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Luke experts recommend paludiculture in cultivating peatlands

Published : 07 Apr 2020, 02:57

Updated : 07 Apr 2020, 10:27

  DF Report

Pixabay photo.

Post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must safeguard and stimulate the preservation of carbon-rich soils through protection of peatlands, according to the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

Functional peatlands are the most space-efficient long-term carbon store and sink in the biosphere.

However, croplands on peat soils are currently large emission sources and account for more than 25 per cent of the total emissions from agriculture and agricultural land use in the northern Europe.

A group of leading peatland experts have compiled a set of recommendations for climate-smart actions based on their recent studies on cultivated peatlands.

If the productive land-use on peatland is to continue, a paradigm shift is required involving new concepts, crops and techniques, as well as adjustments of the current agricultural policy framework.

“The emissions from managed peatlands can be significantly reduced by raising water levels near to the surface (e.g., by drain-blocking, by stopping pumping in polders, etc), which reduces emissions and protects the remaining peat carbon store,” said Research Professor Kristiina Regina from Luke.

The experts recommend use of paludiculture in cultivating peatlands. Paludiculture is defined as productive land-use of wet peatlands that stops subsidence and minimises emissions.

In contrast to drainage-based agriculture, paludiculture cultivates crops, such as reed, cattail, black alder and peat mosses that are adapted to high water-levels.

Large-scale implementation of paludiculture, however, requires agricultural policies to set explicit incentives that ensure that it becomes advantageous for landowners to rewet drained agricultural peatlands and subsequently to maintain them as wetlands.

“It’s hard to reach the EU climate targets without changes in the agricultural policies, since agriculture contributes to such a large proportion of the greenhouse gas emissions,” said Research Professor Raisa Mäkipää from Luke.

Appropriate climate policy measures, especially in the frame of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), must enable farmers to minimise peatland emissions.

In Finland, afforestation of the marginally less productive fields on peat soils is also an option to mitigate emissions.

“The policy measures need to be adjusted to regional context so that they are cost effective, acceptable, provide opportunities, and do not imply unreasonable hardship for farmers, who are truly the ones implementing the emission reductions,” said Luke Research Professor Heikki Lehtonen.

Experts have concluded that following the first actions in appropriate combinations can:

  1. pave the way towards low-emission peatland utilisation
  2. Guarantee eligibility of farmed wet peatlands (paludiculture) for 1st and 2nd CAP pillar payments
  3. Phasing out CAP funding for drained peatlands
  4. Launch incentives for reducing GHG emissions and for supplying other ecosystem services (e.g., nutrient retention, water quality and flood regulation)
  5. Implementing national peatland carbon credit schemes to facilitate carbon retention and carbon capture, and
  6. Promote knowledge transfer, financial and infrastructural support, consultation and establishment of demonstration farms