Agricultural production is part of a complex system. Field quality, weather, know-how and infrastructure together with a large web of political and economic factors determine the basis for production. EU policies on agriculture and national targets have a great impact on what, where and to what extent crops are cultivated and what is the economical profitability of production.
The OPAL-Life project aims to optimize the use of arable land by targeting inputs such as labor, fertilizers and plant protection, towards the land where the response is the highest shifting production away from the non-responsive land. This results in higher yields, better economic returns and environmental benefits. Optimization of land use can also be considered as a climate change mitigation action when the total area of extensively cultivated land diminishes and year-round vegetation increases.
Land use optimization is developed together with Finnish farmers to ensure the farmers’ ability and willingness to implement the practices. The broad applicability of the project results all over Finland and in other areas in Europe sharing similar production conditions is confirmed by working on four different production areas in Finland. The areas have been selected to represent the typical Finnish soil types and agricultural production lines. Also previous data and research and active farmer networks and advisory services were important in the choice of OPAL-Life areas. 20 farms from those areas were selected for close cooperation with the project team. These farms form the pilot farm network of the OPAL-Life project.