Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Concrete measures against eutrophication are elaborated in Helsinki during expert workshop on nutrient recycling

© Angela Rohde/Adobe Stock

In a bid to address the Baltic Sea’s eutrophication problem, about 40 experts on agriculture and wastewater attended a workshop in Helsinki last week to elaborate concrete actions and measures under HELCOM’s Nutrient Recycling Strategy.

“The aim of the [Nutrient Recycling Strategy] is to make better use of the nutrients already available [such as manure] and to reduce the [introduction] of new mineral nutrients into the cycle,” said Sari Luostarinen, the Chair of HELCOM Agri Group dealing with sustainable agricultural practices.

In 2018, the HELCOM members agreed, at the Ministerial level, to elaborate a Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy by 2020. Its objective is to reduce nutrient loading to the Baltic Sea by avoiding nutrient runoff by circulating the nutrients within the food chain. 

“Agriculture remains a large source of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff to the sea,” said Susanna Kaasinen, HELCOM’s expert on agriculture and nutrients. According to the results of the recent State of the Baltic Sea report, 97 % of the Baltic Sea area suffers from eutrophication, mainly caused by excessive nutrient loading stemming from agriculture. 

In Helsinki, during the workshop on nutrient recycling measures, the experts came up with a large variety of possible ideas for measures and actions which will now be considered by the HELCOM Agri and Pressure groups.

“The vision and objectives of the Nutrient Recycling Strategy were already defined in 2019,” said Kaasinen. “Now is the time to translate these into concrete actions and measures,” she said, adding that some of the proposals from the workshop could also be used for the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP). 

The BSAP is due to be updated by 2021 and is expected to heavily focus on eutrophication, among biodiversity, hazardous substances and litter, and sea-based activities.

The workshop was organized by the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, HELCOM, European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) Policy Area Nutri and Bioeconomy as well as SuMaNu and BSR Waterproject platforms. 

HELCOM Expert Interview: Sari Luostarinen on nutrients, eutrophication and agriculture

Sari Luostarinen is a Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (Luke) and is the current Chair of the HELCOM Agri group

Aren’t nutrients supposed to be good? What’s wrong with nutrients? 

Nutrients are vital for humans, animals and the environment as a whole. They are also vital for agriculture and food production. No crops can grow without nutrients. But as with most other compounds, too much in the wrong place causes problems. In our region for instance, the excess of nutrients has led to the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea.

In terms of eutrophication and nutrients, what is the current status in the Baltic Sea region?

The Baltic Sea is a vulnerable sea for many reasons. The nutrients it has received in the past are bound in the sediments and released under certain conditions, causing internal nutrient loading. At the same time, nutrient runoff from current human activities is adding to the problem. Of the latter, many point sources have been reduced, for example due to improved wastewater treatment. But it is more difficult to restrict diffuse loading such as from agriculture. Depending on the weather conditions and due to increasing temperatures, eutrophication and its consequences are worsening. More actions to control the nutrient load are needed.

In general, what would need to be done to curb eutrophication and nutrient inputs, especially in regard to agriculture?

As said, crops cannot grow without nutrients. Both phosphorus and nitrogen need to be available for crops on the fields to achieve good yields. Good yields also mean that most nutrients given as fertilizers end up in the harvested crop and little is lost to the environment. The amount of nutrients spread as fertilizers should be adequate, for instance adjusting quantities depending on the crop, the soil type and its nutrient content, as well as the timing of the spread. The use of animal manure as a fertilizer is the traditional way to recycle nutrients in food production. However, due to segregation of animal and crop production it may be either available in excess or in deficit depending on the region. More precise utilisation of manure nutrients, including replacing mineral fertilization with manure, is important for reducing agricultural nutrient load. Also, other measures, such as reduced tillage, catch crops, water protection zones, are also needed to manage nutrient losses.

What concrete steps is HELCOM currently taking on the nutrient issue from the agriculture perspective?

