Agroecology Research Group is based at the Department of Agricultural Sciences in the University of Helsinki, Finland.
Irina (Iryna) Herzon, Docent, University lecturer

My research topics are driven by specific challenges of conservation in agricultural landscapes. Their solution calls for interdisciplinary approaches and therefore I strive to bridge ecological knowledge to agronomic realities of farming, farmers’ acceptance of managing for nature, and existing economic and policy frameworks. I worked in several international projects, also in multi-actor groups, putting research results into end-user outcomes. I greatly enjoy teaching, especially with student-centred interactive approaches.

Currently I am a member of Finnish Nature Panel (Suomen Luontopaneeli) and The University of Helsinki Teachers’ Academy

Recent publications
Johan Ekroos, Associate Professor

I am broadly interested in understanding joint and independent effects that changes in landscape structure and land-use intensity has on biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services. In this context I have mainly been working with agricultural systems, but not exclusively so. Whilst my background is in natural sciences, specifically in landscape ecology, I currently primarily define myself as a researcher in environmental science with strong interdisciplinary aspirations, with past collaborations involving researchers in physical geography, political science, social environmental science, economic history, agricultural economy, human geography and sustainability sciences.

I worked as a researcher at the Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC), Lund University (LU), during 2011–2021 (postdoc in 2011–2013). During this time, I initiated and participated in several research projects, including those listed below that are still ongoing. I am still affiliated with CEC, LU, and currently I co-supervise five PhD students at LU.

Recent Publications
Marjaana Toivonen, Docent

My research focuses on biodiversity and ecosystem services on arable land. I have worked on insect pollination and biological control of field crops, and the effects of landscape structure, farming methods and agri-environment schemes on biodiversity. I enjoy communicating research findings to general public. I work at the University of Helsinki with close collaboration with the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE.

Priit Tammeorg, Docent, University lecturer

I am an Estonian who, while growing up in my grandparents' farm, grew more interested  in solutions increasing the sustainability of agriculture. After completing my BSc degree with distinction at Estonian University of Life Sciences, I started MSc studies here at University of Helsinki. My research interests include ways to improve nutrient recycling, soil fertility, organic farming and recycling fertilizers and biochars as ways to improve the sustainability of crop production. The main focus of my doctoral thesis was to study the effects of biochar use as a soil amendment on soil fertility, earthworms and cereal and legume yield formation in boreal soils. My postdoctoral research continued along these lines and currently my AgriChar research group is focused on exploring the mechanisms of the long-term effects of biochars in boreal soils, nutrient recycling from waterbodies and organic fertilizers.

I am involved also in two Estonian Innovation Cluster projects (together 1.6 M EUR)  that focus on novel ways to protect soils and fertilize crops in organic farming systems.  The HYKERRYS2 project that I lead focuses on developing best practices for using recycled fertilizer and soil amendment products. Most recently, together with Aalto University, we started also EIT C-KIC project CarbonLane where we develop concept designs and principles of urban carbon fixing parks and lanes and we're currently planning a follow-up of that project.

Recent publications
Traci Birge, PostDoc

My background is in sustainable agriculture and agroecology. I am particularly interested in the human aspects of conservation in agricultural landscapes and in developing and supporting socially robust and resilient food systems. Specific areas of research include semi-natural grasslands and other high nature value farmlands, interview-based approaches for understanding farmers and other stakeholder perspectives, and results-based payment approaches for achieving agri-environmental policy aims.

I am visiting researcher in the group. My post-doctoral activities include: Grasslands, biodiversity and business report for Latvian Fund for Nature (2019), Horizon 2020 project HNV-Link (2018); Finnish inventory of demonstration farms for Horizon2020 project Plaid Peer to Peer project (2017). I am vice-chair of Cultural Landscapes Association, Finland (link) and represent the organisation in PerinneELO Finnish Expert Group for Semi-natural Grasslands (link).

Further, I just received funding from Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation to carry out my research under the topic 'Pollinator-Friendly Farms'. The project aims to empower farmers to conserve pollinators (link) (in Finnish).

