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The Agricultural Catchments Programme - ACP, with a remit to evaluate the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) under the EU Nitrates Directive (ND), commenced in 2008. 

The ACP has amassed a unique environmental, agronomic and socio-economic data set unrivalled around the world. The same experiment has been run over the course of the programme in six catchments covering a range of landscape/soil and farming combinations. Thus the combination of data sets - soils, groundwater, surface water, weather, ecology, farm practice, farmer attitudes, topography and economic returns – over 10 successive years and for six widely divergent but agriculturally productive sites renders the ACP archives invaluable in the context of meeting the sustainable food production challenges. 

Current phase - Phase 4 

The experimental design developed and applied in the first three phases of the programme has been continued in Phase 4. It has also been expanded to include greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions. The ACP framework is based on a nutrient transfer continuum conceptual model from sources to impact.

There is an emphasis on high-resolution monitoring, wherever this is possible. This has been applied according to established knowledge on diffuse pollution issues that are related to soil hydrology and weather patterns. Phase 4 has been expanded to include greenhouse gas/ammonia emissions and soil C sequestration. These will be quantified at the farm and catchment scale using a range of monitoring and modelling approaches. The existing soil and farm management practice data will be used to back calculate to the start of the monitoring programme and provide a baseline to compare future emissions.

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