HELCOM is efficiently driving several measures to reduce agricultural nutrient losses to the Baltic Sea. As an example, HELCOM is preparing the introduction of recommendations for national manure standards. The aim is to ensure the availability of updated, scientifically proven data on manure quantities and nutrient contents in the Baltic Sea countries so that the manure data used in fertilization planning and thus the amount of manure spread on fields becomes more precise. This is expected to reduce nutrient runoff from the fields. Furthermore, on resource efficiency, HELCOM is also preparing a strategy for nutrient recycling in the Baltic Sea Region. Again, the aim is to introduce more efficient measures to make better use of the nutrients already available and to reduce the need to introduce new mineral nutrients into the cycle. For example, this could be achieved by processing manure, different wastes and their by-products into recycled fertilizers.

HELCOM body advocates smarter use of nutrients in agriculture to curb eutrophication

Smarter use of nutrients in agriculture will be key to curb eutrophication in the Baltic Sea, as was emphasized during the last meeting of the HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices (HELCOM Agri) that took place in Berlin, Germany from 5 to 6 November 2019.

Consisting of representatives from environmental and agricultural stakeholders such as national authorities, industry associations and NGOs, the HELCOM Agri group primarily aims at reducing the nutrient inputs from agriculture to the Baltic. Excessive nutrient concentrations in the sea remain the lead cause for eutrophication and toxic algal blooms.

The group is currently revising the Annex to the Helsinki Convention that sets legally binding requirements for sustainable practices of agricultural production for all Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention.

Growing ammonia emissions, regularly reported by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), and their subsequent deposition of nitrogen in the Baltic Sea are of particular scrutiny to the group as agriculture is the main source of emission of this gas.

The group compiled information on measures to reduce ammonia emissions which can be applied in agricultural practices, revealing that only a few of them have been implemented in almost all Baltic Sea countries.

“Ammonia emissions could be reduced through improved management of manure and better agricultural practices such as covering manure storage facilities, as well as injection and fast incorporation of manure to soils,” said Susanna Kaasinen, the project manager handling agriculture at HELCOM.

The group agreed that the currently valid HELCOM Recommendation on reduction of ammonia emissions is outdated, does not reflect modern state of scientific knowledge and is to be revised.

The group is also promoting smart nutrient management in the HELCOM countries by developing the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy with the aim to close nutrient loops, return these valuable components to the food production and minimize their losses to the aquatic environment.

To advance smart nutrient management – one of the pillars of sustainable agriculture – the group has drafted HELCOM Recommendation on the use of national manure standards. 

In Berlin, the Agri group also elected its new Chair, Ms Sari Luostarinen, a senior research scientist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

Read the outcome of the AGRI 8-2019 meeting

How to make the most of manure

Closed nutrient loop.png
Closed nutrient loop illustration from the handbook How to make the most of manure. © Manure Standards

In a bid to curb nutrient losses from agriculture, the root cause of eutrophication and algal blooms in the Baltic Sea, a handbook on smarter use of manure has been published this September by the Manure Standards project.

Targeted towards farmers and agricultural advisory organisations, the How to make the most of manure handbook provides hands-on and easy-to-read information on good manure management practices.

“Manure is a good natural fertilizer and valuable source of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, but we need to ensure that these stay on the fields and don’t enter the sea where they cause eutrophication,” said Kaisa Riiko, the HELCOM project coordinator at Manure Standards.

“The handbook will show farmers in an easy way how to best go about analysing, storing, spreading or dealing with excess manure,” she said.

The publication is part of the region’s wider effort to address eutrophication, currently the single largest pressure on the Baltic Sea.

According to a recent HELCOM report, 97 percent of the waterbody is affected by eutrophication, causing economic losses of up to EUR 4 billion per year in the region. Manure used in agriculture still remains a large source of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff to the sea.

At their Ministerial Meeting in 2018, HELCOM Contracting Parties therefore agreed to elaborate a Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy by 2020, to reduce nutrient loading to the Baltic by circulating the nutrients in a closed loop in the food chain.

