The new HITTI project: “This is exactly the kind of next-level action we need now!”
Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) has launched the three-year HITTI project, in March 2022. The farmer-oriented project promotes adaptive carbon farming throughout the agricultural sector.
Farmers participating in the project develop adaptive carbon farming methods and form core groups and pioneering groups in the Pirkanmaa and Uusimaa regions. The groups in the Pirkanmaa region focus on situational grazing, which means that animals are moved from one grazing area to another as required. This normally takes place once a day, and it gives plants a chance to regenerate between grazing. When plants are allowed to recover, assimilation increases, which in turn increases soil carbon sequestration. The groups in Uusimaa look for the best ways to maintain crops that cover the soil all year round, in other words, to maximize the number of green weeks. Maximizing green weeks means that crop rotations are well designed and include as few interruptions to the permanent vegetation cover as possible.
BSAG coordinates the project, and will also disseminate information produced within the project, in order to make better use of the methods throughout the agricultural sector. The HITTI project creates a model for testing and developing adaptive carbon farming methods in other parts of Finland as well. The farmers adjust the carbon farming methods to the conditions on their own farms and fields. They also develop peer learning by sharing information. The project is part of the Catch the Carbon package, launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in spring 2020.
An adaptive approach helps in adjusting to climate change
Piia and Petri Jokela at the Jokela farm in Nurmijärvi are participating in the project. They think that it is important to be able to assess different situations, especially these days when weather conditions often vary a lot: “You must be able to depend on your own assessment in timing the procedures out in the fields and forget about checking the calendar. During the last growing season, we failed because the soil was too wet and cold to sow in. In the previous year, we managed to wait for the right conditions, and it helped us succeed.”
Farmer Mari Alanen from Nokia also says that timing has become more difficult due to unpredictable weather. “Establishing grasslands has been really challenging in recent years because of drought. Sowing in the autumn succeeded when the weather was right”, says Alanen.
“Farmers always have to adapt to the prevailing conditions in nature, but in recent years these conditions have been particularly difficult to forecast due to extreme weather,” says Eija Hagelberg, project manager at HITTI and project director of the Carbon Action Platform. She goes on to summarize the goals of the project: “In the HITTI project, we aim to improve the farmer’s foresight and ability to make good decisions in changing conditions. This will strengthen the role of agriculture as a mitigator of climate change. The project will provide us with more experience- and research-based information on cultivation methods that will help us all in coping with future weather conditions.”
Measurement technology to support decision-making
The core groups utilize measurement equipment to make planning and decision-making easier. The data services provider Datasense will supply the core groups with weather stations, soil sensors, and groundwater-surface sensors. The core groups agree on where the sensors will be installed and what each participant is going to measure. This way, everyone learns about each other’s fields, without having to measure the same things in each field. Based on the measurement results, necessary actions are taken to improve the farming measures. The results are also stored in a cloud and utilized as research material.
Carbon farming sparks interest
Farmers are increasingly interested in carbon farming methods and there is a demand for more knowledge on the subject. The project provides much-needed information for holistic farm management. “We expect to deepen our expertise in various subject areas so that we can better manage the entirety,” say Piia and Petri from the Jokela farm. Mari Alanen hopes to be able to produce high-quality fodder and pasture with a reasonable amount of work and using natural methods.
Carbon farming methods, if implemented correctly, mitigate climate change. The Carbon Action Platform, coordinated by BSAG, has developed carbon farming together with pioneering farmers. The HITTI project will deepen the knowledge of carbon farming and raise its profile throughout the agricultural sector. “This is exactly the kind of next-level action we need now!” declares Sirkku Puumala from the Verkatakkila farm in Vihti.