Use of plant protection products (PPP) in Slovenia in the past 20 years has decreased almost by half, from 2.031 tons in 1992 to 1.102 tons in 2015. Despite of significant reduction in the use of PPP in Slovenia, their consumption is still larger compared to other EU member states, due to the greater share of permanent crops. Fungicides therefore represent 2/3 of all PPP used in Slovenia, although their consumption has also been considerable reduced in the last years. In 2015, the total use of PPP has been 5.6 kilograms per hectar which is similar to the amounts observed in the last decade.
The consumption of mineral fertilisers in Slovenia was reduced by 28 % in the period 1992-2015. The consumption of nutrients (N, P2O5, K2O) per hectare of utilised agricultural area was also reduced from 135 kg/ha to 103 kg/ha, or by 23%. In the period 1992-2015 we used 62 kg N, 28 kg P2O5, and 34 kg K2O in average per hectare of utilised agricultural area.
The area included in the implementation of agri-environmental measures has been strongly increased after 1999 and in 2014 covered 254.772 ha (gross). The proportion of the area with one or several agri-environmental measures (net area) to the total utilised agricultural area has increased from 0.6 % in 1999 to 39.2 % in 2014. In 2015, new agri-environmental programme started on the gross area of 317.458 ha.
In Slovenia, the level of intensification in agriculture is moderate, focusing mostly on improving labour intensity in agricultural production, i.e. reducing the input of labour per unit of area or product. The number of livestock units (LU) per ha of utilised agricultural area as the most aggregate indicator of production intensity is stable; in the 2000-2013 period, the stocking density like in other EU countries even slightly decreased. Due to economic pressures (market-price relationships) agricultural holdings are forced to reduced costs and increase productivity and farming intensity. The intensity of agricultural production in Slovenia in the period 2000-2013 is moderately increasing. The increase is the result of the continued reduction in the number of agricultural holdings and concentration of agricultural production.
In high nature value areas, agriculture can ensure a suitable level of biodiversity by means of appropriate technological solutions. Extensive management methods facilitate conservation of the diversity of species and habitats and thus they help preserve unique landscapes with a rich cultural and natural heritage. According to the estimates made in Slovenia on the basis of the CORINE data on land use and data on agricultural land use, between 60 % and 80 % of all utilised agricultural areas are located on high nature value farmland areas. These areas represent between 20 % and 30 % of the entire national territory, and to a large degree, their extent depends on the dynamics of agriculture intensification on the one hand, and abandonment and afforestation of agricultural land on the other.
Agricultural land covered 19.6% of nature protection areas of various typer in Slovenia in 2011. In some sort of nature protection area 24.9% of all agricultural land is included. In the past agriculture in Slovenia has contributed to high diversity of species and habitats and created a cultural landscape. Creation of protected areas is only a first step towards the preservation of traditional agricultural habitats, but in fact, these habitats will be preserved only if the farmers will have economic interest to maintain them.
The educational structure of holding managers on family farms in Slovenia is unfavourable, since as many as 83 % of managers have only practical experience in agriculture. Younger holding managers are better educated; 17 % of holding managers younger than 35 years have completed some level of formal education. Generally, the education level is improving quickly – in only a three-year period, the share of formally educated holding managers on family farms increased by more than 10 %.
The amount of training on agri-environmental measures is constantly on the increase. In the 2001-2004 period, the agri-environmental programme was attended by 53,700 participants. Such training promotes environmentally-friendly methods of farming, re-orientation into ecological and integrated crop production and participation in agri-environmental measures.
The response of agricultural holdings to the agricultural policy supporting the spreading of organic farming has been growing every year. The area intended for organic farming has increased in the period 1999-2015 from 2,400 ha to 42,188 ha, or from 0.5 % to 8.8 % of total utilised agricultural area. The structure of agricultural land with organic farming is still strongly dominated by grassland (82 % in 2015), which shows that the transition to this type of production was primarily animal holdings decided for.
In Slovenia, gas oil used as a propellant for agricultural machinery takes up the largest part (49.6 %) of energy use in agriculture, followed by the energy for the production of mineral fertilizers (42,6 %) and electric energy (4.6 %). According to our estimates, Slovenia’s direct energy use in 2000 (energy for the production of mineral fertilizers excluded) totalled 5.9 GJ per hectare of utilised agricultural area, which is very close to the mean total energy use in the EU-15 (6.5 GJ). Slovenia’s use of energy for the production of mineral fertilizers (4.4 GJ/ha) is also at the EU-15 level. Between 1992 and 2004, the consumption of gas oil decreased by 11.7 %.
Types of farming on agricultural holdings have direct impact on various processes of soil degradation. These processes can be reduced by soil coverage with crops and harvest residues. Soil coverage primarily depends on the crop rotation. In Slovenia, the coverage in the period 1992-2008 was rather constant (from 62.7% to 73.1%). However, a gradual upward trend in land cover has been noted. The storage capacity for organic fertilizers is dominated by a combined storage of solid dung and liquid cattle manure, and most farms provide storage of the latter for more than six months. In 2004 and 2005, we noted an increased number of the analyses of soil allowing fertilisation based on soil reserve and the fertilising plan.
