The John Nurminen Foundation Raises over a Million Euros for Gypsum Treatment of Agricultural Fields in the River Vantaanjoki Catchment: Spreading of the Gypsum to Begin in the Autumn

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The John Nurminen Foundation has initiated a gypsum treatment project—an immediately effective measure that reduces nutrient load and suspended solids runoff from agricultural fields to bodies of water – for the fields in the River Vantaanjoki catchment area. The project is implemented in cooperation with The Water Protection Association of the Vantaa River and Helsinki Region (VHVSY), The University of Helsinki and The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). Carried out together with the local farmers between August and October in 2018 and 2019, the treatment will cover as much as 3,500 hectares of agricultural field in the catchment area of the River Vantaanjoki. The project is partly financed by private donations and partly by key project funding by The Ministry of the Environment with the objective of improving the state of water bodies and The Baltic Sea.

Preparations for the project began in the spring of 2018 when the cooperation partners invited farmers from the River Vantaanjoki area to participate in the project. The attitude of the farmers towards the project has been generally positive and 20 farmers have committed to the first phase of the project which will be implemented in the Nurmijärvi region in 2018. The gypsum treatment, during which four metric tons of gypsum per hectare will be spread across the agricultural fields with the objective of soil amendment, will take place after harvesting crops. It is estimated that the effects of the gypsum treatment will last for about five years.

The Vantaanjoki Gypsum Treatment Project Sets an Example to the Baltic Sea Region as a Whole

Gypsum treatment improves the structure of field soil. It immediately reduces the phosphorus load and, in addition to Particulate Phosphorus (PP), it also reduces dissolved reactive phosphorus available for use by algae. The treatment clears bodies of water significantly because it effectively reduces erosion of fields. This slows down the silting up of field ditches, river stream beds and shores and the loss of soil from fields. With reduced erosion, also pesticide runoff may be reduced. Gypsum treatment does not reduce crop yield and it does not have a negative effect on organisms such as the brown trout, the thick shelled river mussel or the common water moss.

In addition to the gypsum treatment of fields, the project also encompasses extensive water quality monitoring and examination of the ichthyofauna carried out by The Water Protection Association of the Vantaa River and Helsinki Region (VHVSY) and The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The various forms of monitoring allow for verification of environmental effects of the gypsum treatment.

Markku Ollikainen, Professor of Environmental Economics at The University of Helsinki, sees gypsum treatment as a significant measure regarding Finland and The Baltic Sea: “Gypsum treatment of fields is a quick and effective measure to protect The Baltic Sea. The treatment allows reducing the phosphorus load from agricultural fields to the sea by half, Finland will attain the phosphorus reduction goals set by HELCOM, and the total phosphorus load of the entire Baltic Sea region could be cut down by as much as a fourth. It is my hope that the gypsum treatment of the River Vantaanjoki will speed up Baltic Sea protection measures in Finland and, by extension, help spark interest in the gypsum treatment method in the entire Baltic Sea Region.”

Powered by Several Significant Private Donors

At the preparatory stage of the project, The Foundation contacted private donors who lent their support to the project, donating a total of 740,000 euros. Among the donors are Antti Aarnio-Wihuri, Mika Anttonen, Heikki Kyöstilä, Pekka Viljakainen as well as The Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation. In addition, as a part of the measures outlined in The Finnish River Basin Management and Marine Strategy Plans, as well as the “Breakthrough of Circular Economy and Clean Solutions” (”Kiertotalouden läpimurto ja puhtaat ratkaisut käyttöön”) key project, The Ministry of the Environment finances the gypsum project by 375,000 euros. Moreover, citizens are encouraged to become active participants in protecting The River Vantaanjoki by contributing to the Nutribute crowdsourcing campaign.

Juha Nurminen, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation, states: “Now that we have seen that the gypsum treatment of fields is a method unparalleled in efficiency compared to the other methods available for the management of discharges from agriculture, we have done all we can in order to speed up the implementation of this novel and exceptional environment protection measure. Because its promise to The Baltic Sea is so immense, we decided to contact some potential private donors personally in order to give speed to our River Vantaanjoki project. Although the project was initiated by The Foundation, we would like to extend our special thanks to the private donors who decided to support us. The participation of the Ministry of the Environment represented an important signal to those private donors who participated in “the first wave” of donations. Single projects function as spearheads and catalysts, but in the future, it is vital to integrate gypsum treatment into the support mechanisms for agriculture.”

”I am delighted to see that funding from a key project has attracted the attention of numerous private donors and engaged local farmers. The project significantly contributes to the Government’s objective of reducing the nutrient load to water bodies,” Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, said.

In the course of the next five years, phosphorus load to the River Vantaanjoki will be reduced by about ten metric tons, which is approximately equivalent to half of the annual phosphorus load from the wastewaters of The City of Helsinki. In addition, it becomes possible to cut suspended solids runoff—which makes the water cloudy—by over five million kilograms.

”Making use of gypsum in reducing the leaching of phosphorus and suspended solids from agricultural fields complements and provides a concrete framework for the Action Plan 2017 – 2027 of The Water Protection Association of the Vantaa River and Helsinki Region (VHVSY). One of the main foci of the plan is reduction of nutrient loads from agricultural fields in order to promote the river’s recreational attractiveness and to enhance its appreciation among people. The reduction of suspended solids runoff through the gypsum treatment also goes hand in hand with the objective of our action plan to safeguard natural reproduction of migratory fish stocks. Since 1963, we have been working to improve the state of The River Vantaanjoki and we are extremely proud to be part of the gypsum treatment project and full of hope and anticipation for a clearer river,” said Anu Oksanen, Executive Director of The Water Protection Association of the Vantaa River and Helsinki Region.

