The development of agricultural land is of great importance to the economy of Canada, the USA, Scandinavian countries, Russia and other states of the northern Boreal and Arctic regions.  However, the integration of new agricultural technologies can cause problems to the global climate and ecosystems of the North. International group of scientists with the participation of St Petersburg University professor, Doctor of Biology Evgeny Abakumov have analysed the risks related to the development of agriculture in the northern countries.

The article was published in the Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems journal.

According to St Petersburg University Professor Evgeny Abakumov, agriculture in the northern Boreal and Arctic regions is underdeveloped, while the existing agricultural technologies are insufficient to satisfy the food requirements of the local population.  However, the scientists are confident that this field of economy has a great potential, and today, the Arctic countries are working on its development.

Due to the current climate change, the traditional methods of developing the infrastructure and adapting the systems of land farming are becoming irrelevant. The article states that the consequences of the climate change manifest with unprecedented speed in the northern countries. For example, prolonged growing seasons allow for the expansion of agriculture, diversification of crops and introduction of cultures that are traditionally grown in warmer regions. It means that in future the agriculture in the northern countries can make a significant contribution to the global food security. At the same time, the major growth engine of agriculture in the North is the policy aimed at increasing local food security and self-sustainability. Thus, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Canada use various means of expanding commercial agriculture at the governmental level. Russia also takes measures on localising agricultural production and replacing import produce, as well as introducing the organic farming practices.

Nevertheless, it should be taken into account that transforming natural land into agricultural farmland involves losing a huge amount of carbon stored in the composition of soil and vegetation cover. In turn, this may result in further negative impact on the environment, warn the research authors. Thus, the agriculture of the North should be developed in view of minimising the risks for the global climate, ecosystems and communities.

Rapid intensification of land use and farming in the North may lead to unintended environmental, social and economic consequences.

Professor Evgeny Abakumov, St Petersburg University

‘Sustainable expanse and intensification of agriculture requires thoughtful planning verified by monitoring data and based on scientific research,’ emphasised Evgeny Abakumov. ‘The integration of such approach will result in an environmental management strategy that will lead to an increase in the productive capacity of crops in severe soil, biological and climatic conditions.   This will be another step in providing for food security of the communities in the Arctic.’