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SEI brief

The Role of Gypsum Soil Amendments in Reducing Coastal Nutrient Run-off in Finland

Phosphorus run-off from agriculture fields in southern Finland is the largest threat to water quality and living marine resources in this area of the Baltic Sea. Decades of attempts to reduce this run-off through traditional farming methods have proven inadequate. A new opportunity has now emerged: using gypsum as a soil amendment on agricultural fields. This reduces run-off pollution by 50%, decreases demand for virgin-mined phosphorus and reuses industrial waste.

Mark Rasmussen, Karina Barquet, Arno Rosemarin / Published on 15 January 2020

Rasmussen M., Koskiaho J., Tattari S., Barquet K. and Rosemarin A. 2020. The role of gypsum soil amendments in reducing coastal nutrient runn-off in Finland. Policy brief.

Vanhankaupunginkoski – waterfall on Vantaanjoki River in Old Town Helsinki

Research in the Vantaanjoki river basin assesses the role gypsum may play in reducing phosphorus run-off from farms polluting the Baltic Sea. Photo: Igor Grochev / Shutterstock.

Extensive piloting and research are under way in Finland to document the effectiveness of this practice and identify any negative side effects. Modelling shows that the large-scale application of gypsum on coastal drainage areas in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Poland offers a way to generate approximately 10% of all needed phosphorus reductions called for in the regionally endorsed Baltic Sea Action Plan. This policy brief summarizes the state of assessments of this farming technique and next steps needed.

Recommendations for further action

The BONUS RETURN project explored ecotechnologies to reduce, recycle and reuse the biomaterials of wastewater and agriculture in the Fyrisån (Sweden), Vantaanjoki (Finland) and Slupia (Poland) river basins. The Vantaanjoki case study shows that gypsum offers one way to address Baltic Sea eutrophication problems. This brief highlights the potential for upscaling gypsum use in the Baltic Sea Region as a promising component of Baltic Sea protection actions.

Project SAVE, the River Vantaanjoki project and NutriTrade, a project of the EU’s Interreg Central Baltic Programme, offer the following policy recommendations for further action to assess and encourage implementation of gypsum soil amendment across the Baltic region:

  • Development of a national plan to implement the use of gypsum in the coastal areas of Southern Finland, and to include gypsum in the national Finnish agricultural support scheme.
  • Provision of government agricultural subsidies to cover the costs farmers face in using gypsum soil amendment.
  • Amendment of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and HELCOM recommendations to promote gypsum application in the Baltic Sea catchments. The currently scheduled CAP reform for 2021 is a particularly important opportunity.
  • Additional research on the economic, environmental and societal benefits of gypsum in countries outside of Finland.

This brief is part of a series of three briefs describing real-world examples of policies or programmes intended to accelerate implementation of ecotechnologies that reduce nutrient losses, and encourage nutrient reuse in the three BONUS RETURN case study basins: Fyrisån (Sweden), Vantaanjoki (Finland) and Słupia (Poland).

SEI authors

Profile picture of Mark Rasmussen
Mark Rasmussen

SEI Affiliated Researcher

Karina Barquet
Karina Barquet

Team Leader: Water, Coasts and Ocean; Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Arno Rosemarin
Arno Rosemarin

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

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