Field Observatory demonstrates carbon sequestration into agricultural land

The carbon sequestration of agricultural land and the affecting factors can be monitored in real-time from the freshly launched Field Observatory site. Data is collected from 20 Carbon Action farms and from three intensive test sites at the first stage. Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequestering carbon into the soil are ways to battle against the climate change.


Read the full press release on fmi.fi >>

Explore Field Observatory -site >>

Blog: Multiple perspectives on advancing soil carbon sequestration in Finland and Sweden

The first-ever international session at the Finnish Agricultural Science Days, organized by the Baltic Sea Action Group, offered multiple perspectives on what is needed to advance soil carbon sequestration and reflected upon all the different levels and actors that must be involved in the work. The session brought together several organizations and projects. In this blog, Laura Höijer and Elisa Vainio from BSAG sum up the key messages from the international session. Find the recording of the session further down.

The session offered a lot of new information and ideas on soil-improving cropping systems and verification of carbon sequestration in Finland and Sweden. A few take-home messages follow.

Good condition of the field is a prerequisite for carbon sequestration. In mineral soils, organic matter is important in supporting soil structure and functions. Carbon farming aiming at soil carbon sequestration can be a tool for improving soil health and productivity. However, potential problems with soil compaction and water management must be fixed first. Carbon farming is part of regenerative agriculture. In regenerative agriculture, the basic rehabilitation of the field is a necessary first step. To put it simply, the basic idea of regenerative agriculture: first fix the field, and then you can start increasing soil carbon, with adaptive carbon farming methods.

Different kinds of incentives are needed to motivate farmers. Nudging farmers towards climate friendly choices is not easy and the real effect of nudges tends to be weaker than expected. To create meaningful change, we also need financial incentives, both public (policies) and private (carbon credits). For this, we need better ways of analysing soil carbon sequestration. Developing Carbon Action verification system that can serve as a base for steering mechanisms is thus of foremost importance.

Co-operation and co-learning are the way to go. We need to share knowledge and work together – farmers, advisors, scientists, companies, and decision-makers. We must enable concrete co-operation and co-learning between the different actors and projects – and between Finland and Sweden.

Highlights from the speakers

The international session was opened with a presentation of our Swedish collaborator, Svensk Kolinlagring (SK). Gusten Brodin from Miljömatematik told the audience that Svensk kolinlagring is an initiative which gathers several stakeholders from the food industry, academia, private companies, and NGOs and of course, farmers, around the mutual goal of promoting soil carbon sequestration in agricultural soils in Sweden.

Gusten Brodin from Miljömatematik shared insights gained in Sweden.

Through a pilot program, different agricultural management methods are tested on real farms, while different methods for quantifying sequestered carbon are evaluated and developed together with researchers. The goal of the pilot is to launch a platform, connecting the food industry, farmers, and researchers, and providing verified carbon sequestration.

One of Gusten Brodin’s key message was that we must be able to create movement on several levels at once – to foster and enable both deeper and wider change together with different stakeholders. Gusten also concluded that we need better ways of analysing soil carbon sequestration.

Chief Scientist Jari Liski from the FMI spoke about verification of carbon sequestration.


Verifying carbon sequestration


Jari Liski from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) spoke about the basic ideas behind the ambitious Carbon Action verification system. The verification system uses extensively collected data and can model and predict carbon sequestration even in areas where measurement data are scarce.

The observations and findings from the research results are disseminated on a free-access online dashboard called Field Observatory. This website serves as a tool to monitor the impacts of carbon farming practices from the intensive study sites, 20 Carbon Action farms, some Valio farms and even a Swedish farm in collaboration with SK. The observatory also shows the world’s first carbon sequestration forecast on grassland.

Organic matter is highly important in supporting soil functions

Helena Soinne from Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) emphasized that in mineral soils, organic matter is highly important in supporting soil functions like aggregation, nitrogen mineralization, and water and nutrient retention. The relative importance of organic matter in supporting these functions may vary depending on soil texture and the quality of organic matter.

Helena pointed out that advancing sequestration of organic carbon in mineral agricultural soils serves the climate change mitigation and importantly, the resilience of cultivated soils in changing climate conditions.

As a summary Helena stated that fields with highest soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration potential can be found in southwestern Finland. Due to high clay/SOC ratio there is possibly a need for external organic matter inputs.

Carbon farming can be a tool for improving soil health and productivity

Tuomas Mattila from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) asked the audience if there was somebody who did not know what carbon farming is. No hands were raised. That’s progress!

Tuomas mentioned that as carbon cycling is a central process of soil health and ecosystem functioning, carbon farming is likely to influence soil health in multiple ways. How does this play out in practice, on the Carbon Action farms? Tuomas pointed out that many agricultural soils have conditions that limit both food production and carbon sequestration. Based on the preliminary results, some carbon farming practices, especially improved grazing, can have considerable positive effects on soil health. On the other hand, many of the soil health problems in the fields, such as compaction and poor drainage, are not directly related to carbon farming and are influenced only slightly by carbon farming practices.

