Cultivation challenges

The road to sustainable cultivation involves managing and balancing several different challenges. We briefly describe some of the most important ones here – what they involve and how different cultivation methods can move us in the right direction.

Nutrients and eutrophication

Plant protection and chemicals

Use of chemical pesticides causes leaching of persistent substances that can present health risks and have an impact on the environment and biological diversity. At the same time, it is important to protect the crop in order to avoid problems with pests, fungi and weeds that may lead to lower yields or poorer quality.

Crop protection is not just chemical control, but is primarily about crop rotation, forecasts, choice of cultivar and mechanical and biological methods. There is much to indicate that the need for crop protection will increase. This is because climate change affects and alters the conditions for cultivation, i.e., precipitation, temperature, storms and pests. Use of chemical crop protection must be effective and needs-driven. A combination of different crop protection measures can significantly reduce the risk of both crop losses and adverse environmental and health effects. Integrated crop protection consists of preventive measures (crop rotation, choice of variety), regular monitoring of the cultivation location and needs-based control.

Biodiversity, which includes bacteria, plants, animals and habitats, is crucial in creating and maintaining all the natural processes and ecosystem services on which we depend – clean air, fresh water, fertile land, food production, timber etc.


Today, the Earth's natural resources and production capacity are threatened by decreasing biodiversity. Cultivation of farmland is dependent on the ecosystem services that biodiversity contributes. At the same time, intensively cultivated soil has an effect on plants and animals in the surrounding environments.

The goal during cultivation is to create optimum conditions to enable the crops in order to obtain a high, good-quality harvest. This means there must not be any competing diversity in the field. Creating favourable conditions for cultivation also in the long term, while ensuring biodiversity, requires measures both in and outside the field. Examples include well-planned crop rotation, a system of non-cultivated zones and needs-based use of crop protection.

Land use and soil fertility

As we have a limited productive area on our one and only planet, land use is an important issue. Global demand for cultivated raw materials is increasing as a result of an increasing population. More and more land is being converted to farmland, sometimes at the expense of other important values. Displacement of biodiversity, local populations' human rights, soil erosion and poorer protection against floods and storms are some examples. Another important issue is soil fertility.

The method of cultivation affect yields, soil fertility and the surrounding environment in the long and short term. This involves supply and leaching of nutrients, soil compaction and more. We have to meet everyone's needs for food from the capacity of our one planet, while protecting other raw materials and the ecosystem services we need. Cultivation must be adapted to soil type, climate and other local conditions. We need to use fertilisers and other inputs strategically and balance the area of agricultural land against requirements for short and long-term yields.

Sweden and the Nordic region have the potential to increase the acreage of farmland/agricultural land. At the same time, we are dependent on imported raw materials from countries where intensive farming is a major challenge. We must ensure responsible sourcing of these through increased knowledge, dialogue and relevant requirements.

Fresh water and water pollution

Agriculture accounts for about 70% of fresh water use and the availability of fresh water varies widely geographically.