Agricultural practices and their effects on the Baltic Sea were the main focus of the Sixth Meeting of the HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices (AGRI 6-2018) that was held at the Ministry of Agriculture in Riga, Latvia from 15 to 16 May 2018. This HELCOM group consists of representatives from environmental and agricultural national authorities and observer organizations from HELCOM countries.

According to recent HELCOM assessments, eutrophication – caused by oversupply of nutrients mainly from land-based sources – remains a major threat to the Baltic Sea environment. Earlier in March, the HELCOM Ministerial Declaration of 2018 recognized agriculture as one of the main contributors to the total input of nutrients into the Baltic Sea. The HELCOM countries therefore committed to improve cooperation with the agricultural sector in the Baltic Sea region.

The AGRI group discussed various aspects of sustainable agricultural practices in the region and measures to reduce nutrient inputs to the Baltic Sea environment. Among them are smart nutrient management in agriculture, innovative water management in rural areas, revitalization of wetlands and paludiculture – agriculture on peatlands.

The decision taken by the group on drafting regional recommendation for the use of national manure standards addressing nutrients in manure is an important step towards better nutrient management in the agricultural sector.

The key themes of the meeting were (i) organization of the work on regional nutrient recycling strategy and (ii) the revision of Part 2 of Annex III of the Helsinki Convention – the section about the prevention of pollution from agriculture. The group agreed on the practical steps towards elaboration of the regional nutrient recycling strategy by 2020 under the lead of Finland. The group decided to establish an international drafting group for revision of Annex III in accordance with the earlier agreed scope of the revision and with the timeframe extending to 2020.

Participants also discussed possible reasons for growing ammonia emissions in the region reported by European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP). The group decided to take a closer look into measures to reduce these emissions applied in the countries and potential to elaborate related regional recommendations.

Read the AGRI 6-2018 meeting outcome document here.