Reducing phosphorus discharge to the Baltic Sea
Helsinki, December 09, 2010
Yara's research project investigating the use of gypsum to reduce phosphorus discharge into the Baltic Sea has been concluded with encouraging results. Phosphorus leakage was reduced by 60 percent.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants to grow. The problem is that run-off water transports phosphorus from fields into waterways, causing harmful algae growth.
Yara’s research project "Novel gypsum-based products for farm-scale phosphorus trapping” (TraP) tested the use of gypsum to trap phosphorus in fields. Studies were done in laboratories and as full-scale field tests. Twenty farmers around Finland provided their fields or manure tanks for testing.
The results demonstrate that gypsum is an effective solution for significantly reducing phosphorus leakage from fields into waterways. The solution lies in spreading gypsum on the field. Gypsum dissolves and infiltrates into the soil with water, thereby improving soil structure. Improved soil structure means that the earth better resists rain and melting snow and therefore prevents erosion and phosphorus leakage. Gypsum also improves the plants’ ability to utilize soil phosphorus reserves.
In addition to erosion control, we need to focus on manure management. Manure phosphorus should be directed to those fields in which crops would truly benefit from phosphorus applications. Gypsum can also be used in manure tanks. The dissolved phosphorus in slurry will settle onto the bottom of the tank together with solids and can be transported to fields where phosphorus is required. The liquid fraction can be spread on fields where phosphorus fertilization is not required.
Best Practices in agriculture
The solution is in line with the European Union’s strategy for the Baltic Sea region: best practices in agriculture should be put into effect without reducing the productivity or the competitiveness of farming. Yara’s solution gives farmers the possibility to continue farming according to best practices.
The TraP - project was funded by Yara International ASA and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (www.tekes.fi). The project partners were the Finnish Environment Institute(SYKE), Agrifood Research Finland(MTT), the TTS (Work Efficiency Institute), Luode Consulting Ltd. as well as the Water Protection Association of the River Vantaa and Helsinki region.
Yara announced the expansion of the project at the Baltic Sea Action Summit in Helsinki on Feb. 10, 2010. Yara committed to treating 100 hectares of fields in vulnerable coastal areas of Finland as part of our contribution to working for a cleaner Baltic Sea. This commitment was concluded in September 2010.
Follow the links on the right side of the page for more details.
Download the Trapping phosphorus for a cleaner Baltic Sea brochure
Download the Yara's partners project presentations
Download the Closing seminar summary