null Climate roadmap for Finnish agriculture identifies agricultural land use as a key factor for resource efficiency – seventy-five per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from Finnish agriculture come from soil

Uutinen – Ei tuotantosuuntaa

Climate roadmap for Finnish agriculture identifies agricultural land use as a key factor for resource efficiency – seventy-five per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from Finnish agriculture come from soil

22.7.2020

The report of the climate roadmap for agriculture, which was published on July 15 in Helsinki, estimates that it is possible to cut the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 29 per cent by 2035 and by 38 per cent by 2050 from the present levels, with the current calculations and without a reduction in production, if the emissions of peatlands are reduced, the efficiency of carbon sequestration in mineral land is intensified, and biogas production and the use of solar energy on farms are increased. As scientific knowledge grows, emissions could even be reduced by up to 42 per cent by 2035 and by 77 per cent by 2050 by developing carbon sequestration in mineral land and by increasing the efficiency of peatland measures as a result of the development of yield and the cultivation technology. However, significant measures and more scientific research are required of society in support of climate-smart agriculture. Climate action should also focus on cultivation and farmers in an equal and fair way. If agricultural production is continued with more or less the current practices, the greenhouse gas emissions from our agriculture would be reduced by about 5 per cent by 2035 and by 6 per cent by 2050 from the current levels.

Support for Finland’s target of carbon neutrality


The climate roadmap for agriculture is part of the assignment of climate roadmaps by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland to draw up low-carbon roadmaps that describe a low-emission trend in support of Finland’s climate targets until 2050. The objective is to create a situational picture of sectoral emission trends over the next decades. The climate roadmap for agriculture was drawn up by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) by commission of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners MTK and SLC, the Central Union of Swedish-speaking Agricultural Producers in Finland.

According to the report, greenhouse gas neutrality is almost an impossible target for Finnish agriculture with the current emission factors and method of calculation for carbon sequestration. Despite this, efforts must be made to reduce emissions in agriculture to the extent that is possible without undermining food security, and that is also reasonable for agricultural producers and in compliance with sustainable development while also identifying one’s own strengths.

Agriculture and land use correspond to about 24 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the world and in Finland, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. In Finland, 75 per cent of agricultural emissions come from the soil. In addition to forestry, agriculture is the only sector that also sequesters carbon dioxide. Therefore, the solutions to the mitigation of climate change presented in the climate roadmap focus on cultivation practices and changes in agricultural land use. With the measures proposed in the roadmap, the crop yields and profitability of agriculture are improved and domestic food production is strengthened. At the same time, fields are freed up for measures that promote biodiversity.

The climate roadmap for agriculture is based on the underlying assumption that the overall demand for food and agricultural products that are produced in Finland will not essentially change by 2035. However, domestic consumption of red meat, i.e. beef and pork, is estimated to fall by about 20 per cent and that of poultry meat to increase by 20 per cent. It is estimated that total demand for milk as liquid milk products and various processed products will fall by about 10‒15 per cent by 2035. The demand for domestically produced pulses as feed and foodstuffs is estimated to increase, as is the case with oats.


Voluntary farm-specific decisions are important due to variable conditions
 

In Finland, about 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from peatlands, which account for 11 per cent of our arable land under cultivation. Emissions can be reduced in both productive and non-productive peatlands with a number of measures, such as reduced cultivation of annual plants, controlled drainage, restoration, and paludiculture to maintain a high water level. However, according to the roadmap, the main tasks should focus on the reduction of cultivation of non-productive peatlands.

“Climate issues are solved where their impact is the highest. However, conditions vary according to the regions and farms in question. It is not sensible or desirable to end all cultivation in peatlands. Climate action in agriculture must be based on farm-specific assessment and it must be socially equitable,” says Liisa Pietola, Head of Environmental Affairs at MTK.

With appropriate crop rotation and tillage methods, the carbon stores of soil can be increased in mineral land. This will allow for more time for the introduction of low-carbon technology solutions. The objective is that, as a whole, carbon sequestration of mineral land would clearly improve and mineral lands would change from a source of greenhouse gas emissions into their sinks by 2035.

The efficiency of carbon sequestration can be improved further, e.g. by increasing the area planted with peas and broad beans and the area of grassland containing clover. As a result, the need for additional protein needed by livestock production would also be reduced. An increase in crop levels with the improvement of soil growth conditions and leaving parcels with a poorer production capacity out of active cultivation will free up arable land from crop production and grassland for other plants.

“There is a variation in soil in different parts of Finland, and we still don’t know enough about the carbon sequestration properties of different soil types. Further research is needed in order to bridge this information cap. The objective is to improve the efficiency of agriculture in a sustainable way so that input use is specified, yield responses to fertilisation are improved, and the profitability of agriculture is also boosted,” says Research Professor Heikki Lehtonen of the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

The agricultural sector has a great opportunity to utilise manure and grass as a biogas energy form and to also help other sectors by producing biogas for the use of the transport sector. Biogas production from manure and grass improves the nutrient cycle.  It would be possible to meet about 8 per cent of the electricity consumption of farms with solar power generated by the farms themselves by 2035 and about 14 per cent by 2050. Biogas and solar energy are promoted with new guidance and incentives in relation to the ability to utilise the produced energy and also to the nutrient cycle in cooperation with various operators.

Further information:
Liisa Pietola, Head of Environmental Affairs, MTK, +358 50 438 4014
Juha Marttila, Chairman, +358 50 341 3167
Jukka Rantala, Expert, MTK, +358 40 715 8710
Heikki Lehtonen, Research Professor, Luke, +358 40 734 7533

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aiheet: mtk, agriculture, finland, climate roadmap