The River Vantaanjoki gypsum treatment project utilizes the operations models and practices developed by The University of Helsinki and piloted in Lieto and Paimio. Gypsum treatment of fields has been tested out in Nurmijärvi in the TraP project (2008 – 2013) and in Southwest Finland in Lieto and Paimio (2016) in a large-scale gypsum pilot project in which farmers spread gypsum on a total of 1,550 hectares of land. The pilot project was carried out by The University of Helsinki and the SAVE research project led by The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and financed by a key project of The Ministry of the Environment, as well as The NutriTrade Project, led by The John Nurminen Foundation and partly funded by The EU Interreg Central Baltic programme. Based on the results of the gypsum treatment as well as monitoring its effects on water bodies, recommendations on the utilization of gypsum in the coastal areas of Southern Finland and integration of gypsum treatment into the support mechanisms for agriculture have been developed.

Founded in 1992, the mission of the John Nurminen Foundation is to save the Baltic Sea and its heritage for future generations. The goal of the Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea projects is to improve the condition of the Baltic Sea with tangible measures that will reduce the load and environmental risks directed at the sea. The Clean Baltic Sea projects are funded by private donations and public funds. A publisher of nonfiction books and the free Loki online service providing marine information, the Foundation is also an active mediator of culture. www.johnnurmisensaatio.fi

The River Vantaanjoki Gypsum Treatment Project in a Nutshell

In the gypsum treatment project in the catchment area of The River Vantaanjoki in 2018-2020, gypsum will be spread across a total of 3,500 hectares of agricultural field. The operation will reduce load of nutrients and suspended solids into The River Vantaanjoki and The Gulf of Finland, thus improving the ecological status of water bodies and enhancing their recreational value. Previously, gypsum treatment of agricultural fields has been examined in several research projects and tested extensively in a pilot project in Lieto and Paimio implemented by the SAVE research project funded by a key project of The Ministry of the Environment, as well as The NutriTrade Project funded by The EU Interreg Central Baltic programme. The River Vantaanjoki gypsum treatment project is carried out by The John Nurminen Foundation, The Water Protection Association of the Vantaa River and Helsinki Region (VHVSY), The University of Helsinki, and The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The project is funded by private donors through The Foundation’s fundraising efforts, as well as The Ministry of the Environment as a part of the measures outlined in The Finnish River Basin Management and Marine Strategy Plans, as well as the “Breakthrough of Circular Economy and Clean Solutions” (”Kiertotalouden läpimurto ja puhtaat ratkaisut käyttöön”) key project. The objective is reducing phosphorus load from agricultural fields as well as water clarification through reduction of suspended solids runoff.

  • A project with high visibility implemented in a recreational area that is of great importance to numerous people living in the Capital Region—and, more specifically, a river that is home to the brown trout.
  • The objective is to spread gypsum on as much as 3,500 hectares of field in 2018 through 2019.
  • In the gypsum treatment, four metric tons of gypsum per hectare is spread on agricultural fields with the objective of soil amendment. Gypsum, i.e. Calcium Sulphate, is dissolved into the field soil, thus amending the crumb structure of the soil and helping soil particles bind up phosphorus. Erosion and leaching of phosphorus and total organic carbon are reduced, which makes run-off water clearer and prevents eutrophication of water bodies. Phosphorus will, however, remain in the soil in a form available for use by plants.
  • The reduction of phosphorus losses from agricultural fields is about ten metric tons in five years. Within the same time frame, suspended solids runoff is reduced by 5 million kilograms.
  • The project is coordinated by The John Nurminen Foundation and The Water Protection Association of the Vantaa River and Helsinki Region (VHVSY). Other cooperation partners of the project are The University of Helsinki and The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The gypsum treatment is carried out by the local farmers.
  • The John Nurminen Foundation has raised 740,000 euros through private donors for the project, and The Ministry of the Environment has funded the project by 375,000 euros. In addition, organizations participating in the project have contributed about 57,000 euros to the project.
  • Moreover, additional donations are being collected via the Nutribute crowdsourcing platform at https://www.nutribute.org/campaigns/vantaanjoen-kipsihanke-2018

Further Information:

The John Nurminen Foundation
Clean Baltic Sea projects, project manager Marjukka Porvari, Tel.: +358 41 5491535, marjukka.porvari(at)jnfoundation.fi
Project manager Anna Saarentaus, Tel.: +358 40 7190208, anna.saarentaus(at)jnfoundation.fi
www.johnnurmisensaatio.fi/vantaanjoki

The Water Protection Association of the Vantaa River and Helsinki Region (VHVSY)
Executive Director Anu Oksanen, Tel.: +358 50 3726 018, anu.oksanen(at)vesiensuojelu.fi
Researcher Pasi Valkama, Tel.: +358 44 767 1394, pasi.valkama(at) vesiensuojelu.fi
http://www.vhvsy.fi

The University of Helsinki
Professor Markku Ollikainen, Tel.: +358 2941 58065, markku.ollikainen(at)helsinki.fi
https://blogs.helsinki.fi/save-kipsihanke/

The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
Senior Research Scientist Petri Ekholm, Tel.: +358 295 251102, petri.ekholm(at)syke.fi
https://blogs.helsinki.fi/save-kipsihanke/

The Ministry of the Environment
Project Manager Jenni Jäänheimo, Tel.:+358 29 525 0349, jenni.jaanheimo(at)ym.fi
www.ym.fi/vesienjamerenhoito