Overall, carbon farming can be a tool for improving soil health and productivity. However, soil improvement should start with an overview of the actual soil condition, and identification of soil health problems and their causes. The experiments on Carbon Action farms will go on for 5 years, so these were preliminary halfway results.

Carbon Action supports farmers

Eija Hagelberg from BSAG told the audience about Carbon Action work co-ordinated by BSAG. She reminded us that by “carbon farming” we mean increasing the soil carbon stock alongside food production, in the same fields. Carbon farming is part of ‘regenerative agriculture’, which secures food production and revitalizes ecosystems.

Eija emphasized that regenerative agriculture is not a set of individual cultivation practices but a holistic production system. In regenerative agriculture, the basic rehabilitation of the field is a necessary first step, after which the annual measures not only maintain the condition of the soil, but also further improve it.

Good condition of the field is a prerequisite for carbon sequestration. She concluded that you must first fix the possible problems with water management and soil structure, and only then can you start sequestering carbon to soil.

In Carbon Action scientists, farmers, and companies work together to enhance carbon-storing regenerative agriculture, Eija said. She emphasized that BSAG wants to help farmers make their work more profitable, interesting, and valued. Carbon Action works with the farmers and supports them in the transition towards regenerative agriculture. Change is not easy, and it is important to face new farming methods as a heterogenic group of farmers, advisors, and researchers.

Adaptive farming methods are important, so that the farmers can adjust the carbon farming methods to the conditions on their own farms and fields – and to varying climate conditions. Eija concluded that we need peer-to-peer learning between farmers and scientists, adaptative farming methods and sharing of knowledge to all stakeholders. This was an important message for the Agricultural Science Days!

Real effect of nudges tends to be weaker than expected

Towards the end of the session, Olli-Pekka Ruuskanen from Pellervo Economic Research (PTT) told the audience about nudging farmers to climate-friendly choices. He emphasized that behavioural nudges have become a possible alternative policy instrument to taxes and regulation.

A climate nudge can be defined as any intentional modification of the choice architecture that aims to alter citizen behaviour towards climate-friendly actions while maintaining their earlier alternatives. He concluded that the real effect of nudges tends to be weaker than expected. Thus, nudging may be better in some cases than others.

Book of abstracts of the Finnish Agricultural Science Days

Twitter discussion #MTP2022

Text: Laura Höijer and Elisa Vainio

The session was financially enabled by the projects FIN SOIL ACTION (‘Catch the Carbon’ -Programme by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry), stn MULTA (Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland) and Carbon Farming Scheme (European Union’s LIFE programme). All the projects are on the Carbon Action platform.

The new HITTI project: “This is exactly the kind of next-level action we need now!”

Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) has launched the three-year HITTI project, in March 2022. The farmer-oriented project promotes adaptive carbon farming throughout the agricultural sector.

Farmers participating in the project develop adaptive carbon farming methods and form core groups and pioneering groups in the Pirkanmaa and Uusimaa regions. The groups in the Pirkanmaa region focus on situational grazing, which means that animals are moved from one grazing area to another as required. This normally takes place once a day, and it gives plants a chance to regenerate between grazing. When plants are allowed to recover, assimilation increases, which in turn increases soil carbon sequestration. The groups in Uusimaa look for the best ways to maintain crops that cover the soil all year round, in other words, to maximize the number of green weeks. Maximizing green weeks means that crop rotations are well designed and include as few interruptions to the permanent vegetation cover as possible.

BSAG coordinates the project, and will also disseminate information produced within the project, in order to make better use of the methods throughout the agricultural sector. The HITTI project creates a model for testing and developing adaptive carbon farming methods in other parts of Finland as well. The farmers adjust the carbon farming methods to the conditions on their own farms and fields. They also develop peer learning by sharing information. The project is part of the Catch the Carbon package, launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in spring 2020.

An adaptive approach helps in adjusting to climate change

Piia and Petri Jokela at the Jokela farm in Nurmijärvi are participating in the project. They think that it is important to be able to assess different situations, especially these days when weather conditions often vary a lot: “You must be able to depend on your own assessment in timing the procedures out in the fields and forget about checking the calendar. During the last growing season, we failed because the soil was too wet and cold to sow in. In the previous year, we managed to wait for the right conditions, and it helped us succeed.”

Farmer Mari Alanen from Nokia also says that timing has become more difficult due to unpredictable weather. “Establishing grasslands has been really challenging in recent years because of drought. Sowing in the autumn succeeded when the weather was right”, says Alanen.

