2.4 Sustainable food production systems: Recycled fertilisers and new cultivation techniques to improve food security
The main factor holding back Finland’s crop production is the lack of nitrogen. Russia’s war against Ukraine led to the suspension of imports of ammonia, a key raw material for nitrogen fertilisers, and natural gas for ammonia production from Russia in 2022. This has driven up nitrogen fertiliser prices and increased interest in recycled fertilisers.
In a synthesis report published in 2022, we examined the nutrient needs of Finnish food production and the possibilities of replacing imported fertilisers with other materials. The information gathered in the synthesis report shows that improving the efficiency of nitrogen cycles in agriculture, both through cultivation techniques and by increasing nutrient recycling, is a possible and important way to ensure nutrient supply.
Fertiliser self-sufficiency can also be improved by increasing biogas production and processing biogas into biomethane, which can also be used to produce ammonia.
Research into nutrient recycling is one of Luke’s key research themes to support the self-sufficiency of food production and food security. Research focuses on promoting the uptake of sustainable nutrient recycling technologies and developing safe, easy to use and high quality recycled fertilisers.
Nutrient-rich by-products such as manure can be used as an alternative source of nitrogen to mineral fertilisers. Agricultural plant biomasses and municipal and industrial by-products can also be additional sources of nutrients. Luke is involved in extensive national and international cooperation to find the best solutions, and we also contribute to the development of legislation in this area.
We have studied the nutrient needs of Finnish food production and the possibilities of replacing fertilisers produced from extractive or fossil resources with recycled fertilisers. The information in the 2022 synthesis report shows that it is also necessary to improve the efficiency of nitrogen cycles in agriculture, both through cultivation techniques and by increasing nutrient recycling, to ensure security of supply.
The dependence of crop production on fertilisers can also be reduced through different cultivation techniques. Precision fertilisation is already widely used in agriculture and is becoming more widespread as technology develops. Crop rotation and new mixed cropping techniques are also key areas of research at Luke. The aim is to reduce the need for nitrogen fertilisers and improve nitrogen uptake from the soil. Introducing new crop species, such as legumes, into crop rotations is another important area of research.
Working closely with farmers is key to encouraging the adoption of new approaches.