Measures developed under the nutrient recycling strategy are also expected to be included in the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Manure Standards, the publisher of the handbook, seeks to increase the capacity of farmers and other agricultural stakeholders to turn manure use towards improved sustainability and resource-efficiency.

Manure Standards is coordinated by Natural Resources Institute Finland and, besides HELCOM, includes partners from the nine Baltic Sea countries. The project is a flagship project of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region Policy Area Bioeconomy and it is co-financed by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme

Handbook_cover.jpg

Download the How to make the most of manure handbook

SuMaNu, a new regional project platform on nutrient management gets launched at HELCOM

SuMaNu partners meet in Helsinki from 23 to 24 October 2018 for the platform’s kick-off meeting.As part of the Baltic Sea region’s efforts to thwart eutrophication and its causes, the project platform “Sustainable manure and nutrient management for reduction of nutrient loss in the Baltic Sea Region” (SuMaNu) had its kick-off meeting at the HELCOM Secretariat in Helsinki from 23 to 24 October 2018.The  seeks to address excess nutrient loading – the main cause of eutrophication in the Baltic Sea – through more efficient management of nutrients, with a special focus on manure. A large share of the nutrient load in the Baltic Sea stems from agriculture. SuMaNu aims at promoting positive attitudes and best practices for a more efficient management of nutrients and the use of manure, notably to minimize leaks into watercourses and the Baltic Sea. The platform will gather and synthesize the best practices and recommendations on sustainable nutrient management from the existing projects of  (MS),  (BSA),  (GA) and  (PR). The intended beneficiaries of the project are national authorities and policy implementors such as agricultural and environmental ministries, regional policy makers such as HELCOM and EU bodies handling environmental matters, as well as farmers, farm advisors and other agricultural stakeholders.SuMaNu will build upon the results of previous manure-related projects, to provide holistic recommendations on nutrient and manure management, to ensure they are useful for both policy making and at the farm level.The results will also feed into the update process of the , HELCOM’s strategic tool for a healthy Baltic Sea. The outcomes will also support the elaboration of the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy by 2020. Lead by the  (Luke), the partners of the platform are HELCOM, the  (BSAG), the  (ECRI), the  (ZSA), the , the  (CDR), the  (JKI), and the  (RISE).The  (Policy Areas Bioeconomy and Nutri), the  (CBSS) and the (ESPP) are associate partners.The project platform is co-financed by the EU’s .

As part of the Baltic Sea region’s efforts to thwart eutrophication and its causes, the platform “Sustainable manure and nutrient management for reduction of nutrient loss in the Baltic Sea Region” (SuMaNu) had its kick-off meeting at HELCOM.

HELCOM group meets in Riga to discuss nutrients from land-based sources

​Agricultural
practices and their effects on the Baltic Sea were the main focus of the Sixth
Meeting of the (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,
– caused by oversupply of nutrients mainly from land-based sources – remains a major
threat to the Baltic Sea environment. Earlier in March, the 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
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 – 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
(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 .

