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Low-carbon roadmap for Finnish agriculture
In addition to farmers’ primary mission to produce food that meets consumers’ needs and preferences, increasing sustainability expectations are associated with the land-use sector. Agriculture has considerable potential to increase carbon sinks while minimising the emissions from farmed land. Remarkable emission reductions are possible without compromising food productivity. Critical emission reductions are made by focusing on diversified land use and enhancing nutrient cycles. Emission reductions include increased cultivation of leguminous plants and oilseeds, measures on low-yielding peatlands, afforestation mainly on mineral soils, and more roles for grasses: energy, green manure. Challenges, but also the measures to overcome the barriers, are communicated in the roadmap.
Current and target state
The emission from agriculture were 16Mt CO2 in 2018; 75% of the emissions come from soil and field use, 19% from farm animals and manure processing and 6% from energy consumption. In addition to the baseline scenario, two more ambitious climate scenarios were made. In the more ambitious scenario, the target for emission reductions was 29% by 2035 and 38% by 2050. In the most ambitious scenario, emissions would be reduced by 42% by 2035 and reduced by 77% by 2050. Depending on the low-carbon scenario, measures targeted towards peatlands would reduce emissions by 1.9-3.1 Mt CO2. Meanwhile by adjusting field use and targeting mineral soil carbon sequestration, emission reduction potential would be 2.2- 5 Mt CO2 up to 2050.
Climate measures must be targeted where they have the most impact: towards emission reductions for peatlands, mineral soil carbon sequestration, and the energy transformation of farms.
Emission reductions measures are focused on agricultural peatlands and carbon sequestration in mineral soil. In peatlands, this implies reduced cultivation of annual crops, adjustable subsurface drainage, restoration, and paludiculture on wetted soils. Other solutions on arable parcels are improved soil growth conditions, enhanced crop rotations, precision agriculture and new cultivars. According to the roadmap, mineral soils can be converted from emission sources to carbon sinks by increased fast-growing under-sown or catch crops between main crops and multi-crop harvest grassland.
Needs and requirements
Farms may have different capacities for emission reducing measures, which must be considered. The roadmap argues that such measures should be planned and executed carefully to find the best fit for each farmer. Correspondingly, new guidelines and incentives are needed for farmers to cover any profits lost due to a loss of agricultural subsidies on low-profit peatlands taken out of farming use, as well as reforested peatlands and mineral soils.
Furthermore, to address future challenges, the industry calls for more soil and peatland research to verify emission reductions and carbon sequestration in different farming practices on different soil types.
Future and positive impacts
Agriculture has a significant role in food security and soil carbon sequestration. In addition, increased production of biogas and solar power in conjunction with agriculture contributes to the enhanced availability of renewable energy.
Did you know that...?
• Agriculture in Finland comprises about 2% of Finland’s GDP
• Finland has the highest share of population living in rural areas in EU