“Farmers always have to adapt to the prevailing conditions in nature, but in recent years these conditions have been particularly difficult to forecast due to extreme weather,” says Eija Hagelberg, project manager at HITTI and project director of the Carbon Action Platform. She goes on to summarize the goals of the project: “In the HITTI project, we aim to improve the farmer’s foresight and ability to make good decisions in changing conditions. This will strengthen the role of agriculture as a mitigator of climate change. The project will provide us with more experience- and research-based information on cultivation methods that will help us all in coping with future weather conditions.”

Measurement technology to support decision-making

The core groups utilize measurement equipment to make planning and decision-making easier. The data services provider Datasense will supply the core groups with weather stations, soil sensors, and groundwater-surface sensors. The core groups agree on where the sensors will be installed and what each participant is going to measure. This way, everyone learns about each other’s fields, without having to measure the same things in each field. Based on the measurement results, necessary actions are taken to improve the farming measures. The results are also stored in a cloud and utilized as research material.

Carbon farming sparks interest

Farmers are increasingly interested in carbon farming methods and there is a demand for more knowledge on the subject. The project provides much-needed information for holistic farm management. “We expect to deepen our expertise in various subject areas so that we can better manage the entirety,” say Piia and Petri from the Jokela farm. Mari Alanen hopes to be able to produce high-quality fodder and pasture with a reasonable amount of work and using natural methods.

Carbon farming methods, if implemented correctly, mitigate climate change. The Carbon Action Platform, coordinated by BSAG, has developed carbon farming together with pioneering farmers. The HITTI project will deepen the knowledge of carbon farming and raise its profile throughout the agricultural sector. “This is exactly the kind of next-level action we need now!” declares Sirkku Puumala from the Verkatakkila farm in Vihti.

More information:

Duration: 1.3.2022 – 31.10.2024

Person in charge: Project Director Eija Hagelberg, BSAG

Contact: eija.hagelberg@bsag.fi

Qvidja farm, the lighthouse of Carbon Action

Qvidja, located in Parainen and owned by Ilkka Herlin and Saara Kankaanrinta, is the oldest manor in Finland. The Qvidja farm includes 140 hectares of field and 650 hectares of forest.

Herlin and Kankaanrinta are transforming the farm into regenerative farming. Their farming principles include cover crops, mixed cropping, organic soil amendments, crop rotation, agroforestry and rotational grazing (sheep, horses and cattle). Everything at the Qvidja farm is done keeping in mind the diversity of nature, carbon sequestration and the protection of the Baltic Sea.

Qvidja serves as an experimental farm, and as an intensive study site for Carbon Action research – it is a lighthouse for the whole Carbon Action platform.

Demonstrations, peer-to-peer learning and training

Qvidja − the farm area, field studies and the medieval stone castle − offers a unique and memorable place for visiting stakeholders. The place attracts even the busiest stakeholders, making it an excellent site to showcase good practices. At its best, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qvidja hosted around 1000 visitors annually (media representatives, businesspeople, civil servants, decision-makers, researchers, farmers and advisors).

Carbon Action instructors Juuso Joona and Tuomas Mattila giving a presentation on soil structure for a group of stakeholders. Photo: Laura Höijer.

In Qvidja regenerative farming practices and healthy soil can be demonstrated for stakeholders to inspire change. The experimental farm has hosted for example the Finnish Parliament’s Agriculture and Forestry Committee just as well as the 100 Carbon Action farmers, engaging in peer-to-peer learning on regenerative farming. Starting in 2018, every year ’Save Our Soil’ SOS courses for various stakeholders are organized in Qvidja, luckily even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The SOS concept has provoked a lot of interest and has enticed people from a high level in business life, decision-making and media. Also, international reporters visited Qvidja when the EU Presidency of Finland was initiated.

Real-time research data from the fields

In Qvidja, Carbon Action researchers work together with farmers to ensure that research responds to the practical needs encountered in the fields. Scientific research is conducted for example on soil carbon sequestration. Atmospheric measurements and modeling are used for studying the fluxes and sequestration of carbon, as well as nanoparticles in the air. The observations from the fields in Qvidja, including the world’s first carbon sequestration forecast on grassland, are disseminated online through the Field Observatory.

Results show that the study field is carbon sink: 

Net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of CO2 has been measured in agricultural grassland at Qvidja since May 2018. This grassland site focuses on the conversion from intensive towards regenerative agricultural management. According to the results, the field acted as a net carbon sink during all the measurement years.

Annual carbon balances from 4 May to 3 May:

2018-2019: -56 +-10 g C m-2 y-1

2019-2020: -86 +-12 g C m-2 y-1

2020-2021: -77 +-14 g C m-2 y-1

Fig. 1: NEE has been partitioned into respiration (Reco) of the field ecosystem, which includes the CO2 release from the respiration process of vegetation and soil organisms, and into gross primary production (GPP), i.e. CO2 fixation by plants. Negative values mean flux into the soil and positive values mean release from the ecosystem to the atmosphere. In monthly balances, the impact of carbon input as fertilisers and output as yields are taken into account (Fig by Laura Heimsch, Finnish Meteorological Institute).  

