Gypsum treatment of fields is a new, promising Baltic Sea protection measure that will be introduced on a large scale in the autumn of 2016, in an area of 1,550 hectares in Savijoki, south-western Finland. The John Nurminen Foundation participates in the launch of the gypsum experiment through the NutriTrade project that it manages. The project receives funding from the EU Central Baltic programme. The experiment, entitled the SAVE project, was granted the top funding by the government in the summer of 2016. The SAVE gypsum pilot project is managed by the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Environment Institute.
The results were promising in the earlier, seven-year TraP project, in which gypsum application to fields was employed experimentally on a smaller scale in the Municipality of Nurmijärvi: gypsum treatment can reduce phosphorous runoff from clay fields by up to 50 per cent with instant effect.
In the autumn of 2014, the Foundation decided to start the active promotion of a large-scale gypsum treatment project, as studies have proved it to be a fast and effective way of reducing phosphorous runoff from Finnish agriculture to the Baltic Sea. At the same time, it is possible to curb the runoff of sediment, a reason for water turning turbid, and to prevent biocides etc. from ending up in the sea. The method has also been estimated to be very cost-efficient: the treatment of all the fields in southern Finland would cost a mere €11 million a year; in the context of environmental aid granted to farming as a whole, this is very reasonable.
“With the field gypsum treatment, it is possible to reduce the amount of agricultural phosphorous discharges to the Archipelago Sea by nearly one-third immediately, raising hopes for the waters being cleared in the entire Archipelago Sea area. Before, fast reduction of the agriculture’s runoff has been difficult, especially in the case of phosphorus – a key nutrient of blue-green algae – because it builds up in farming land, causing runoff for 10–30 years. Now, we could help the Archipelago Sea, which is negatively affected by agriculture; the significant nutrient cut-backs that we have managed to achieve with our previous projects, the St. Petersburg treatment plants and the Luga River fertilizer plant, do not help its inner water areas,” explains Marjukka Porvari, John Nurminen Foundation’s Director of the Clean Baltic Sea projects.
The preparation for the gypsum treatment of the farming fields in the Archipelago Sea area took off in the autumn of 2015, with the help of funding from the NutriTrade project managed by the Foundation. The gypsum treatment is the project’s pilot activity that may significantly reduce the nutrient discharges causing eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. In the autumn of 2015, a single, suitable area of farmland was found for the gypsum pilot project in Savijoki (photo by Eliisa Punttila), an area comprising the municipalities of Lieto, Paimio and Aura in south-western Finland. Next, in early 2016, there was a search for local farmers who were willing to spread gypsum on their fields, and the practical arrangements were made to acquire the gypsum and organise the logistics. Farmers will be able to apply the gypsum on their fields in the autumn of 2016.
“The opportunity to improve the condition of the Archipelago Sea is delightful news for us and our sponsors to whom the Archipelago Sea is an embodiment of the unique natural beauty of the Finnish archipelago. This is the reason we have been lobbying for the gypsum pilot project to be included in the decision-makers’ agenda, and decided to start funding it. In accordance with our working methods, the project seeks to improve the state of the Baltic Sea with efficient first-aid measures. If the gypsum method really turns out to be as efficient as it now seems, it is very important to have it included in the agricultural environmental aid system,” says Secretary General of the John Nurminen Foundation, Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt.