The project SAVE ‘Improving the quality of the Archipelago Sea by applying gypsum to agricultural fields’ has investigated the suitability of gypsum for improving the condition of the Archipelago Sea as well as the whole Baltic Sea. The project has published an information package on gypsum drawn up based on research and the experiences gathered. The package is intended to help those involved in implementing water protection measures in agriculture and working on other aspects of the area of activity. The SAVE project has also published policy recommendations for the large-scale introduction of gypsum and its inclusion in the agricultural support scheme.
SAVE has gathered experiences on the use of gypsum in a large area. In addition, the project has reinforced previous studies on the effect of gypsum on water bodies. A large-scale gypsum-spreading pilot was carried out in collaboration with local farmers in the autumn of 2016. The effects on water quality will be monitored in the future, too – at least until the end of 2020. Based on the results, a plan has been drawn up on the use of gypsum in the coastal areas of Southern Finland in addition to a proposal on the inclusion of gypsum in the agricultural support scheme.
The SAVE project’s monitoring and research in the gypsum pilot area will now continue in the SAVE2 project. The duration of the effect of gypsum is assessed by continuing to monitor the water quality in the Savijoki river. Samples of well water, soil and crops will also be taken in the future. In addition, the practical questions related to the spreading of gypsum and its effects will be investigated in the project – especially the winter spreading of gypsum via a snow spreading test conducted in a laboratory.
The SAVE2 project also aims to model the impact of large-scale gypsum-spreading on the nutrient content of coastal waters and promote research collaboration on this novel water protection measure for agriculture with the coastal states of the Baltic Sea. The effects of gypsum on the microbial activity in soil will be studied. In addition, the aim is to gain a more detailed understanding of the effect of gypsum on the cation balance of the soil.
SAVE was a joint research project of the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Environment Institute. It was part of the Finnish government’s circular economy key project, funded by the Ministry of the Environment. The gypsum pilot was also a part of the NutriTrade project funded by the EU Central Baltic programme.
The SAVE2 project (Improving the quality of the Archipelago Sea by applying gypsum to agricultural fields – further monitoring) is a research project of the Finnish Environment Institute (responsible organisation) and the University of Helsinki, and it is funded by the Ministry of the Environment.
Gypsum amendment of fields has the potential to significantly lower the phosphorus loading originating from agriculture and ending up in the Baltic Sea. The method is easy for farmers to apply, and as a water protection measure it is quick and effective. Gypsum improves the ionic strength of the soil, thereby reducing erosion and the phosphorus runoff into water bodies. According to the results, gypsum reduces the phosphorus load coming from the fields by approximately one half without requiring changes in farming practices or a decrease in cultivation area or yields.
Read more about gypsum treatment in the SAVE project’s information package!