Text: Laura Höijer, Content Director, BSAG

For more information: Heimsch, L. et al. 2021: Carbon dioxide fluxes and carbon balance of an agricultural grassland in southern Finland, Biogeosciences, 18, 3467–3483, 2021 https://bg.copernicus.org/articles/18/3467/2021/bg-18-3467-2021.pdf

BSAG brings news from Finnish fields to the UN climate change conference

Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) brings Finnish expertise on soils and multi-benefit climate solutions to the global stage more intensely than ever before. BSAG has been invited to speak at events related to the UN’s climate change conference (COP26) and will thereby raise awareness of solutions and practices developed through Carbon Action work among the participants of the conference.

To reach the goals of the Paris Agreement we must remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in addition to cutting emissions. Regenerative farming which promotes the sequestration of carbon into the soils is a cost-effective and multi-benefit climate solution with great potential. It protects biodiversity and waters as well as improves soil health, productivity, and resilience. Regenerative farming both mitigates climate change and enables adapting to it.

In Finland, internationally interesting and impactful work is done to increase the ability of the soil to sequester carbon. Initiated by BSAG, the Carbon Action platform’s operating model, including top research, is unique and actors all around the world want to learn from it.

BSAG has been invited to speak at events both in Glasgow and Helsinki in connection to the COP26. Below you can see the COP26 events in which BSAG is participating or otherwise present. You can follow BSAG’s work and presentations in Helsinki, Glasgow, or via remote connection. Remember to also follow BSAG’s social media accounts – we will be reporting on the happenings and encounters in real-time.

Twitter: @BSAG_ Instagram: @balticseaactiongroup Facebook: @balticseaactiongroup LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/baltic-sea-action-group/

All the following are local times.

Friday 5.11.2021

Helsinki at 10:15-11.45

Nordic COP26 Hub: “UN climate talks brought to Helsinki – How can agriculture mitigate climate change?” is an event held by the Natural Resources Institute and BSAG. This event presents the ongoing trends in agriculture and food sectors, and a panel will discuss  future challenges, research needs, and solutions. Read more and register. Further information on the websites of the Nordic Council.

Saturday 6.11.2021

Glasgow at 13:30-16:15

BSAG has been heard in the preparation for the section of the Land Use Action Event concerning farming, and Carbon Action will be included in the Producers’ Showcase of Action presented in the Event. Further reading.

Wednesday 10.11.2021

Glasgow at 9:00 and 15:30

During  the 4 per 1000 initiative Day BSAG’s Content Director Laura Höijer will be presenting Carbon Action and other soil work done in Finland at the High Level segment beginning at 9:00. In the afternoon starting from 15:00, in the Meeting of the Consortium segment Project Manager Elisa Vainio will talk about the 4 per 1000 Northern Europe event held in Finland in 2023.

Glasgow at 11.15

Project Manager Elisa Vainio will present Carbon Action at the Nordic Council’s Nordic COP26 Hub. Carbon Action has been nominated for the Nordic Environmental Prize. The event will be streamed. Further reading.

Helsinki at 13:15

BSAG’s designer Eliisa Malin will speak and be available at the Nordic Council’s lunch event ”Can farmers be at the forefront of the green transition?” Read more and register.

BSAG does intensive cooperation with the global 4 per 1000 initiative launched in the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015, which promotes the carbon sequestration to agricultural soils. Finland signed the initiative among the first countries, and BSAG is also a member of the initiative. BSAG brings Finnish soil expertise to the world especially through the FIN SOIL ACTION project, which is a part of the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Catch the Carbon research and innovation programme.

Carbon Action Nominated for a Nordic Environmental Prize

Carbon Action has been chosen as one of the eight nominees for the Nordic Council Environment Prize 2021. The winner will be announced on the 2nd of November. The theme of this year’s prize is sustainable food systems.

As for agriculture, this year the council of the Nordic countries emphasizes recirculated plant nutrition and environmentally friendly farming practices that take into account greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and good management of water resources.

“The nomination is an honor that belongs to every farmer, company, researcher, funder and other partner who take part in the Carbon Action work”, says the CEO of BSAG Michaela Ramm-Schmidt. “I believe that regenerative farming will begin to present itself as a solution due to its comprehensive approach. The special qualities of every farm must be taken into consideration and the practices need to be adapted so that good harvest and environmental benefit will be pursued simultaneously”, Ramm-Schmidt continues.

In addition to Carbon Action lead by the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG), another nominee advocates for regenerative carbon farming as well: Svensk Kolinlagring from Sweden.

“It was exciting to see our collaboration partner from Sweden among the nominees as well”, states Ramm-Schmidt.

“This summer’s severe weather events around the world and the IPCC’s recently published report have underlined the need to retain a focus on the way we produce and consume food. So we are delighted with the eight projects that have been nominated for this year’s Environment Prize. Each in their own way, they show how a more sustainable food system can create positive changes for our environment and climate”, tells the chairman of the judging committee Lars Hindkjær.

