• Zero hunger
  • Climate action
  • Life on land

Soil research and microbes

A healthy soil is essential for the growth of the plants in any ecosystem including manmade forests and farming food. The key challenges in our future like biodiversity, climatic changes, sustainable food production and forestry, invasions of pests and pathogens and the renewable resources for bioeconomics are intimately bound with the advancement in understanding soil and its microbial ecology.

There is a need to take a much deeper look into soil: the invisible world of soil microbes is the best indicator of functional soil and full of opportunities waiting to be tapped into. Luke studies these opportunities in agricultural, forest, tundra, and peatland soils.

The soil is a home to massive microbe ecosystems, whose diverse benefits to other life forms are increasingly on our research agenda. It is already known that microbes affect plant growth and health. In one of our research approaches, we study, for example, how symbiotic fungi of forest trees help the nurseries produce healthy and well growing saplings, improving the cost-efficiency of nurseries, and how controlling microbiomes circulations could improve food production.

Microbes could also be an important part of the solution to mitigating climate change. They are involved in all the three major greenhouse gas production and consumption processes: carbon dioxide, di-nitrous oxide and methane. All these gaseous fluxes are the outcome of the important ecosystem service provided by soil microbes, namely the decomposition of dead organic matter of plant and animal origin. In connection Luke also studies how microbes can help to store more carbon in soil, and, thus help solving the challenge of global warming.

In addition to microbes, Luke is also involved in many other types of soil research. One example are micronutrients, that are essential to plant growth but also improve the quality of food. Regardless of the climate in respective area, soil often lacks these important micronutrients. Analysing the micronutrient levels and creating fertilizing plans accordingly is of essence. Our expertise and work in international research projects have helped build local capacity particularly in developing countries and, thus, improve the food security in those areas.

  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land

Sustainable forest management

Forest resources data are the backbone of sustainable use of forests; we need to know how much there is to know how much we can use, taking into account environmental, economic and social preconditions. Recognition of the possibilities of forests in mitigating climate change, not only through direct carbon sequestration but also as a source of climate-smart raw-materials, has increased the demand for information on forest and tree resources.

Luke monitors the forest resources and state of forests in Finland with the National Forest Inventory (NFI). The data are merged with other information sources, models and economic data to make scenarios on the development of forests under different management strategies to support political and economic decision making. Luke has close cooperation with other European institutes and research organizations to develop forest information and decision making on a European level.

From tree breeding to continuous cover forestry and impacts on surface and ground water quality, Luke’s contribution to forestry research is diverse. Climate change can increase forest vulnerability to damage and disease, reduce forest health and productivity, and cause economic losses. Our research on, for example, forest damage and adaptive breeding aims to increase forest survival and maintain its productivity, sustainability and resilience of forests. Somatic embryogenesis is another example of rather new, interesting methods on our research agenda. It helps provide homogeneous seeds for increased growth, but also gives more information for genomic selection, which could help make trees more resistant to certain pathogens.

Continuous cover forestry is a topic that is under a rather vivid debate. In any case, the method seems to be particularly beneficial in storing carbon in peat swamp forests, which help mitigate climate change. Luke studies continuous cover forestry beginning with its biological and technical foundations all the way to its economic, social and ecological impacts and operating models. And as climate is warming, the demand for proven knowledge on managing peat swamp forests is growing.

Luke is also at the forefront of research related to smart technologies used in forest management and wood supply. The aim is to create more cost effective and environmentally sustainable methods for forest management and harvesting.

Jokioisten navetta Ilma Tapio ja vasikat
  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Climate action

Sustainable food production and food security

In 2030, the world will need 50% more food than in 2010 – and that food needs to be produced sustainably. For years, Luke has been active in research related to developing the entire food system from field to fork. From soil health to plant protection and crop and animal genetics, our expertise covers the entire primary production as well as R&D and diagnostics of new food products. We are aiming at sustainable, circular and resource efficient solutions to enhance the competitiveness of food producers.

Alongside many economic aspects, sustainable food systems relate to well-being and health of people, animals and the environment. Luke produces information on the importance of responsibility and the related indicators for various actors in the food system. In addition, we provide information on how sustainability can be improved at different levels in the food system.

Improving food security

Climate change and related issues such as loss of biodiversity, and sudden crisis, such as pandemics set great challenges for the food system. We need tools to increase resilience of the food system, to mitigate climate change and to adapt to changes.

