Today global agriculture is more productive and efficient than ever. As the efficiency of production has increased yield growth and falling food prices have been accompanied by increasing food waste, from the field to the consumer, and a growing burden on human health associated with poor diets and unsustainable environmental degradation (Kuylenstierna et al. 2019).
Climate change will affect agriculture and influence food and feed security in the Nordic and Baltic regions in several ways. Some consequences can be positive, such as a longer growing season or an increase in CO2 to stimulate photosynthesis, while others, such as increased CO2 emissions due to an increase in respiration, drought, floods, or influx of new pests and diseases, will have a negative effect. Consumer demands are expected to change, resulting in an increased demand for locally produced plant-based agricultural products produced in an environmentally and climate-friendly way. Climate change and diversified market demand are a global trend.
Besides the demand for efficient, healthy, safe, and diverse food production, there is also a need to limit the environmental footprint of agriculture itself and minimise the production of greenhouse gasses, thus mitigating climate change.
Sustainable agriculture demands living farmland and soil. The question is how this can be done efficiently and sustainably in order to overcome rapid changes in the climate, satisfy demands for climate change mitigation, and uphold the quantity and quality of food production.
The programme is now issuing a call for proposals for research projects.
The funding parties have identified four thematic areas of the programme:
1) Plants adapted for future Nordic and Baltic conditions
There is a need for research on topics of relevance for food security and climate change adaptation, such as research on the effects of projected climate change on physiology, yield (productivity), and resistance of plants to multiple abiotic (e.g. extreme temperatures, drought, waterlogging) and biotic (e.g. pathogens and pests) stress factors.
2) Increased local and regional protein production for food and feed
Locally grown protein would be needed for sustainable food and feed security. There is a need for suitable cultivars adapted for northern growing conditions to increase the production of protein. There is also a need for research on agronomic practices, including their environmental benefits and potential risks for pests and diseases. The success of increasing production in a sustainable way will be determined by our capacity to adapt and implement digital farming tools.
3) Plants and soil as a carbon sink
More research is needed to find out which measures are - from the point of view of climate change mitigation - the most cost- and resource-efficient ways to sequester and store carbon in plants (e.g. cover and perennial crops) and soil without increasing the harmful impact on the environment. Research on plant and soil interactions and the role of microbial biodiversity on the ecosystem carbon balance is crucial for determining the best possible agronomic practices and policy tools that ensure sustainable agriculture in the changing climate.
4) Transformation towards climate-smart and profitable local and regional agriculture
Adaptation to climate change always takes place within a wider societal, institutional and policy context, and agriculture is no exception. New, sustainable agronomic practices need to be supported by changes in this operational context. Research-based evidence for transformational change is needed. There is a need to modify agricultural policies and incentives so that the profitability and social sustainability of Nordic and Baltic agriculture, as well as security of supply, drive change towards climate-smart agriculture.
The call strives for co-operation between research fields within different thematic areas. All proposals must address two or more of the thematic areas. The background and the framework of the programme are further elaborated on in the programme memorandum. Applicants are advised to read this document carefully.
Read full call text here.