This year is the 27th time the Nordic Council Environment Prize will be awarded; in November it will be awarded to an initiative which has made a special effort to secure a sustainable food system.

Read more about the Nordic Council Environment Prize from here.

NESTLÉ FINLAND MAKES A BALTIC SEA COMMITMENT DRIVING MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY PRODUCTION OF IT´S LOCAL RAW

Nestlé Finland and Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) are starting a cooperation which aims to curb climate change and eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. Nestlé Finland joins the Carbon Action Platform and makes a Baltic Sea Commitment. As part of the commitment Nestlé provides training and support for farmers to transit their production into regenerative agriculture practices. The ingredients will be used in the local production for Piltti and Puljonki brands.

BSAG’s extensive Carbon Action Platform brings together financiers, farmers, advisors, researchers and companies active in climate change. In cooperation with BSAG, training will be provided to local raw material farmers of potatoes, carrots and onions used in Piltti baby food made in Turku and in Puljonki sauces and broths made in Juuka. The practices aim to improve the condition of the soil and to maintain and regenerate various ecosystems.

As part of the Baltic Sea Commitment, Nestlé Finland also wants to train its own personnel in regenerative farming and utilize this expertise in product development. The intention is also to export lessons from the Carbon Action Platform to other countries where Nestlé operates.

“We are really excited that Finland is one of the pioneers in regenerative farming. The cooperation with BSAG gives us the opportunity to get involved in this work on a very practical level. 65% of Nestlé’s CO2 emissions are generated in the primary production of raw materials. For this reason, in the coming years, Nestlé will invest heavily in developing environmentally friendly upstream activities. We believe that cooperation with farmers, researchers and decision makers is key in combating climate change”, says Ulla Luhtasela, Sustainability Manager Nestlé Nordic.

“We are pleased that Nestlé joins the Carbon Action Platform and the Baltic Sea work. Our cooperation will focus on operations in Finland, but of course we are also interested in the impact a large international food company can make around the Baltic Sea and globally”, says Michaela Ramm-Schmidt, CEO of BSAG.

“For the time being, Piltti will be the only baby food produced in the Nordic countries which is driving the production of raw materials into regenerative farming practices. This change is part of Nestlé’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050. By this action, environmentally conscious parents will soon have the opportunity to provide their children with high-quality locally produced baby food with even more environmentally friendly raw materials”, explains Ulla Luhtasela.

Nestlé is committed to source 20% ​​of its key raw materials globally through regenerative farming practices by 2025, and to achieve 50% by 2030. This commitment is part of Nestlé’s goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality throughout the whole value chain by 2050.

Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG, Elävä Itämerisäätiö) is a non-profit foundation established in 2008. BSAG is working to achieve the ecological balance of the Baltic Sea. At present, BSAG is working in particular to promote regenerative farming and responsible shipping, and to protect biodiversity of the sea ecosystem. Read more: bsag.fi, carbonaction.fi

Timeout for the soil and its farmer’s good future

The carbon farmers who are participating in Carbon Action have been active during the first three years of the project. A good moment for a Timeout discussion was just before May Day that was cooler than usual.

The event was organized via Teams on the 29th of April in 2021, and 21 carbon farmers participated. Timeout-Foundation’s Laura Arikka led the discussion, and the event was organized by the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation and Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG).

In Timeout-Foundation’s discussions, the aim is to create dialogue and to give equal space for different points of view. This time, we concentrated on gaining ideas to create context for the Soil at Risk symposium panel discussion. In addition to that, I will also use the collected material in my doctoral thesis on pioneering farmers’ transition towards regenerative farming.

Photo: Marjo Aspegren

This time we invited only Carbon Action farmers to participate in the Timeout. During the discussion, ideas about different combinations of participants were thrown around. The consensus was that it would be good to get the different actors in the food chain to sit at the same table. Also, sharing various farming points of view would be fruitful, and the participants hoped for a dialogue between decision makers and farmers. The role of the consumers and the retailers was also seen as central. The experience was so encouraging that there will surely be more Timeouts.

This blog pulls together the most central observations from the discussion in a way that doesn’t make individual farmers identifiable.

Let’s get enthusiastic about healthy soils

The farmers involved in Carbon Action are very interested in developing their soil management skills and they have been learning about it intensively throughout the project. It came up in the discussion, that the carbon farmers would like everyone to get enthusiastic about improving soil health, because it can be done without subsidies, and it is a great way to improve the fields’ and the farm’s resilience in varying weather conditions. 

Improving soil health is both beneficial and exciting. When you see, you can manage your land and make soils healthier, you become more motivated to nurture the results and to continue the work. Photo: Sanna Söderlund.

