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The gross nutrient balances (N and P) are calculated as the difference between the total quantity of nutrient inputs entering an agricultural system (mainly fertilizers, livestock manure), and the quantity of nutrient outputs leaving the system (mainly uptake of nutrients by crops and grassland). Gross nutrient balances are expressed in tonnes of nutrient surplus (when positive) or deficit (when negative). This calculation can be used as a proxy to reveal the status of environmental pressures, such as declining soil fertility in the case of a nutrient deficit, or for a nutrient surplus the risk of polluting soil, water and air. The nutrient balance indicator is also expressed in terms of kilogrammes of nutrient surplus per hectare of agricultural land to facilitate the comparison of the relative intensity of nutrients in agricultural systems between countries.
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