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WWF BALTIC SEA FARMER OF THE YEAR
– 2020 –

Our global food system is the single biggest threat to nature today. The way that it’s currently operated is heavily reliant on natural resources and contributes to biodiversity loss, climate change, deforestation, erosion, and eutrophication. Sustainable farming is instrumental in driving the transformation that is needed. The global food system of the future needs to be more resilient, profitable, and beneficial for both people and nature – and support a collective shift towards a more sustainable diet.

– WINNERS –

BALTIC SEA FARMER OF THE YEAR AWARD 2021

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Regional winner 2021

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Farming practices could be winning practices

The Baltic region is home to 9 different countries and around 90 million people— yet we are more connected than you may think. The catchment area extends to four times the size of the Baltic Sea itself, making it extra critical to be mindful of our activities on land.

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WINNING MEASURES THAT REDUCE NUTRIENT RUNOFF

Healthy soil, sustainable water management, and effective nutrient management are all central objectives in the effort to prevent eutrophication. The 12 measures identified here stand apart not only for their ability to effectively curb nutrient runoff, but for the environmental co-benefits they yield – such as biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation.

MEASURES FOR HEALTHY SOIL

Soil erosion and degradation are common challenges on farms across Europe. When fertile topsoil is lacking, the risk of nutrient loading to nearby water bodies increases. Healthy soil has a porous structure, rich organic matter, good water retention, high biological activity, and enables more fruitful harvests.

1. Maintain year-round plant cover

On agricultural land, the highest erosion rates occur in crop systems where soil is left bare for extended periods of time. Maintaining year-round plant cover protects the soil against erosion and reduces runoff of phosphorus bound to soil particles. It also help to maintain organic matter in the soil and improves soil structure and microbiological activity.

2. Protect soil structure

Compaction adversely affects the air capacity, permeability, and water retention of the soil. It reduces root development and biological activity, and leads to decreased crop yields. Diversifying crop rotation, using lighter machinery, and working the soil in dry conditions can help prevent compaction.

3. Use catch crops or intercrops

Catch crops and intercrops are used to bind nutrients that have not been used by the main crops and are released from the soil after harvest. Sown together with the main crop or after the harvest, they are left to be buried in the soil, or to serve as plant cover over the winter. This can help maintain organic matter in the soil, and reduce nitrogen leakage by absorbing nitrogen and then releasing it for the benefit of the next crops.

4. Add organic matter to the soil

More organic matter in the soil contributes to improved soil health and production capacity. It also helps to mitigate climate change by fixing carbon in the soil. Growing catch crops or intercrops, and mechanically adding dry cattle manure or compost are ways to incorporate more organic matter in the soil.

5. Maintain buffer zones

Buffer zones of perennial vegetation along major ditches, riversides, and lakes help to reduce erosion and the transport of nutrients and plant protection products to water bodies. These are especially useful on fields prone to erosion or flooding. Maintaining grasslands and other vegetation in riparian zones also enhances biodiversity.

AN AWARD FOR FARMERS WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

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Last modified 09/09/21

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