The farmers find the regenerative farming methods beneficial for the soil health but also for the wider picture; in the long-term, regenerative farming is economical and has benefits ranging from improved biodiversity to improving public discussion. Like one of the farmers said: “One of the pros of regenerative farming is that animals are also seen as an essential part of farming, and they are involved in a positive way.”

Getting information and the need for training and education were also thought to be central. It was noted that agricultural colleges are a natural channel for spreading information. Making regenerative farming a part of the national curricula is essential. It would promote the spread of regenerative farming methods to a new generation of farmers, which is important for the future. “The new generation of farmers is crucial. The discussions with the young people about the future are very meaningful and fruitful.”

Can I make a difference, and what does the future look like at my farm?

Carbon Action farmers feel that, in general, they can make a difference. They feel they have a very good chance to make a difference at their own farms, whereas the chances outside the farms are seen as more limited. That’s because much of what can be done is dictated by CAP, complex subsidy administration, buyers, and financiers. On the other hand, consumers are ever more interested in how the food on their plates is produced. Thus, real responsibility instead of greenwashing is important. Appealing products are a great way of making a difference. Thus, it is essential to get the whole food chain involved and to build the market together. One of the farmers put it particularly well: “It gives you a sense of control, when you know what the next link in the chain is doing.”

Interest towards farming has grown in general, and the farmers feel it gives them a positive outlook on their work. Intergenerational thinking is important because you have to think about what you leave behind. On the other hand, independence plays an important role for the farmers, when they are developing a farm that is right for them: you shouldn’t concentrate too much on what others think about what you’re doing.

“It feels good to be a pioneer and to be able to set a positive example. When you implement regenerative farming methods at your farm and the yield is good, it may encourage other farmers to improve the soil health. But you do kind of have to be the village idiot to do this”, jokes one of the farmers.

Naturally, all farmers wonder about the next programming period that is now being prepared, and so do Carbon Action farmers. They especially hoped that financial gains would not only come from subsidies. Although subsidies are important for profitability, field optimizing is important too. Regenerative farming methods are seen as a great opportunity to improve the farm’s profitability. In addition to subsidies, emissions trading brings hope to the farmers.

Photo: Marjo Aspegren

What encourages transition to regenerative farming?

In the discussion, different crises were seen as catalysts for transformational change. Changes may happen for various reasons, but research literature indicates that often the shift of thinking which is needed in transitioning towards transformation is evoked by crises and transitional phases. Death of a loved one, divorce, and the birth of children may inspire change, when acting in line with your own values becomes more important. Thus, developing a farm in the direction that feels right may also become relevant. (1,2,3,

One of the farmers had an interesting idea about courage: ”Everyone doesn’t have limitations. When you are used to doing things in your own way, nothing can really slow you down. There are values in this work that are important to me, and that is why I want to work in a way that is also good for the environment.”

Regenerative farming brings farmers inner freedom in addition to cost savings. Improving the soils while mitigating climate change is beneficial for the farmer and the environment.

“Stress can’t be measured in money”, said one of the participants.

Carbon Action farmers feel that networking with other farmers has provided them benefits not only in farming practices, but also with stress resistance and mental resilience. Research also shows that positive thinking and cooperation are central to building farmers’ resilience. (3,4,5

There were also factors hindering transition to regenerative farming, and they were in line with what research shows. (1,2,3 According to the participants, the most significant challenge is social pressure. Especially, the pressure from friends, family, neighbours and peers, who have narrow views on the matter, was seen as a limiting factor.

“You have to get past the pressure either before the transition or during it,” said one of the participants.

It is a well-known fact that fear of change is an obstacle for transformation because change is always both a risk and a possibility(1. Fear is also closely tied to financial points of view and to the sufficiency of other resources, and in the discussions, finances came up as one of the biggest factors limiting experiments. On the other hand, the farmers reminded us that finances are also one of the most encouraging factors.

Meaningful things now and in the future

The farmers also feel that regenerative farming brings a new sense of meaning to the work. The participants emphasized the increased appreciation of farming in the society, which has complex effects on the farming business, especially on its profitability.

Regenerative farming can help control costs and create a farm that is profitable enough for the future generations to become interested in continuing the work.

The participants thought that an environmentally friendly farm is also appealing to the successors of the farm. Thus, it is also important to pass on a healthy farm and the interest and will to develop it to the next generation:

”I can leave, for example, blooming and biodiverse fields and animals grazing on them to the next generations. The deep-rooted plants improve the structure of the soil and the living conditions of microfauna, which in turn are good for the fields. Consumers are also more demanding, and thus, hopefully, the farmer can profit from the work done for the environment too.”

Developing the farm to make it more profitable and environmentally friendly attracts successors like flowers attract pollinators. Photo: Sanna Söderlund.

It was also noted that a farm’s nutrient and energy self-sufficiency are important in the changing world of tomorrow. It came up in the discussions that a high degree of self-sufficiency and independency from off-farm inputs also improves profitability and provides a buffer for unexpected situations.

