Gypsum treatment, a key method for treating cultivated fields, expanded outside Finland
Nutrient runoff from agriculture is the greatest problem faced by the eutrophicated Baltic Sea. The gypsum treatment method for cultivated fields, researched and developed in Finland, can cut a field’s phosphorus runoff immediately by half. If all the fields in the Baltic Sea area were treated with gypsum, we could reach up to a third of the annual phosphorus reduction that, according to HELCOM, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, is required to restore the good status of the Sea.
The Gypsum Initiative project, finalized at the turn of the year, took gypsum treatment of fields to new areas around the Baltic Sea, and inspired many countries by the Baltic Sea coast to try gypsum treatment out. The project’s results include an international gypsum-themed cooperation network; small-scale gypsum try-outs in laboratory and field conditions; and project applications for the implementation of gypsum pilots. These are important first steps towards the wider deployment of gypsum treatment as a way to save the Baltic Sea.
Local experts join the development of gypsum innovations
The Gypsum Initiative project brought together the most relevant stakeholders for the further development of the method, ranging from researchers to agricultural and environmental authorities, farmers, agricultural advisors, and NGOs. At workshops set up by the project, information on gypsum treatment was made available, and the applicability of the method to the circumstances of each individual country was discussed. At the same time, we recognized both the opportunities and the major obstacles to the deployment of gypsum treatment in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, and Åland.
Poland, Sweden, Lithuania and Denmark were recognized as the most promising regions for gypsum treatment. These countries are important agricultural producers, and they have both the interest and the expertise needed for waterway protection.
”The Gypsum Initiative project was a great success in increasing awareness of the gypsum method as an agricultural waterway protection measure. The project’s workshops and seminar presentations were heard by stakeholders in a key position to develop gypsum treatment further, encouraging them to try out gypsum pilots in their respective countries. We are all set to continue promoting the deployment of gypsum treatment in the Baltic Sea countries and within the confines of the HELCOM’s Baltic Sea protection programme”, says Johanna Helkimo, Senior Specialist at the Ministry of the Environment, and chair of the project’s steering group.
Gypsum knowhow accrues through tryouts and pilots
The project consortium promoted the planning of various gypsum tryouts, and in 2021, the method was tested in Sweden and in Lithuania. The goal is to launch new tryouts during 2022. Moreover, the Gypsum Initiative supported the drawing up of funding applications for gypsum pilots in Lithuania, Poland and Sweden with financing from Interreg South Baltic, and in Sweden with national funding.
”Tryouts and pilots validated the efficiency of the gypsum treatment method for each region. Only with these results can we include it as an option in the national waterway protection programme”, explains Anna Saarentaus, marine environment project manager at the John Nurminen Foundation.
Method well recognized by research
The results of the stakeholder survey carried out at the end of the project indicate that awareness of gypsum treatment is already quite high, especially in the research community. Key topics in need of further inquiry include e.g. how different types of soil react to gypsum treatment, and how gypsum can be used together with manure, mineral fertilizers, or lime.
“Cooperation with researchers from different countries has been extremely rewarding. Through research, we gain knowledge on the various kinds of conditions in the Baltic Sea catchment area, and on how applicable gypsum treatment is in these areas”, says Petri Ekholm, Senior Research Scientist at the Finnish Environment Institute.
Gypsum Initiative project
The goal of the Gypsum Initiative project, implemented in 2020-21, was to promote the gypsum treatment of cultivated fields in the countries of the Baltic Sea area so that nutrient runoff from agriculture can be reduced, and water quality in the Baltic Sea improved. The project was financed by the Ministry of the Environment, using the grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for cooperation in the Baltic Sea, Barents Sea, and Arctic regions; the work was implemented by the John Nurminen Foundation, the Finnish Environment Institute, and the Department of Economics and Management at the Helsinki University Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.