Smarter use of nutrients in agriculture will be key to curb eutrophication in the Baltic Sea, as was emphasized during the last meeting of the HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices (HELCOM Agri) that took place in Berlin, Germany from 5 to 6 November 2019.

Consisting of representatives from environmental and agricultural stakeholders such as national authorities, industry associations and NGOs, the HELCOM Agri group primarily aims at reducing the nutrient inputs from agriculture to the Baltic. Excessive nutrient concentrations in the sea remain the lead cause for eutrophication and toxic algal blooms.

The group is currently revising the Annex to the Helsinki Convention that sets legally binding requirements for sustainable practices of agricultural production for all Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention.

Growing ammonia emissions, regularly reported by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), and their subsequent deposition of nitrogen in the Baltic Sea are of particular scrutiny to the group as agriculture is the main source of emission of this gas.

The group compiled information on measures to reduce ammonia emissions which can be applied in agricultural practices, revealing that only a few of them have been implemented in almost all Baltic Sea countries.

"Ammonia emissions could be reduced through improved management of manure and better agricultural practices such as covering manure storage facilities, as well as injection and fast incorporation of manure to soils," said Susanna Kaasinen, the project manager handling agriculture at HELCOM.

The group agreed that the currently valid HELCOM Recommendation on reduction of ammonia emissions is outdated, does not reflect modern state of scientific knowledge and is to be revised.

The group is also promoting smart nutrient management in the HELCOM countries by developing the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy with the aim to close nutrient loops, return these valuable components to the food production and minimize their losses to the aquatic environment.

To advance smart nutrient management - one of the pillars of sustainable agriculture - the group has drafted HELCOM Recommendation on the use of national manure standards. 

In Berlin, the Agri group also elected its new Chair, Ms Sari Luostarinen, a senior research scientist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

 

Read the outcome of the AGRI 8-2019 meeting