More about the project 'Pollinator-Friendly Farms': (in Finnish) (in English)

Other interesting links:


Cultural Landscapes Association, Finland

Recent publications
Biar Deng, PhD student

I am a PHD candidate in Agroecology, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki. My research focuses on the use agroforestry and application of biochar to improve sorghum production in semi-arid tropical agriculture, especially in context of increasing water stress due to climate change.

Kari Koppelmäki, PhD student

My research explores how integrating energy production into food production impacts  nutrient recycling and ecosystem services on different spatial scales. I’m interested in how agricultural land can be managed to provide multifunctional beneficial outcomes. I am a PhD candidate in the AGFOREE programme at the University of Helsinki.

Lotta Kaila, PhD student

In sustainable agriculture pollinators and plant production support each other: plant production serves pollinators flowers and pollinators pollinate the crops. The aim of my research is to study how pesticides affect pollinators in Finland. I work as a PhD researcher at the University of Helsinki and Luke Natural Resources Institute Finland. My background at Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency Tukes gives me a good knowledge in sustainable use of pesticides.

Mina Kiani, PhD student

I am a D.Sc student in Sustainable Use of Renewable Natural Resources Doctoral Programme in (AGFOREE) at the University of Helsinki and joined the AgriChar research group in 2017. My background is in irrigation and water management, soil quality assessment, and sustainable agricultural practices via a Master of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology, Iran and a Master of Soil Science from University of Alberta, Canada.

Currently, I am interested in finding solutions for closing the agricultural phosphorus cycle via reusing lake sediments in agriculture and landscape engineering. My doctoral research focuses on comparing different ways of sediments applications to soil to examine nutrient retention in topsoil and to quantify their effects on environment and crops. Recently, I joined the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) at the University of Helsinki and involve also in the Estonian Innovation Cluster project that focus on novel ways to protect soils and fertilize crops in organic farming systems.  If you are interested in my project, please contact me:

Recent publications
Miriam Torres-Miralles, PhD student

My interdisciplinary research is focused on High Nature Value farmlands. I am interested in low trade-offs farming systems that support positive environmental aspects (such as biodiversity) while maintaining production. My aim is to seek better solutions for sustainable food production that support healthy diets.

I am a PhD student in the Doctoral Programme in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (DENVI) at the University of Helsinki. Also a member of Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS).

Sari Kinnula, PhD student

I study the effects of forest industry waste, called pulp mill sludges, on yields, nutrient leaching and greenhouse gases. The sludges are carbon and nutrient rich materials, which can be utilised in agriculture as soil amendments and nutrient sources, thus recycling nutrient that would otherwise go to waste. I am a PhD candidate in the AGFOREE programme at the University of Helsinki.

Sophia Hagolani-Albov, PhD student

My interdisciplinary research explores the socio-cultural aspects of sustainable transition and food system redesign. I draw from human geography, sociology, and development studies to examine individual level; perceptions of space and place and the values that construct personal imaginaries of locality in relation to food. I am a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Doctoral Programme (DENVI) in affiliation with the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) at the University of Helsinki. 

I co-host a podcast as part of my work with the Global Extractivisms and Alternatives Initiative (EXALT). We post a new episode on the last Friday of every month. Our May 2020 episode is with fellow University of Helsinki doctoral candidate Rachel Mazac. Click here to listen to "How does your dinner impact the world?"

Recent publications
Elina Karimaa, PhD Student

Elina is a PhD student in the Doctoral Programme in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences and a grant-funded researcher in the Future Sustainable Food Systems research group. In her PhD, she is looking to develop life cycle assessment methods to better account for the impacts of agricultural food production on biodiversity.

Elina holds an MSc in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability and a BSc in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Helsinki. During her master’s studies, she became highly interested in agroecology and food system sustainability and decided to continue exploring these themes in her doctoral thesis. Elina’s previous work includes conducting pollinator surveys in projects of the Finnish Environment Institute and assisting in the HYKERRYS project of the University of Helsinki that studies recycled fertilisers. Before starting her PhD project, she worked at the Environmental department of the City of Tampere where she took part in the development of the City of Tampere biodiversity programme.