Finnish key actors discuss SATs
A breakfast seminar held in Helsinki on October 31, 2018 gave ministry representatives, researchers and representatives of farmers’ and advisory organisations a crash course in the dynamics of ammonia emissions and the method of slurry acidification.
The event, organized by the Finnish project partner Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, featured four introductory presentations. Researcher Juha Grönroos, from the Finnish Environment Institute, opened by giving basic knowledge of ammonia. He concluded that the 20 percent reduction target for 2020 set in the National Emissions Ceilings Directive will most likely be attained in Finland, mainly due to a decrease in animal numbers and the mandatory and subsidized measures in storing and applying of manure. Finland has subsidized slurry injection since 2009.
Kaj Granholm from BSAG introduced the policy recommendations formulated by the project and the project’s assessment of the market potential and the policy environment in Finland. Mr Granholm concluded that SATs, if implemented in Finland, can increase the rate at which the NEC targets are reached and bring several other benefits, for a total net value of over 3 million euros annually – not accounting for the secondary effects on the national economy.
Sari Luostarinen, manure specialist and docent from the Natural Resources Institute Finland gave a talk about slurry amounts and characteristics in Finland. The pH of both pig and cattle slurry is typically between 7 and 8. This is the level at which, depending on temperature, the share of readily volatile ammonia begins to rise exponentially. The pH level of slurry affects the amount of acid needed for the acidification which in turn affects the costs.
The first session of the event was wrapped up by Sari Peltonen from the Association of ProAgria Centres, the umbrella organization for the Finnish agricultural advisory service – also a BSA project partner. Ms Peltonen spoke about the preconditions for, the applicability of and cost-benefit ratio of slurry acidification on farm level in Finland. The major reducing effect on ammonia emissions is clear, as was shown by the results from the German field studies. Preliminary calculations indicate that, in Finland, field application cost of acidified slurry is higher compared to the highly subsidized slurry injection and there is not yet much evidence of higher yields to cover the costs of acidification.
Providing an entrepreneurial perspective, Timo Lehtinen from Rekottila farm walked the audience through the different considerations related to slurry acidification and other available means to reduce ammonia emissions. Mr Lehtinen wants to find ways to utilize the nutrients in manure more efficiently in a way that improves soil quality and is good for the environment overall. Generally, the most important consideration on farm level is the economy – SATs are looked at in terms of saved fertilizer cost and the overall cost-benefit ratio. SATs seem appealing since they’re easy to use and they could increase the flexibility to choose the most applicable method for the given purpose and phase in the cultivation cycle.
In other solicited stakeholder comments, Birgitta Vainio-Mattila from the Ministry of Agriculture, Sonja Pyykkönen from the Ministry of Environment raised several important issues to consider when SATs are compared to other existing or potential methods.
After the sessions the audience was hungry for more specific and thorough data and assessment of benefits and impacts of slurry acidification in the Finnish context. The participants engaged in a lively discussion about the various questions and concerns raised. Some wished to see more evidence that the reduced emissions to air – meaning more nutrients in the slurry – aren’t washed away as nitrates via leaching. The participants noted the possibility to use organic acids, by-products from pyrolysis processes, as an alternative to slurry acidification by sulfuric acid. Pyrolysis could be used, for instance, to make biochar which could work as a floating crust in slurry storages. This technique is studies in a newly started national research project.
The follow up questions were mostly ones that Baltic Slurry Acidification has investigated, underlining the relevance of the chosen perspectives of the project. The project’s final reports will provide more details and studies results on many of the topics, such as impacts on emissions, crops and the soil. The event opened the space for dialogue and cooperation in relation to slurry acidification in Finland. The techniques will most probably be investigated further in both administrative working groups as well as by individual practitioners and entrepreneurs.