Lithuanian fund for nature – Sustainable Farming

Lithuanian fund for nature - Sustainable Farming

Modern agriculture is considered one of the major sources causing the runoff of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) into rivers and the Baltic Sea. It is estimated that about forty percent of phosphorus and sixty percent of nitrogen are deposited into the Baltic Sea waters precisely because of agricultural activities. Nitrogen and phosphorus appear in the composition of mineral fertilizers and animal dung. When there is an overload of these nutrients in the water, algae and other plants take over and destroy the balance of organisms. As a result, the Baltic Sea already has many “dead zones” that are increasing in number. As these zones are dead because they lack oxygen, fish stocks get depleted. Therefore, it is crucial that the Baltic countries engage in environmentally friendly farming if they want to reduce the level of eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. Below we present a few examples of such farming. Farmers can easily implement some of these measures on their farms.

  1. As new technologies are being developed, new environmentally friendly farming methods appear, too. One of such technologies is an ammonia meter. It measures the amount of ammonia that a farmer can release into the environment. Even though this piece of equipment is very useful, it is also very expensive.
  2. Peatbogs and the growth of berries (highbrush blueberries and cranberries are grown in peat fields not used for other cultures) can form one unified system. From peat, berries absorb as many nutrients as they need, so berries need no additional fertilization.
  3. Without the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and other expensive chemicals, just by means of mulching, a farmer can grow the same amount of products without affecting the environment in a harmful way. The mulch can consist of such natural elements as clover, freshly cut grass, peat, and more.
  4. In order to reduce the runoff of nutrients into the Baltic Sea and preserve biodiversity, farms can dig ponds. In such a way, the Baltic Sea is less polluted, and farmers have the possibility of raising fish in the ponds and using the pond sediments for the fertilization of their fields.
  5. In order to prevent the runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus into the nearby lying water bodies, farmers build buffer strips out of bushes and trees.
  6. Special containers and impermeable cement floors can ensure a safe storage of fertilizers, which can prevent the risk of leakage.
  7. If a barn has purely clay or cement floors, the runoff of animal urine will not seep into the groundwater.
  8. On farms, the most problematic areas are livestock stalls, bird coops, cages, and other animal houses, because large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus leak from them. The runoff of these nutrients can be arrested in a few ways: animal houses can be cleaned without water; farmers choose such animal breeds the raising of which leads to a lesser pollution; farmers use sawdust as a bedding base in cages and other animal keeping areas.
  9. Piles of manure can be covered with a plastic wrap so that smaller amounts of ammonia leak into the atmosphere.
  10. Another way to reduce the amount of ammonia is to mix basalt dust into the fertilizers because it absorbs ammonia.
  11. One of the most effective ways to reduce soil erosion is to create conditions for a year-round protection of soil under plant covers.
  12. A vegetable plot should not be divided into separate plots for each species of plants or vegetables; instead, various agricultural cultures should be grown side-by-side.
  13. It is important that rain drainage systems are in good shape, and water does not get to fertilizer storage facilities.