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

Smart nutrients management in agriculture promotes shared goals

Nutrient recycling and rural water management discussed at HELCOM AGRI meeting last weekIncreasing ammonia emissions require attentionRepresentatives of national environmental and agricultural authorities as well as scientific institutions and NGOs gathered in Helsinki last week, to discuss the environmental impact of agricultural production in the Baltic Sea region along with various measures to mitigate it. Held in Helsinki on 9–10 November 2017, the 5th HELCOM Meeting focused on the opportunities for recycling nutrients, which serves both to prevent nutrients leaching into waterways and to sustain food security. Participants highlighted that despite different countries having different means and drivers to work for closing nutrients loops, the work done in all Baltic countries serves towards the common goals of sustainable development in the region. The Meeting also pointed out the significance of efficient water management in rural areas. The participants recommend shifting the focus in water management from the individual field to comprehensive solutions within river basins, incorporating land use planning and close involvement of local stakeholders, while taking into account adaptation to climate change. Another environmental aspect discussed at the Meeting was the increase in ammonia emissions, along with the resulting deposition of nitrogen on the water surface of the Baltic Sea. The participating HELCOM members agreed that the matter requires specific attention of the HELCOM society, as agriculture remains the major source of ammonia in the region.​The fifth meeting of the HELCOM Agri group was held in Helsinki on 9–10 November.. All documents will be public after the meeting.* * *Note for editorsHELCOM is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, its primary aims as a governing body are to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution, as well as to ensure safe maritime navigation. The official name of HELCOM is the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission; it is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention.The deals with agriculture related to the implementation of an ecosystem-based approach. It includes representatives from agriculture and environmental authorities of the Baltic Sea countries, as well as EU and HELCOM Observers. The group provides a platform for agri-environmental policy measures and instruments, as well as for the joint discussion of agricultural effects on the marine environment, namely nutrient inputs and emissions. Its official name is the HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices.* * *For more information, please contact:Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky Professional Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 630 9933 Skype: helcom68 E-mail: dmitry.frank-kamenetsky(at)helcom.fi 

Nutrient recycling and rural water management discussed at HELCOM AGRI meeting last week – Increasing ammonia emissions require attention

Agriculture authorities discuss ways of stopping nutrients from reaching the Baltic Sea

Nutrient flow and recycling in focus at the HELCOM Agri Group meeting this weekSmart nutrients management in agriculture is in focus at the HELCOM meeting, which is currently being held in Helsinki, Finland, on 9–10 November 2017. Recent results of HELCOM assessments show that an oversupply of nutrients to the Baltic Sea from various land-based sources remains the major environmental pressure on the marine ecosystem. The largest share of nitrogen and phosphorus comes from diffuse sources, and of these, agricultural production is the most significant. Participating in the meeting are representatives of the Baltic Sea countries and the EU, among them experts from environmental and agricultural authorities and research institutions, as well as from farmers associations and environmental NGOs. Discussions will focus on drivers and obstacles for nutrient recycling in the region, including nutrient flows and means to return nutrients to the agricultural production, aimed at preventing them from leaching into the aquatic environment. Among the specific themes of the Meeting are further steps on nutrient accounting at farm level in the region, as well as innovative water management in rural areas. . All documents will be public after the meeting.* * *Note for editorsHELCOM is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, its primary aims as a governing body are to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution, as well as to ensure safe maritime navigation. The official name of HELCOM is the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission; it is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention.The deals with agriculture related to the implementation of an ecosystem-based approach. It includes representatives from agriculture and environmental authorities of the Baltic Sea countries, as well as EU and HELCOM Observers. The group provides a platform for agri-environmental policy measures and instruments, as well as for the joint discussion of agricultural effects on the marine environment, namely nutrient inputs and emissions. Its official name is the HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices.* * *For more information, please contact:Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky Professional Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 630 9933 Skype: helcom68 E-mail: dmitry.frank-kamenetsky(at)helcom.fi ​

