Static yields and quality issues: Is the agri-environment program the primary driver?
The Finnish agri-environmental program (AEP) has been in operation for 20 years with >90 % farmer commitment. This study aimed to establish whether reduced nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) use has impacted spring cereal yields and quality based on comprehensive follow-up studies and long-term experiments. We found that the gap between genetic yield potential and attained yield has increased after the AEP was imposed. However, many contemporary changes in agricultural practices, driven by changes in prices and farm subsidies, also including the AEP, were likely reasons, together with reduced N, but not phosphorus use. Such overall changes in crop management coincided with stagnation or decline in yields and adverse changes in quality, but yield-removed N increased and residual N decreased. Further studies are needed to assess whether all the changes are environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable, and acceptable, in the long run. The concept of sustainable intensification is worth considering as a means to develop northern European agricultural systems to combine environmental benefits with productivity.
KeywordsGenetic gain Incentive Nitrogen Phosphorus Socio-economics Yield decline
The work was financed by the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and MTT Agrifood Research Finland: Follow-up Study on Impacts of Agri-Environment Program in Finland and Sustainable Intensification of Cropping Systems.
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