Grass farming occurs on around 30% of Finland’s land area, while the related production of milk and beef accounts for approximately one half of the country’s agricultural income. Grass farming plays a key role in the profitability and competitiveness of Finnish agriculture.
Cattle graze on grass pastures during the summer and the grass crop is harvested for the winter season as silage or dry hay. Grass can usually be harvested two or three times each summer. The most popular forage species are timothy, meadow fescue and red clover.
In 2014, silage fodder was produced on 470,000 hectares, dry hay on 90,000 hectares, and 70,000 hectares of grassland was used as pasture. The annual production volume totals approximately 7 million tonnes.
Grassland production research at LUKE aims at improving the economic profitability of milk production. The aim is to enhance the effectiveness of silage fodder production by producing information on issues such as the impacts of various harvesting time and fertilisation strategies, choices of species and variety, different cultivation techniques, and the effects of climate change on crop yields and its nutritional quality. Research aims at optimising the quantity and digestibility of the harvest and taking account of the nutritional needs and well-being of animals while maximising profits.
Another key objective of LUKE’s grassland research is to reduce the environmental burden of agriculture. LUKE is studying the impacts of climate change and the use of livestock manure on the leaching of nitrogen and phosphorus from grasslands, and conversely the impacts of such activities on the climate. It is also investigating the use of grass as a raw material in biogas plants and the use of biogas plant processing residue as a grass fertiliser in order to enhance farm-specific nutrient cycles.