Emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) from agricultural production and carbon dioxide (CO2) from agricultural land use constitute some 20% of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of Finland. According to the Climate Convention and Kyoto Protocol, the European Union has committed to reduce its GHG emissions. In Finland, reducing GHG emissions from the agricultural sector has proved to be particularly challenging. According to the Finnish Climate Panel, the most effective means of reducing GHG emissions in agriculture is through changes in land use and management. However, decisions on land use are usually not based on any optimisation process and current incentives for agriculture may even favour activities that increase GHG emissions.
The OPAL-Life project will focus on developing and implementing tools and methods to support the development of agricultural and environmental policies that safeguard rural livelihoods and have reduced environmental impacts. The project aims at integrating sustainable high-yielding crop and livestock production with reduced GHG emissions through: Environmentally and socio-economically sustainable intensification, by narrowing the existing gap between potential and harvested yields in highly productive fields, while targeting non-responsive, poor or distant fields for extensification (e.g. green fallows, buffer zones); The possibility of using extensified fields to allow recovery from soil compaction and a return to food production; Safeguarding resilience to climate change and variability through increased diversity; and Afforestation on fields with little capacity to recover and return to food production in the long-term.
Finally, the project will monitor how this new co-existence of intensification, extensification and afforestation is acceptable and feasible for farmers, in order to achieve the ultimate goal of GHG reduction.
Expected results: Land use optimisation criteria and tool: A list of the most important criteria for land use optimisation and guidelines on land use optimisation tool for public use; Methods demonstrated to gain prominent reductions in GHG emissions in agriculture, and their potential limitations identified; Forest clearance halted, especially in peat lands, due to improved coherence in agriculture and environmental policies; Biodiversity indicators in agriculture and improvements in crop rotation, agricultural systems and landscape scale agriculture achieved; Outcomes of OPAL-Life project are implemented into the policy-making processes, especially in relation to development of the next agri-environmental Programme; Farmers’ interviews indicate a trend of increasing acceptance of land use planning, gained through project dissemination activities on demonstration farms; and Economic sustainability of the land use optimisation methods evaluated.