Gypsum treatment of fields has been proven to be an effective way to reduce the nutrient load from agriculture into the Baltic Sea. In the GYPREG project, we promote gypsum treatment of fields in the coastal states of the Baltic Sea and support the wider use of the method.
How does the gypsum treatment of fields help the Baltic Sea?
Eutrophication is the biggest problem in the Baltic Sea. Most of the phosphorus emissions that cause marine eutrophication currently come from agriculture, as phosphorus leaches from fields into waterways and the Baltic Sea.
Gypsum (calcium sulphate) improves the crumb structure of the soil, and helps phosphorus bind to soil. When phosphorus is bound in the soil, less phosphorus will leach into bodies of water. Gypsum also helps to prevent soil erosion and reduces the amount of solids and organic carbon that leach into waterways. Studies have shown that the gypsum treatment of fields effectively reduces phosphorus emissions into bodies of water: gypsum treatment halves the amount of phosphorus and solids that end up in the water. The effect on the soil lasts for about five years.
Gypsum treatment on the world map
The effects of gypsum treatment on soil, crops and waterways in Finland have been studied, and 52,000 hectares of fields have already been treated with gypsum. Gypsum treatment has been found to be effective, and has been included in the State’s Programme for Improved Water Protection. However, gypsum treatment is not so well known in other Baltic Sea countries and has not been recognised as an effective means of protecting the Baltic Sea.
The GYPREG project is studying gypsum treatment, and will be conducting tests in Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The project is being led by the Finnish Environment Institute, and involves the John Nurminen Foundation from Finland and six other organisations from the target countries. The project is being funded by the European Union’s INTERREG Baltic Sea Region programme, which finances cross-border cooperation projects to improve the state of coastlines and marine environments.
It involves close cooperation between organisations in both the environmental and agricultural sectors in the target countries. The project aims to find a suitable method and boundary conditions for the gypsum treatment of fields in each target country and region, and to pilot this method with farmers. Country-specific solutions are being sought in accordance with factors such as the cost of gypsum treatment, the availability of gypsum and local legislation.
The John Nurminen Foundation’s role in the project is to promote the expansion of gypsum treatment in the Åland Islands and to support its introduction in other countries around the Baltic Sea.
The project aims to increase the use of this proven method of water protection, thereby helping EU Member States to fulfil their obligations under the EU Water Framework Directive, Marine Directive and Maritime Safety Directive, and to achieve the target set by the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) of getting the Baltic Sea’s coastal waters into good condition by 2030.
The experiences and insights gained from this project will be utilised in, for example, policy recommendations and a variety of training materials.