Yara's engagement combining food security, farmers’ revenues and reversing environmental damage in the Baltic Sea region was in full focus this week.
With the Baltic Sea on the agenda, it was only natural to locate the event itself close to the Baltic Sea border, namely in the village of Kaschow, in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. Situated in the midst of a large agricultural area, Kaschow’s proximity to the Baltic Sea proves the importance of reversing the environmental impacts modern agriculture has on rivers, lakes, and oceans.
The Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted in the world. Nutrient leakage and run-off lead to eutrophication and algae blooming. The region is important agriculturally, so it is vital to reduce leakage while maintaining productivity. Yara is a key contributor to improving the state of the Baltic Sea.
Promotion of best agricultural practice
High-level gatherings examined pressing issues in the region - the 16th Baltic Development Forum Summit and 5th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) - took place in Turku Finland. Meanwhile, Yara organized a Baltic Sea conference in Germany on 4 June, with about 130 participants - farmers, farmer associations, policy makers, academia and more, and people from all Baltic countries. This event concentrated on agricultural matters, and featured a wide range of speakers.
"This event is part of our commitment to promote best agricultural practice among farmers around the Baltic Sea," says Olaf Guenther-Borstel, Yara's Commercial Director for Germany, Poland, Czech republic and South-East Europe. He spoke about the interlocking issues of food security, climate change and environmental impact, and agronomist Jesper Juul Ulnitz from Yara Denmark presented 'Yara solutions for a cleaner Baltic Sea by improved agricultural productivity'.
After introducing Yara and outlining the basic challenge of producing 60-70% more food sustainably, with limited resources, by 2050, Olaf explained how these issues hang together, and what they mean to the Baltic Sea region.
Dr. Till Backhaus, the Minister of Agriculture in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was also one of the participants. “We are happy to be part of this event organized by Yara. I would like to thank Yara for involving also scientists and farmers. Our goals can be reached only if we use new technology and solutions and we should work together to reach our goals for a cleaner Baltic Sea.”, Dr. Backhaus said.
Dr. Till Backhaus was joined by the Rainer Tietböhl, President of the ‘Farmers Federation’ Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, saying “farming is the future and we owe to future generations to produce food in a sustainable way. I think the help will come from science so it would be reasonable to invest in R&D.”
Shaping a positive future development
"We see at least three entangled challenges: global warming negatively affecting yield levels, when we desperately need increases; agriculture needing to adapt to changing growing conditions at a scale beyond our existing knowledge base; and increasing agricultural production will in itself drive emissions of greenhouse gases," he said.
The answer - agronomic innovation. This is what managed a doubling of the world population between 1960 and 2000, with production keeping pace using just 10% more land. Another such leap is needed now.
"Agriculture holds great promise to provide key solutions. The simple, yet complicated answer is best farming practices, from a scientific point of view, widely implemented," Olaf argued. "Innovative collaboration is needed to shape positive future development."
In 2007 Yara started the P-TraP research project using gypsum-based solutions to improve the soil structure, thereby reducing erosion and losses to water, with extremely encouraging field results. In addition, Yara technology like the N-Sensor allows for optimal fertilizer application - these are being actively promoted through the Baltic Deal demo farms.
"We must utilize good farmland to full potential, and from the Baltic Sea perspective, we also have to clean up," Olaf concluded. "My message to you all is - Let us do both."