Takaisin MTK and SLC’s programmes bring important engagement to the soil discussion


MTK and SLC’s programmes bring important engagement to the soil discussion


MTK organized a webinar on the role of farmers and forest owners in achieving the zero-pollution target of the EU, on 4 June 2021. The webinar contributes to the ongoing soil debate by presenting solutions to encourage stakeholders to enable farmers’ active soil management.

Farmers and forest owners have an important role in achieving healthy and pure condition of soils.
Farmers and forest owners have an important role in achieving healthy and pure condition of soils.


MTK arranged an EU Green Week 2021 Partner Event webinar 'Soil guardians – Farmers and forest owners for zero-pollution' on 4 June 2021. The webinar disclosed the role of agricultural producers and forest owners in helping the EU to meet the zero-pollution ambition. The given solutions encourage stakeholders to enable farmers’ active soil management. The goal is to improve soil fertility which includes biological, chemical and physical dimensions. Moreover, the solutions highlight local differences’ point of view in cultivation conditions under varied weather conditions between years.

The webinar contributed to the ongoing soil debate having three comment speakers being Mr. Mirco Barbero, the EU Commission’s Policy Officer of Soil protection and sustainable land use, Ms. Doris Letina, the Vice President of the European council of young farmers and Dr. Tania Runge, a scientist at the Thünen-Institute of Rural Studies. In addition, Mr. Pekka Pesonen, Secretary-General of Copa-Cogeca, gave the concluding remarks of the webinar.


Soil functions and on-farm solutions maintain soil productivity


Dr. Liisa Pietola, the Head of Environmental Affairs of MTK, gave an overview of MTK ja SLC’s water and soil programmes, which bring together measures that agricultural and forestry actors see as essential steps to ensure soil productivity and health, towards zero-pollution. Both programmes base on measures that are solutions to enhanced soil productivity. Programmes guide the reader through the soil functions and give suitable on-farm solutions to maintain it sustainably.

Dr. Pietola underlines the Finnish landowners’ high interest in taking care of the soil. Protection of soil is protection of soil functions and structure. The goal is productive and healthy soil to limit emissions and protect waters by effective nutrient and carbon dioxide removals of vigorous plant growth.

Moreover, Dr. Pietola highlights the different pedo-climatical and cultivation conditions between the member states, regions and farms. Thus, instead of legally binding soil legislation in the context of agricultural policy, voluntary-based measures and flexibility should be considered. Farmers can try to protect soil structure and soil behavior to adapt to unpredictable weather events, but only to a certain point.

- We cannot control the weather, but we can influence soil factors and productivity -- this is a crucial point when considering growth factors, Dr. Pietola points out.


EU-policy commits increasingly for soil health


The Commission's speech underlines the increased inclusion of soil matters in the EU policy. Of the several EU Green Deal initiatives, soil plays an important part at least in the Climate Law, in the Zero-Pollution Action Plan for air, water and soil by 2050, in the Farm to Fork strategy that aims for sustainable food system, and in the Biodiversity Strategy.


- Soil is not only part of the problem but also part of the solution, Mr. Barbero emphasizes.


Soil is estimated to hold a fourth of the biodiversity on Earth and provides local and global ecosystem services such as food and other biomass production, nutrient and water management, biodiversity and habitat as well as carbon stocks.

- Soil and ecosystem protection, sustainable soil management as well as restoration of degraded soil and ecosystems are needed to achieve healthy soils, Mr. Barbero underlines.

The EU Commission is committed to achieving the healthy soils also through the proposal for legally binding nature restoration targets in 2021 and the Soil Strategy, which is currently under consultation and is expected to be adopted in September 2021.

Broad toolbox should be targeted to farmers


The young farmers’ representative Ms. Letina stresses the quality of the soil and water programmes, pointing out that they are useful communication tools giving farmers an overview of the practices to compare with their own farm conditions, but also for decision makers and society.

Furthermore, Ms. Letina highlights the importance of soil and water management through concrete on-farm examples as well as characteristics that policy and on-farm solutions need to put forward.

- The solutions must be targeted case by case as each farm has its own conditions, environment, and pedo-climatic conditions, Ms. Letina underlines.

The farmers’ toolbox should be as wide as possible to implement the measures for more sustainable agriculture. Besides environmental sustainability, Ms. Letina brings up the social and governmental sustainability.


Collaboration between science and agricultural actors is required


The scientist Dr. Runge spots the water and soil programmes that present the increasing environmental challenges, but also help to find the common language and understanding between scientists and farmers.

Besides the close collaboration between science, farmers and forest owners, Dr. Runge highlights the need for good quality data to incentive the actors investing in soil heath.

Further, Dr. Runge underlines the flexibility for farmers and forest owners.

- They need to be able to choose out of the toolbox, the scientist points out, also emphasizing the voluntary measures of schemes that need to be designed in a practical way for farmers.


Science and latest information need to be put in practice


Mr. Pesonen sums up that the diverse soil situation within the member states is based on highly different local conditions.

- Science and latest information need to be put in practice when considering the role of soil in sustainable agriculture, Mr. Pesonen points out while recalling the challenges of using the latest information and engaging farmers.

Practical information to motivate farmers and other stakeholders’ is needed. For instance, carbon farming could be a potential source of income for the farmers but also an opportunity for water and air.

- By engaging farmers to carbon farming, air and water wins too, Mr. Pesonen adds up.

The webinar was hosted by Ms. Hanna Leiponen-Syyrakki, the Director of the Brussels office of MTK, SLC and Pellervo.

The webinar recording may be watched here.


topics: publications