Karlsfälts Farm has been a family enterprise since 1927. Erik Bengtsson took over operations as the CEO in 2000, and today use the 800 versatile hectares to raise cattle and cultivate crops. Together with project manager Christoffer Bonthron they strive to achieve a farming practice that is in harmony with nature, and have plans to switch gradually to organic crop production.
“We have all seen the effects of using too many herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers,” says Erik. “Living close to the Baltic Sea means we have a front row seat to the dead bottoms, decreasing numbers of fish, and algal blooms.”
Several practices are employed simultaneously to reduce nutrient runoff at Karlsfälts Farm. These include crop rotation, extensive grassland production, the use of manure as an alternative to artificial fertilizers, mapping the soil for structural liming and the use of N sensor precision equipment for fertilizer application.
Recently Karlsfälts Farm gained nationwide attention among farmers and officials for its new sustainable irrigation system, which Christoffer and Erik established in parallel with the introduction of vegetables to the farm.
The system includes several measures that contribute to the reduction of nutrient emissions; such as the addition of a wetland area and restoration of two ponds, the cleaning and recycling of drainage water and a modern technique for precision irrigation. Besides minimizing nutrient drainage, precision irrigation is yielding a 20–25% decrease in water consumption and a 30–35% decrease in energy consumption, compared to traditional irrigation methods.
Christoffer and Erik see evidence that their efforts are working. For instance, the ponds on their property are accumulating a lot of seaweed and algae in the summers and autumns, an indication that their nutrient catchment function is in working order.
“If the drainage water had not been diverted to the ponds, the nutrients would have been transported directly to the Baltic Sea by the constantly moving water,” says Erik.
Other visible results include an in crease of wildlife on the farm, including insects, frogs and birds. Karlsfälts Farm is also experiencing business benefits.
“We’ve seen an increase of interest for our farm and our products and, in general, people are giving us credit for taking actions to be more environmentally friendly,” says Erik.
In the future, the vision is to have a closed loop of nutrient use on the farm with zero emissions to water or air.
“We want to give back the best possible soil to our children,” Erik says.
In 2018, Christoffer Bonthron and Erik Bengtsson received the national Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award in recognition of their efforts to reduce nutrient runoff on their farm.
Location: Ystad in southern Sweden
Type of farm: Conventional crop and livestock farm (800 ha)
Main production: Beef cattle, pigs, sheep, and various crops – including rapeseed, wheat, barely, rye and beets
Key practices: Crop rotation and diversification, use of manure as fertilizer, extensive grassland production, regular soil analysis and mapping to plan for structural liming, use of N sensor precision equipment, installation and restoration of ponds and wetland area, cleaning and recycling of water, precision irrigation
National jury motivation:“Karlfält Farm is being awarded for their long-term and detailed strategy to reduce the leakage of plant nutrients, as well as for its owners’ future vision regarding water use, climate aspects and the conservation of biological diversity. By collecting and reusing drainage water, and by using precision fertilization, planned structural liming and crop rotation, Karlfält Farm contributes to reduced erosion and nutrient leakage to the Baltic Proper from the part of Sweden where measures are needed most.”