N used efficiency of slurry applied to the crop – From the draft results an obvious measure (increase N use efficiency), that would include practice of increasing the number of slurry applications with decreased volume quantities rates, could be proposed.
  • Due to the low milk production per cow on the farms, the emission of greenhouse gases was relatively high – need to increase milk production per cow, to increase the efficiency of production in general.

An example of the results from ANCA is presented in Figure 46. Advantages and disadvantages regarding ANCA are summarized in Table 46.

Table 46. Advantages and disadvantages of ANCA seen in a Slovenian context.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Farmers would benefit from analysis of feed and manure. It would help them to better manage nutrients and to be environmentally and economically efficient.
  • Majority of the data are not available and had to be estimated.
  • Few farms have home produced feed/fodder (silage), slurry, manure analyses (farmers understand feed analyses as a cost and not as a contribution to the business).
  • Few farms weighed harvested yields of grass or crops.
  • Farmers expressed worries that the introduction of ANCA in Slovenia would be taken as an additional administrative obstacle (unless financial incentives were in place as € / l of milk).
  • Less time to do the job they are primarily trained for (agriculture production).
Government (*Readers should be aware that ANCA is not an instrument used in by the government in the Netherlands. There is a lot of discussion about the quality of the data and control. The milk companies (Friesland Campina) force farmers to use ANCA)
  • Better quantification and localization of the problems in production management
  • Reliable spatially represented data stored centrally gives better overview of sustainability of the agriculture
  • Enables possibility to report on efficient use of money from EU CAP founds in regard to Nitrate directive, WFD
  • *With specific of Slovenian agriculture where farmers are not very loyal to milk companies we see this system to operate with optimal trust only as state/governmental system.
  • Obvious spatial difference between farms (NL-larger, more oriented in one branch; SI-smaller heterogeneous branch structure).
  • In Slovenia are farms heterogeneous (milk and meat production on the same farm – 69% of farms).
  • As farmers often claim that they already know where the problem is on their farms there is a doubt why are this type of tool is needed.
  • Problems and constrains with resources (time, money, personal) for supporting this type of tool.
  • The programme is nicely structured and divided in to separate pages covering different modules (crop, manure, soil, and herd).
  • The results are with use of BIN* value (average value to reach) and traffic light colour system easy to understand (*Dutch Farm Accountancy Data Network (Dutch: Bedrijven-Informatienet, BIN)
  • There is no possibility of modification: we have two grass cuts before maize is planted
  • BIN values and standards are set for NL farms
  • Problem is in relationship between corn silage against grass silage which is in Netherlands 1:2, and in Slovenia is 2:1
  • Help (warnings) is in Dutch .
  • The programme would benefit from incorporating farm land parcel units and spatial representation.
  • Programme is for less friendly for less educated farmers less – so we cannot imagine that farmers will use it by themselves (we have previous experience with the program FADN) – the farmers would need assistance from the agricultural extension service.

Each of the farmers was visited by the agricultural extension service and interviewed on all required data. Where data was not available (slurry, feed analysis) standard values from literature were used for calculation. For the quantities of the fodder they measured all storage capacities on the farm.

Results of testing DST were part of workshop on 14th March 2019, prepared by extension service (KGZ Maribor) to commemorate world water day (22nd March 2019) (talk with farmers, change experience). The practical experiences with the tool were presented at special seminar on 4th March 2019, to representatives of the Ministry responsible for agriculture, Agency for agricultural markets and rural development and Chamber of agriculture. The MSc Students of agriculture also attended this seminar. Results, experiences of testing and suggestions for improvement were presented at the 3rd meeting of MAP - Water Partnership for Drinking Water on 28th March 2019, to all stakeholder groups (farmers, farm business, water companies, municipalities, ministry).

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Figure 47
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Figure 48
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Figure 49

2.3 Implementation

It is unlikely to expect exact implementation of the tested tool (ANCA) due to the previously mentioned differences in the agricultural systems. In the draft of the new Slovenian proposal of PRP for 2021-2017 they included in cross-compliance text also implementation of Farm Sustainability Tools for Nutrients (FaST) promoted by EC for the next CAP. What will be the practical execution of this proposal is difficult to say. The EU Commission stated that they will prepare generic tools that will include minimal requirements and will be available to all member states. The Commission also support all already implemented tools if they fulfil all the requirements set by the EU Commission.


  • There are many different data bases in Slovenia which are unrelated to each other. Energy and time should be invested in synchronisation of existing databases and also establishment of new ones (soil quality data bases). The problem is also that there are existing databases supported from different IT companies. It might be better to start from the beginning, however this would require time.
  • From the scientific point of view we propose to use a type of the DST similar to ANCA, which are more complex and cover several aspects (fertilizer use, advising, production, emission, analysing ….). Tools should also be able to address heterogeneity in farming practices and soil types. They should be designed as spatial tools.
  • Beside ANCA we also recommend considering Danish DST tools (Dyrkningsvejledninger, Plant Protection Online) which were present to us by Danish partners, as they have governmental scientific and execution support
  • However the complex structures of the tools means more money for implementation and more administrative barriers. It also requires a lot of measured data and experimental farms.
  • Another problem is how to address different topography and climate at the same farm.
  • The question is also how one tool – even the simplest one - can address heterogeneity of topography, geology and climate in one country. Slovenia has Alpine, Pannonia and Mediterranean climate; Karstic, Alluvial, Flysch and Magmatic geology, Mountain and flatland topography.
  • There is a problem with the age and education of the farmers (average age 57 – 4% less than 35, 70% of farmers doesn’t have any agricultural education). An average farmer has only primary school education, so it is almost impossible to expect farmers to work with computers in the short term. However this could be overcome with the Dutch model were extension service agricultural advisors are using it with data provided by farmers.
  • Farmers and some governmental employees were quite surprised about ANCA and its possibilities - that led to scepticism regarding transferability. Scepticism was related to capabilities of the model to represent heterogeneous soils, cost of soil, manure and feed analysis, capability of government to properly collect and define the average values, additional bureaucracy as well as doubt that farmers are ready for new nutrient management and technological jump. In contrast, some of the governmental employees and agricultural extension service were supportive and acknowledged the need for implementation of this type tool in practice.

As Slovenia doesn’t have tools of this kind (ANCA tool), anything similar would be an improvement to help monitor sustainability of nutrient cycling management and GHG emission reduction on our farms. It would also greatly improve reporting on efficient use of money in the Rural Development Programme, especially reaching requirements of agri-environmental-climate conditions (measures) indicators.



For full references to papers quoted in this article see » References

Download the full report for the Annex and original figures and tables


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