rypsipelto.jpg IMG_8095_m.jpg Aneriojärvi.jpg maisemapelto.jpg img_0709.jpg riistapelto_0.jpg kosteikko.jpg img_9200_m.jpg img_9188.jpg puiden takaa.jpg broilerinlanta_pieni.jpg viljapelto.jpg halikonjoki_0.jpg kesa_-_copy.jpg rantaniitty.jpg kuurankukkia.jpg ketoneilikat.jpg pelto.jpg piippo ruusuruoholla.jpg tammihaka.jpg

Nutrient loading

    Both internal and external nutrient loading add to the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. External nutrient loading comes from the catchment area around the sea and from the air. Because the internal nutrient loading of the Baltic Sea is very difficult to control, the countries around the Baltic Sea have agreed to reduce external loading.

    External nutrient loading is caused by nutrient leeching, agricultural runoff, ditched forestry areas, industry, community wastewaters (untreated wastewaters and sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plants), wasted food and other waste and by-products of modern consumer society. See sources of nutrient loading (in Finnish).

    Järki project focuses on nutrient loading from agriculture but at the same time considers the relation between agriculture and other sources of nutrient loading. 

    Eutrophication leads to visible and unpleasant algal blooms and loss of biodiversity in ecosystems both in the waters and on the beach.

    The Finnish government made a commitment to limit the nutrient discharge from agriculture in the 2010 Baltic Sea Action Summit. View the commitment.


    Current situation

    Current situation

    Finnish agriculture is a small fraction of the eutrophication problem of the Baltic Sea. However, our shallow coastal waters are in a poor shape because of the nutrient loading from Finland. We cannot therefore close our eyes, but we need to do our part.

    Eutrophication of the Baltic Sea in numbers:

    - Finland's share of the Baltic Sea catchment area is 17.5%.
    - On the region level, agriculture and waste waters from rural areas account for 71% of nitrogen and 50% of phosphorus ending up in the Baltic Sea
    - Nutrient discharge from Finland accounts for about 5% of the nitrogen emissions and about 7% of the phosphorus emissions.
    - Of the total Finnish nutrient discharge,  67 % of the phosphorus and 53% of the nitrogen emissions come from agriculture.
    -In the Finnish Archipelago Sea 74% of the phosphorus and 68% of the nitrogen comes from agriculture.
    - In the Bay of Bothnia 51% of the phosphorus and 52% of the nitrogen comes from agriculture.
    - In Finland 90% of the agricultural nutrient load in occurs outside of the growing season, i.e. in the fall, winter and spring.
    - About half (rough estimate) of the nutrient loading from fields comes through the drainage ditches, and half from surface runoff.

    - In 2009, the same amount of phosphorus left the fields with crops as what was put in as fertilizer.

    Several researches say that the claim “80% of nutrient loading from agriculture comes from 20% of arable land” is not true. The grounds of this claim are not known. It is however clear that fields that contain slopes or are easily flooded and close to water bodies will have more surface runoff than fields that are flat. The nutrient runoff problem will not however be solved simply by stopping cultivation in these areas. Runoff can be significant even from flat land areas and on the other hand runoff from sloping fields can be controlled with the appropriate measures.

    The problem with numbers

    Nutrient runoff from agriculture and waste waters can be hard to distinguish from natural runoff. Estimates are based on calculations, statistics, measurements and modelling. More accurate information can be had from water quality measuring devices installed in water bodies.

    It is easy get an incorrect picture of the situation if only percentages are examined. Percentages should be used carefully considering the different sources they come from.

    Part of the problem with the numbers is that it is also challenging to get up to date information. This is why numbers should not only rely on numbers on the way to a more efficient reduction of nutrient runoff.

    Baltic Sea Action Group and Finnish Environment Institute are partners in a regional project funded by the European Union to deal with this problem. The differences between data from different countries are also examined in Baltic Compass project.

    Read more about indicators at Biodiversity.fi

    Read more about the state of the Baltic Sea at the Baltic Sea Portal

    More for information about the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, visit the Finnish Environment Institute



    Finland has agreed to reduce external nutrient loading by 1200 tons of nitrogen and by 150 tons of phosphorus by the year 2021. This is based on the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan that all countries in the Baltic Sea catchment area signed in November 2007.

    Even before the BSAP the government made a decision in 2006 to set a goal for Finland. This was to reduce nutrient loading by third from 2001-2005 levels by the year 2015.

    These goals should be reached by all possible means. This does not however mean that we should be doing everything everywhere – we can choose the most cost-efficient option. The reduction of nutrient loading to the Baltic Sea should be seen as a joint effort by everybody and a civic duty that does not depend on position or profession. 

    To do


    To do

    There is much to do. Change will take time for various reasons. There still isn’t enough applied research, it is still often even impossible for farmers to immediately implement new measures and regulations and results will not be visible right away.
    For example, the necessary machinery and equipment needed for fast results is often not available to farmers. Results from research are often contradictory which means farmers are not eagerly implementing the newest measures but want to be sure that the new measures suggested are cost-effective and truly work as intended. There is need for  more discussion to clarify these issues.

    The work to reduce nutrient loading should start with the evaluation of the necessary measures with the help of experts. Are the measures currently used effective? Are some of the measures used useless? Is it possible that mistakes have been made?

    It is important to get clear understanding of the measures used. We should learn from other countries and apply this knowledge to Finland – and at the same time continue with the measures that work in Finland. Changes could be made to agri-environmental subisidies. These subsidies should not be just a reason for implementing measures but serve the goal of nutrient reduction. 

    Good practical ways to reduce nutrient loading from agriculture:

    - Improving soil structure and crop rotation
    - Functioning water management (eg, Controlled drainage)
    - Winter cover crops
    - Enhancing the spreading of manure
    - The use of catch crops
    - New methods for erosion-sensitive fields
    - The use of manure as a fertilizer (instead of mineral fertilizers)
    - Wetlands and buffer zones
    - Mowing reed beds onshore

    It is important to plan the measures and agri-environmental aid system with cooperation between farmers, researchers and policy makers.

    The goal set for the 2014-2020 period of the Common Agricultural Policy by the Finnish Agriculture and Forestry Committee is to create measures that are cost-effective and encouraging to farmers.

    Järki-project will make proposals for the new period. The work is done together with famers, advisors and local officials.