“Without off-farm inputs, everything is based on the fertility of the soil and regenerative farming”, one of the participants said.

The farmers’ personal goals included hopes for developing their own know-how and maintaining their health and enthusiasm. Helping other farmers get started and sharing success stories and failures give work meaning:

“It is especially meaningful to see the farming practices develop into a direction that supports biodiversity and carbon sequestration. I also get a sense of meaning from being able to produce products that the consumers want and appreciate.”

Insights and ideas

A common consensus was found in stating that there are many ways of acting and they all are equally right. The different ways of working are created by each individual’s own history, experiences, and attitudes towards the experiences. The production line and starting point of production at the farm of are also important factors.

The discussion gave the farmers a sense of affinity and courage to continue developing their farms in a direction that feels right to them. Communication with other farmers utilizing regenerative farming methods is important. Carbon Action is also one of the significant operators supporting the transition.

“I walk away from the discussion with respect towards my colleagues and with gratitude for Carbon Action and the community and know-how it has given me. For many, Carbon Action is a safe discussion platform, where you can share your wildest ideas with peers and get encouragement”, said one of the participants, while another continued:

”Yes. It’s important to see that you’re not alone with your ideas. It feels nice to have other farmers wonder about the same things in a positive atmosphere. It is inspiring and exciting and gives me confidence for the future.”

Farming is undergoing changes. Good leadership skills and agility are needed in developing farming and in finding different income sources. Consumers value responsible production of different products, not just food. Photo: Marjo Aspegren.

Text: Sanna Söderlund, BSAG

Read more on farmers thoughts: Policy Brief: Soil as part of climate solution – agricultural policy reform to promote climate-smart agriculture

1. Gosnell, H., Gill, N. & Voyer, M. 2019. Transformational adaptation on the farm: Processes of change and persistence in transitions to ‘climate-smart’ regenerative agriculture. Global Environmental Change, 59, 101965. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.101965

2. Berquist, M., Nilson A. & Schultz, W. P. 2019. A meta-analysis of field-experiments using social norms to promote pro-environmental behaviors. Global environmental change, 59, 101941. Berquist, M., Nilson A. & Schultz, W. P. 2019. A meta-analysis of field-experiments using social norms to promote pro-environmental behaviors. Global environmental change, 59, 101941.

3. Dolinska, A. & d’Aquino, P. 2016. Farmers as agents in innovation systems. Empowering farmers for innovation through communities of practice. Agricultural systems, 142, 122-130.

4. Folke, C., Biggs, R., Norström, A. V., Reyers, B. & Rockström, J. 2016. Social-ecological resilience and biosphere-based sustainability science. Ecology and Society, 21(3), 41. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08748-210341

5. Arewasikporn, A., Sturgeon, J. A. & Zautra, A. J. 2018. Sharing Positive Experiences Boosts Resilient Thinking: Everyday Benefits of Social Connection and Positive Emotion in a Community Sample. Am J Community Psychol, 63, 110–121. DOI: 10.1002/ajcp.12279

International Soil Award Recognition for Carbon Action work

Systemic change in the field of agriculture is in progress globally (read more on recent blog). Co-operation and co-development with international regenerative agriculture networks is important for Carbon Action. Carbon Action has been well noticed as part of the forerunner networks. One indication of that was the Land and Soil Management Award ’Diploma of Recognition’ that Carbon Action received for its high-quality work at 16th of March 2021 during the Forum for Future of Agriculture (FFA2021).

The annual award is funded by European landowners’ organization in 2008 and it highlights “outstanding achievements, encouraging new concepts of land and soil protection and their implementation in land management, as well as enhancing awareness about the importance of land and soil functions”.

Science Webinar provided novel research results on soil, carbon sequestration and water protection

Regenerative agricultural practices that control soil structure and hydrology can play part in both climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration and water protection through minimizing nutrient runoffs. Carbon Action Science webinar on Soil, carbon sequestration and water protection on 9th of March 2021 gathered around 200 participants from different backgrounds and countries around the topic.

The webinar was opened by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen and several speakers brought out novel research results on managing soils for both increased carbon sequestration and reduced phosphorus losses.

The webinar was moderated by Laura Höijer, Content Director of the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG). The webinar was organized as part of the MULTA project. The MULTA project is funded by the Strategic Research Council, and it is on the Carbon Action platform. SEB provided facilities for the webinar as part of the Baltic Sea co-operation with BSAG.

Please find the recording of the event here.

The summary of the key points in the presentations can be found here.