Nutrient flow and recycling in focus at the HELCOM Agri Group meeting this week

Finding new ways to enhance nutrient recycling in the Baltic Sea regions

HELCOM Agri group initiated development of a regional strategy on nutrient recycling. “Nutrient recycling is essential to reduce nutrient losses to the Baltic Sea and to efficiently use limited phosphorus resources” says Tarja Haaranen, the Chair of HELCOM Agri group. As a first step, a HELCOM Workshop on nutrient recycling in the Baltic Sea countries was organized on 27-28 March in Berlin, Germany. The workshop gathered more than 40 experts from all Baltic Sea countries to discuss national strategies and programmes to recycle phosphorus in agriculture and waste water management. The Workshop aimed at creating suggestions for HELCOM to promote nutrient recycling and fully utilize valuable components of manure and sewage sludge.Nutrient recycling was also in the focus of the 4th Meeting of the HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices organized on 3-4 April in Brussels, Belgium. Smart nutrient management in agriculture is a priority for the Agri group. The group particularly aims at advancing manure standards as a basis for effective nutrient accounting on farm level. This enables balanced fertilization as manure is considered not as a waste but as a nutrient resource.The HELCOM Agri group focused on nutrient recycling in their 4th meeting held on 3 -4 April in Brussels.The group continued its work on agricultural measures to reduce nutrient losses to the Baltic Sea which is a joint effort of several HELCOM groups, especially the HELCOM Pressure group focused on land based sources of pollution. The group considered the potential of innovative water management and the prevention of soil erosion to reduce losses of nutrients from agricultural fields to the sea as well as the best available techniques to mitigate ammonia emissions from agricultural production. See the Outcome of Agri 4-2017.See the Outcome of the HELCOM Workshop on nutrient recycling in the Baltic Sea region.Note for editorsHELCOM is one of the Regional Sea Conventions and Action Plans around the world, working for healthy oceans and sustainable us of marine resources. HELCOM consists of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention. The HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices (Agri) deals with agriculture in relation to the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach and involves representatives from agriculture and environment authorities of the Baltic Sea countries, as well as EU and HELCOM Observers. The group provides a platform for agri-environmental policy measures and instruments and joint discussion on the Baltic agriculture in the context of the protection of the marine environment, in order to address nutrient inputs and emissions from agriculture.***For more information, please contact:Tarja HaaranenChair of HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural PracticesMinistry of the Environment of FinlandTel:  +358 295 250 282Email: tarja.haaranen(at)ym.fi Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky Professional Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 630 9933 Skype: helcom68 E-mail: dmitry.frank-kamenetsky(at)helcom.fi​

HELCOM Agri group initiated development of a regional strategy on nutrient recycling.

Effective manure management brings opportunities to the Baltic

​​​Significant opportunities for nutrient recycling as well as decreasing nutrient losses to the Baltic Sea can be achieved through effective manure management, the topic of the 2-day starting today in Vantaa, Finland.National standards for manure would be the basis for smart nutrient management in agriculture and also for reducing nutrient losses in the region.​ Photo: Helena Rosenlew.The aim of the workshop, organized by HELCOM and the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), is to help further develop national standards for manure and also put them in practice. This is much needed as such national system for nutrient content in manure will be the basis for smart nutrient management in agriculture and also for reducing nutrient losses in the region. Developing national standards for manure, as well as recommendations on using such standard, were among the key targets set in the 2013 HELCOM Ministerial for regional work on agriculture.Creating a system of manure standards, as in evaluating the nutrient content values of different types of manure, is an opportunity to unify understanding on manure quality and thus build a joint basis for manure management and fertilizer use. Examples of national manure standards already exist in some Baltic Sea countries. The workshop participants – representatives of agricultural and environmental authorities and research organizations in the Baltic Sea countries; as well as HELCOM Observers – share their national experiences and work together to find the next steps towards developing guidelines for the use of national manure standards.  * * * Note for editorsThe HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices () deals with agriculture in relation to the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach and involves representatives from agriculture and environment authorities of the Baltic Sea countries, as well as EU, and HELCOM Observers. The group provides a platform for agri-environmental policy measures and instruments and joint discussion on the Baltic agriculture in the context of the protection of the marine environment, in order to address nutrient inputs and emissions from agriculture​.The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention. * * * For more information, please contact:Susanna Kaasinen Agri-Environment Coordinator HELCOM Tel: +358 40 536 5819 Skype: helcom85 E-mail: susanna.kaasinen(at)helcom.fiJohanna Laurila Information Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 523 8988 Skype: helcom70 E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi

National standards for manure are the focus of the 2-day workshop, as it is the basis for smart nutrient management in agriculture and also for reducing nutrient losses in the region.