Luke promotes diversification of Finnish food system by developing solutions for enhancing production and use of domestic alternative proteins from field to plate. We also study the potential of innovative microbiome solutions in all stages of the food chain for increasing food security and healthy nutrition in the changing climate. Climate change mitigation means include, for example, decreasing the methane emissions of ruminants by breeding and nutritional solutions. Our genomic research is essential for breeding for resource efficient, robust livestock and new crops that can better adapt to changing climate e.g. by being resistant to certain plant diseases and, thus, improve food security.

The environmental impacts and carbon footprint of different production technologies, food products and diets are studied to understand scientific basis of environmentally sustainable food production and consumption patterns and possibilities are strongly on our research agenda.

Food waste is waste of money

Minimising food waste is another important topic in improving the sustainability and resource-efficiency of the food system. Unnecessarily produced food is a burden on both the economy and the environment. To improve the situation, Luke develops new ways to monitor and reduce food waste in the entire value chain. Simultaneously, we help producers make use of side streams and by-products to promote circular economy and new business.

  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Climate action
  • Life on land

Circular solutions

When there are not enough resources for the rapidly growing population, reusing them is a must. From valorization of forest industry’s side streams to recycling nutrients of food production, Luke promotes circular economy in all its research programmes.

Valorisation of biomass from various side-streams including wood and food processing for high value products is at the core of Luke’s circular solutions. Based on our core competences in extraction and fractionation, microbiological processing; anaerobic digestion and biogas processes; enzymatic bioprocessing; slow pyrolysis; and, we offer a  wide range of services. These include, for example, environmentally sound refining; fractionation; extraction and processing technologies to multiply the value of the raw material. Such technologies help use the raw material in a resource efficient and feasible way. We aim to combine biomass from various sources into new products to replace those depending on fossil raw materials.

For food industries in particular, optimisation of nutrient cycles and recovery as part of the entire valorisation chain plays an essential role as well. Furthermore, farm-scale nutrient balance is essential for sustainable food production. However, it requires precise data on manure quantity and characteristics. Together with leading European research institutes and universities, Luke works to enhance European manure management.

Besides agriculture, recycling nutrients is important in a bigger picture, too. Luke explores innovative ways to reuse nutrients in, for example, ash from the side streams of energy production. Another circular solution with a nutrient cycle could be a concept of “blue pulp mill” – a combination of a pulp mill and an aquaculture facility. Or we could even produce suitable biomaterials to be used in bioplastic production, based on utilization of anaerobic digestion process to produce volatile fatty acids.

  • Climate action
  • Life on land

Land use and climate change

There is a good consensus among both researchers and policy-makers that better land management is needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. With key focus on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining opportunities for sustainable bio-based business, Luke’s research on integrated land use covers all land use.

For decades, our forest related research has had a strong backbone in forest inventory data, which in its accuracy is unique even on a global scale. Inventories of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are based on forest inventories, scientific models and statistics. Based on latest scientific knowledge and constantly developed according to IPCC guidance, the methodology calculates the emissions of land use and, thus, helps manage the land sustainably. Supporting the IPCC’s work, Luke has also contributed to, for example, the report of 2019 Refinement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.

Mitigating and adapting to climate change

Luke’s contribution to climate change mitigation is diverse, including, for example extensive expertise in carbon cycles and greenhouse gas inventories. We have utilized tools and models for GHG inventories in and outside Finland, producing precise information on GHG levels in, particularly, forests and peatlands for science-based decision-making. Increasingly in demand all over the globe, the work supports sustainable land use optimization and helps forecast the changes in carbon stocks in different scenarios.

Our research on forests and climate change is multidisciplinary and spreads across extensive global networks. In addition to land use optimization, it covers themes such as the biological impact of the use of forest resources during the process of climate change; the impact of climate change on forest regeneration, forest cultivation and forestry; and the impact of potential new requirements and practices on the balance of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in forests.

Tools for agricultural land optimisation

Besides forest soils, Luke also contributes strongly to optimized use of agricultural lands. Continuously developed in collaboration with farmers, our research based tools for farmers take into account numerous field parcel characteristics, production potential and consider environmental footprint. Furthermore, a comprehensive interactive map of all biomass in Finland – Biomass Atlas – has been created in collaboration with other research institutes and universities to support decision making and new, sustainable investments.

The challenge of reconciling various land-use modes is how to acknowledge, combine and make use of local, scientific and other expert knowledge, and how to select relevant knowledge in decision making. Interdisciplinary understanding of different affecting factors helps reach a solution that is acceptable for all. Moreover, Luke studies various incentives which would support land-owners and, thus, help introduce more environmentally friendly land use practices.