In comparison with other EU member countries, Slovenia’s level of specialisation in agriculture is significantly lower. This is evident from the number of specialised agricultural holdings and the area of agricultural land cultivated by these holdings. Relatively intensive specialisation in horticulture and moderate specialisation in arable farming are characteristic of plant production, while in livestock breeding, specialisation is present mostly in breeding herbivorous livestock. In Slovenia, specialised agricultural holdings occupy more than half (55 %) of all agricultural land and realise 62.7% of the total value of the standard gross margin of agricultural production in Slovenia.
In 2013 agriculture contributed 96.8% of total ammonia emissions. From 1990 to 2014 ammonia emissions were reduced by 19.9%. In last few years ammonia emissions in Slovenia are about 20 % below the margin determined by the adopted international commitments (20,000 t annually). Slovenia is also reaching the goal determined by the CLRTAP Protocol on acidification, eutrophication and ground level ozone for 2020(-1 % considering the year 2005).
Greenhouse gas emissions, methane and nitrous oxide, in agriculture were reduced by 15,6% from 1986 until 2014. The reduction is mainly the result of lower volume of cattle, pigs and poultry as well as improved methods of handling livestock manure.
The share of five most dominant varieties for each species of agricultural plants prevails in the majority of them, with the exception of maize, common wheat and potato. The total number of varieties in production for the stated three groups of agricultural plants from 2008 has declined.
In Slovenia, the breeding of indigenous domestic animals is becoming less and less attractive, and as many as ten out of 11 native breeds and one indigenous race of domestic animals are endangered. The share of introduced animal breeds and cross-breeds with alien breeds has been increasing. The pressure of introduced breeds is successfully faced in particular by breeds and races where adaptation to natural conditions is particularly important because of the method of breeding (Jezersko-Solčava sheep, Carniolan bee). Nine out of 16 traditional breeds are also endangered.
Organic matter in soil is an important indicator of the quality of soil. In general, soil in Slovenia is well supplied with organic matter; this is evident from soil map data, which indicate that 86.2% of agricultural land contains more than 2% of organic matter, and 30.9% of land contains more than 4%. The results of laboratory analyses of soil samples taken in 2005 present a similar picture: 88.6% of samples contained more than 2% of organic matter and 37.3% of samples contained more than 4% or organic matter.
This relatively good condition of soil is due to the fact that grassland is the prevailing element in the composition of agricultural land and that arable land and permanent crops are relatively abundantly fertilized with livestock manure. We established that in the areas with intensive land cultivation, the soil has a lower organic matter content than the soil on land that is not ploughed or deep ploughed. The reason for this is the more intensive rate of mineralization of organic matter on such land.
In Slovenia, alluvial aquifers present 60 % of the drinking water sources, and karst-fractured aquifers present 40 %. Due to populated areas and intensive agricultural production, alluvial aquifers are exposed to greater risks of pollution with nitrates. In two out of four alluvial aquifers (Lower Savinjska dolina valley, the Bolska River valley and Prekmursko-Mursko polje), excessive burdening of underground water with nitrates (more than 50 mg/l) was detected in the period between 1993 and 2004, and individual samplings of nitrate contents were also exceeded in the Krško-Brežiško polje aquifer. Three selected karst-fractured aquifers did not indicate excessive burdening with nitrates.
In most aquifers in Slovenia, levels of plant protection products and their degradation products (metabolites) indicate a decreasing trend, which is mainly due to the decreased concentrations of atrazine and its metabolite desethylatrazine. The number of individual active substances and their degradation products exceeding the 0.1 µg/l threshold value for individual active substances is also decreasing. Despite the removal of atrazine from the market in 2002, the highest share of threshold value exceedances at sampling points are established for atrazine and especially its metabolite desethylatrazine. Along with these, the only substance that appears in groundwater more frequently than others is metolachlor, which is one of the most frequently used active substances in Slovenia in the production of maize.
Area of land, prepared for irrigation, have increased from 4,554 ha to 9,695 ha in the period 2000-2008, and their share in total utilised agricultural area from 0.9 % to 1,3 %. The water consumption per hectare of land, prepared for irrigation, which strongly depends on weather conditions in each year, has decreased since 2000.
Gross and net distributable surplus of nitrogen in agriculture, during the period 1992-2015 decreased. Trend analysis shows that the gross distributable surplus nitrogen during this period decreased by 46% and net surplus by 78%. Smaller surplus point to a better management of nitrogen and consequently reduced emissions of nitrogen compounds in the environment. If in the period 1992-2003 output from agricultural land on average took away 52% of the N, in the period from 2004 to 2015, this proportion increased to 66% and in individual years exceeded 70%. In the period 2005-2014, Slovenia recorded the same average gross distributable surplus nitrogen as EU Member States (53 kg N / ha).
Water protection areas represent 17% of the area in Slovenia. Of this 61% is forest, 30% agricultural land, 6% urban land and 3% other surfaces. From agricultural land on the WPA, 49% is grassland, 36% arable land, and permanent crops, agricultural land in afforestation and other agricultural land by 5% each. In the period 2002-2011 have increased the forest areas (1.3%) and urban land (2.3%), and decreased agricultural land (to 1228 ha, or 1.2%). In the structure of agricultural land have increased over this period the surface of permanent grassland (4.3%) and permanent crops (1.9%), and decreased arable land (14.1%) and agricultural land in afforestation (to 31.3%).