The presentations:
Jari Liski, FMI: The multi-disciplinary research of Carbon Action.
Tuomas Mattila, SYKE: Managing soils for increased carbon sequestration and reduced phosphorus losses: mechanisms and processes.
Kimmo Rasa, LUKE: Pulp and paper mill fiber sludges in agricultural water protection.
Matias Scheinin, city of Hanko: Carbon, nutrient and particle loading in coastal waters of the northern Baltic. How to target and evaluate countermeasures in a cost-efficient way. Case study from Hanko and Raseborg.
Airi Kulmala, MTK: Comment from The Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners

A leap forward in regenerative agriculture – collective effort across Finnish food-chain makes online course available to all

Press release 9th February 2021

The E-college for Regenerative Agriculture provides farmers with up to date, scientific information regarding practices that improve the soil, yield, and the environment. The free online course is the result of a collaborative effort led by the environmental foundation Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) and the technology company Reaktor, and is based on the Carbon Action project, which was launched with support from Sitra and the Finnish Meteorological institute. The course was created in collaboration with farmers, researchers, and operators in the Finnish food chain.

Regenerative agriculture is a significant tool for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Research has shown that this approach to agriculture has multiple benefits: it increases productivity while also protecting climate, waters, and biodiversity. Regenerative agriculture enhances soil health thus improving food security and helping food production adapt to extreme weather caused by climate change.

The new online course provides sixty hours worth of diverse learning materials and farming practices that can be applied on the farm. The aim is to have 5,000 farmers attend the course in the first year, which is roughly ten percent of Finnish farmers.

“Regenerative agriculture is a rising phenomenon around the world. Our online course makes the most up-to-date knowledge available to tens of thousands of farmers. Since online training makes large-scale implementation of the methods possible, the course has sparked widespread international interest even before it has been officially launched”, says Niko Kavenius, Lead Designer at Reaktor.

More carbon is stored in the soil than in the atmosphere and all vegetation combined. Climate change can be mitigated by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil through agricultural practices. If all of Finland’s farms on mineral soil would succeed in sequestering carbon through regenerative agriculture, five megatons of carbon dioxide could be removed from the atmosphere, an amount equivalent to the annual emissions from the entire country’s personal car traffic.

“Climate change is the greatest threat facing the Baltic Sea. We have reasons to be hopeful because the same agricultural practices can mitigate both climate change and the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, while also improving the profitability of agriculture. The E-college offers all Finnish farmers an equal opportunity to improve their yield and set an example that can be copied anywhere”, says Michaela Ramm-Schmidt, Managing Director at BSAG.

Finland is among the trailblazers of regenerative agriculture. The Carbon Action project, launched in 2017 by BSAG, Sitra and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, researches and develops ways to accelerate soil carbon sequestration and verifies the results scientifically. Cutting-edge research and practical trials within food production is carried out in collaboration with farmers and companies. The E-college makes the results of the work done on one hundred pilot farms available to all.

“Yields and crop security have improved since I began applying the principles of regenerative agriculture. Costs have decreased and the handling of animals has become easier with rotational grazing. It is easy to first test these methods on just a few fields”, says Tuomas Näppilä, course attendee and farmer from Kestilä, Urjala.

Collaboration throughout the food chain for the good of the climate

The partnership behind the E-college for Regenerative Agriculture makes the course particularly influential. The E-college is backed by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, agricultural producer unions, and several large operators in the Finnish food chain who have committed to ambitious sustainability targets in the production chain.

“Environmental issues are becoming increasingly important to people but making sustainable choices is difficult in practice. It is important for us to train our dairy producers in order to achieve carbon neutrality in the whole milk chain in the future. This way we can offer consumers Finnish products that are produced using regenerative farming practices”, says Juha Nousiainen, Director of the unit Carbon-neutral Milk Chain at Valio.

“Regenerative agriculture proves that practical solutions to biodiversity loss and the climate crisis exist. Finnish farmers can be at the frontline supporting biodiversity and sequestering carbon into soil. Sitra wants to facilitate this important work”, says Mari Pantsar, Director of Sustainability Solutions at Sitra.

In addition to Sitra, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and Valio, the partnership behind the course includes ProAgria, Fazer, S Group, Atria, City of Lahti and Viking Malt. The course is also sponsored by MTK (the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners) and the SLC (the Central Union of Swedish-speaking Agricultural Producers in Finland). The course will be published on 9th February 2021 by Reaktor Education, and it is free of charge to all participants.

Further information 

Pieta Jarva, Communications Director, BSAG, pieta.jarva@bsag.fi, +358 50 338 109
Niko Kavenius, Lead Designer, Reaktor, niko.kavenius@reaktor.com, +358 40 1823 258

Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG, Foundation for a Living Baltic Sea) is a non-profit foundation founded in 2008. BSAG works to bring ecological balance to the Baltic Sea by accelerating central rescue efforts. The foundation invests in projects with the greatest impact and longevity. www.bsag.fi/en www.carbonaction.fi/en

Reaktor Education is a business division of Reaktor founded in 2018 to develop and create the world’s best online learning resources in collaboration with companies and universities. Their flagship course “Elements of AI” was voted by students to be the best computer science course in the world. www.reaktor.com