University Lecturer Mervi Seppänen has been elected president of the European Grassland Federation EGF for the term 2018–2020. Seppänen is the first female president of the organisation. The president chairs an executive committee that compiles programming for its symposia and aims for social impact.
Biomass and nitrogen fixation
Grasslands have adapted well to the northern climate and are able to produce large amounts of biomass for various purposes. As perennial crops, they have an important role in the sustainable intensification of agricultural production and the nutrient cycle.
“Grasslands with clover, which fixes nitrogen, reduce the need to use nitrogen fertilisers. In organic production, grasslands are used for green fertilisation. As for crop rotation, biennial grasslands rich in clover fix nitrogen from the atmosphere to be utilised during subsequent years in, for example, growing cereal crops. Through their rich and perennial root system, grasslands improve soil structure,” lists Mervi Seppänen.
Grasslands also have the largest root system of all crops and the ability to serve as carbon sinks.
“In Finland, grasslands are cultivated in one-third of all arable area, which makes them potentially significant carbon sinks. We are currently studying how much carbon grasslands are able to fix in their root system when using our cultivation technique.
In addition to ruminant feed, grasslands are used for green fertilisation, as part of buffer strips to prevent nutrient wash-outs and in biogas production.
“Under development are also methods to extract proteins from grasslands, which could expand their role as a source of nutrition outside ruminants. Grasslands produce approximately 700 kilograms of protein per hectare,” notes Seppänen.
The European Grassland Federation EGF was established in 1963. EGF General Meetings are held every two years. In 2020, it will be held in Helsinki. Some 400 researchers take part in the General Meeting.