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Carbon farming training for the Valio dairy farmers

At the end of 2018 the Baltic Sea Action Group and Valio started collaboration addressing climate change mitigation. During this collaboration BSAG and Valio will organize carbon farming trainings for the Valio’s dairy farmers. The first carbon farming training, organized in Kalajoki on 16-17.4.2019, gathered together 70 representatives from the Valio’s dairy farms.

During a two-day training “From dairy farms to carbon farms” participants got familiar with carbon farming, discussed in groups on the future of carbon dairy farms and planned  carbon farming at their own farms. A spa-hotel at the sandbanks of Kalajoki provided the venue for the training as well as a possibility for some relaxing spa-time and outdoor recreation.

The first day started with opening words of Anu Kaukovirta-Norja, SVP, Research and Technology of Valio. She presented to the participants Valio’s CARBO project., aiming a carbon neutral milk chain. This also includes collaboration with BSAG.

Presentation of Jussi Heinonsalo, a researcher of the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the University of Helsinki, explained how carbon sequestration is  linked to soil microbes. Participants commented on the presentation, saying that for them cow’s potbelly microbes are already a familiar partner, so cooperation with soil microbes sounds also natural for them. Perttu Virkajärvi, a leading researcher at the Natural Resources Center (LUKE) provided with his presentation a thorough dose of research data on the carbon sequestration for grass farming.

Perttu Virkajärvi, a leading researcher at the Natural Resources Center (LUKE), told participants about  the carbon sequestration for grass farming

Tuomas Mattila
, a researcher from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and a farmer from the Kilpiä farm, told the participants about the holistic management of the farm. He made people consider the future of their own farms, which served as a good introduction to the “Dairy Farm of the Future” groupwork.

The first training day ended with nice relaxation in spa and a walk to the sand dunes in the stunning sunny spring weather.

The most spirited ones stared the second training day with a morning swim. At the beginning of the second day a real grass expert Anu Ellä told about efficient and many-sided grass care. Healthy grass is the foundation for both production and carbon sequestration. Presentation by Kristiina Regina, a research Professor of the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), focused carbon farming on turf soils, ie how to slow down the loss of carbon from turf soils.

After lunch a carbon farmer and Hereford -breeder Johanna Jahkola told about the pasture, sequestrating carbon at its maximum. “A cattle breeder, a grass farmer, a microbial breeder”, described Jahkola many her tasks and roles as a farmer.

In the final presentation of the day Tuomas Mattila emphasized the continuous vegetation coverage as the foundation for carbon sinks in the fields. Increasing photosynthesis in fields provides food to microbes and thus can store carbon in soils in a sustainable way.

In his closing words, Juha Nousiainen, Valio’s director for the carbon neutral milk chain, emphasized that expertise and its development are needed to achieve the goal of a carbon neutral milk chain. At the end participants received certificates of participation in BSAG’s and Valio’s carbon farming training.

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