Ammonia emissions from intensive rearing of pigs continue to be at high levels

Extensive emissions of Ammonia into the air remain a well-known problem for years. This has resulted in oversupply with nutrients, processes of acid deposition and the loss of biological diversity in ecosystems. The largest part of ammonia emissions in Germany is generated in the agricultural sector (95%), with 52% stemming from cattle farming and 20% from intensive rearing of pigs.

Between 1990 and 2012, ammonia emissions from the agricultural sector were reduced by about 22%. The main reason for this was the reduced number of animals as a result of reduced overall animal breeding practice in Germany after reunification. However, an opposing trend has been noticed about the intensive rearing of pigs. The number of pigs rose from 26.8 Mio to 28.3 Mio in the period from 2009 to 2012 (Source: Federal Statistical Office of Germany, Wiesbaden 2014, General Collection of livestock data, as of 15.08.2014). Germany has been producing considerably above inland demand and therefore developed towards a pork exporting country.

The analysis of recent data of the German PRTR (Pollutant Release and Transfer Register) confirmed the trend in ammonia emissions from intensive rearing of pigs as well as from installations, which are subject to international commitments on control of air pollution (see figure 1). The Register contains all German installations of intensive rearing of pigs with more than 2.000 places for production of pigs (over 30 kg) or with more than 750 places for sows and a threshold value above 10 tonnes of Ammonia per year. These installations have to inform the competent authority in case the threshold value was exceeded. The exceedance values will then be published in the Germany PRTR portal

figure 1: Ammonia emissions from intensive rearing of pigs in German PRTR (2007-2012)

Data show an increase in ammonia emissions from 5.140 tonnes to 8.302 tonnes in the period from 2007 to 2012. With this, the number of installations exceeding the threshold rose from 268 to 403.

Lower-Saxony is the federal state with the largest number of installations of intensive rearing of pigs (87), followed by Saxony-Anhalt (65), Mecklenburg-Pomerania, (52), North Rhine-Westphalia (50), Saxony (50), Thuringia (48) and Brandenburg (44). Due to the small scaled agricultural structure in southern Germany, only a few installations have to report their emissions to the PRTR.

With the introduction of the Technical instruction for air quality control (TA-Luft), the German Government is planning to obligate the application of techniques to reduce air pollution from installations of intensive rearing of pigs (with more than 2.000 places). Special techniques, such as combined high-pressure washers, acid washers and slurry filter systems, do not only help to reduce ammonia emissions (more than 70%) but also odours and dust. Because of uncertainties in meeting the annual emissions limit value of 550.000 tonnes fixed by the NEC Directive (National Emissions Ceilings), Germany is obliged to introduce additional measures for ammonia emissions reduction. The EU has started treaty violation proceedings against Germany. The first part of the procedure involves verifying the state of play of detailed information to be delivered to the EU. The EU has proposed ambitious reduction targets for ammonia emissions and other pollutants to be achieved by 2020. These targets would require member states to introduce effective reduction measures. The negotiations are under way.


Abb. 2: Ammonia emissions from intensive rearing of pigs in Germany in 2012

Concerning ammonia emissions reduction, please also read the current press release of the Federal Environment Agency.


September 2014