10.02.2020

The Gypsum Initiative project aims to treat agricultural fields with gypsum in the Baltic Sea region

The John Nurminen Foundation, the Finnish Environment Institute, and the University of Helsinki have launched the Gypsum Initiative -project. The project aims to disseminate information to the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea about treating agricultural fields with gypsum as a means of efficient water protection, and to investigate whether this method is applicable in the different countries. The project is led by the John Nurminen Foundation. The project is funded by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment from the funds allocated by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs for Cooperation in the Baltic Sea, Barents and Arctic Regions.

“Finland can pave the way for the use of gypsum in agriculture in a larger scale to protect waters. This offers significant opportunities for the protection of the Baltic Sea. This would further contribute to gypsum being formally acknowledged as a means to improve the condition of the Baltic Sea in HELCOM’s updated plan of action and EU’s agricultural subsidies,” says Krista Mikkonen, the Finnish Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Gypsum has been used in agriculture in different parts of the world. However, in the Baltic Sea region, gypsum has been used to protect waters only in Finland. “For centuries, gypsum has been used to improve the soil. However, to combat eutrophication, gypsum treatment has only been used experimentally and for little more than a decade. Studies on larger field areas have been conducted in Finland only,” says Senior Researcher Petri Ekholm from the Finnish Environment Institute.

Treating fields with gypsum to protect the water system has yielded good results in the River Savijoki region in Southwest Finland, and River Vantaa near the Helsinki metropolitan area. In both catchment areas, the phosphorus load of fields treated with gypsum was immediately reduced by up to 50% and with very moderate investments.

The Finnish Environment Institute and the University of Helsinki have recommended that the applicability of this method in other areas of the Baltic Sea region – in Estonia, Poland, Sweden and Denmark, for example – should be investigated. “According to preliminary estimates, treating agricultural fields with gypsum on a large scale in the Baltic Sea catchment area could reduce the phosphorus load from agriculture by up to 25%, or 1.500 to 2.000 tonnes. This option should be implemented immediately”, says Professor Markku Ollikainen from the University of Helsinki.

The objective of this 2-year project is to establish a network of farmers, researchers and authorities in the Baltic countries, Poland, Germany, Sweden and Denmark to enable the gypsum treatment of fields. Additionally, the project aims to conduct small scale analysis to determine how well gypsum is suited for use locally, and to prepare for a larger scale implementation of gypsum treatment and to have it included in national agricultural subsidy programmes in the countries around the Baltic Sea.

“Reducing the nutrient load of agriculture in the entire catchment area is of vital importance for the protection of the Baltic Sea, and at the same time, a challenging task. In water protection, no other method can compare to gypsum treatment in terms of cost-efficiency and effectiveness rate. Therefore, it is a great pleasure for us to be able to offer our skills and knowledge to promote the implementation of this Finnish innovation in the Baltic Sea region,” says Secretary General Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt from the John Nurminen Foundation.

For more information, please contact

Marjukka Porvari
Director, Clean Baltic Sea projects
Tel. +358 41 5491 535
marjukka.porvari(at)jnfoundation.fi

Anna Saarentaus
Project Manager, John Nurminen Foundation
Tel. +358 40 7190208
anna.saarentaus(a)jnfoundation.fi

Petri Ekholm
Senior Researcher, the Finnish Environment Institute
Tel. +358 295 251102
petri.ekholm(at)ymparisto.fi

Markku Ollikainen
Professor, University of Helsinki
Tel. 02941 58065
markku.ollikainen(at)helsinki.fi

John Nurminen Foundation – Baltic Sea protection and marine culture
Founded in 1992, the purpose of the John Nurminen Foundation is to save the Baltic Sea and its heritage for future generations. The Foundation is an award-winning communicator of information and producer of marine cultural content. The goal of the Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea projects is to improve the condition of the Baltic Sea with tangible measures that will reduce the load and environmental risks directed at the sea. Our work is steered by measurable results and impact.  www.johnnurmisensaatio.fi/en 

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