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Nature inclusive arable farming: management and effect of flowering field margins in practice

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Internship or thesis application 2020

At the moment, the Louis Bolk Institute is involved with several projects about flowering fields margins that are managed by arable farmers next to their crops and waterways. In the province of Groningen and Drenthe around 100 farmers are actively involved in the project. Flowering field margins function as buffers to improve the water quality levels, by reducing drift of pesticides and run-off of nutrients. Therefore, the Waterschap Hunze en Aa's stimulates field margins along their waterbodies.
However, the effect of flowering field margins can be even greater, when farmers integrate the effect of field margins on natural pest control, into their farm and crop management. The projects organizes field meetings and evaluation meetings with small study groups, in which the farmers participate. The aim of the study groups is to have an active learning process, where farmers learn from each other about beneficial insects, integrated pest management and field margin management.

Nature of activities:

  • Carry out experiments in flowering field margins in Groningen and Drenthe
  • Find and integrate scientific literature about this topic into the experiments
  • Monitor the effect of flowering fields margins on natural pest control on several crops
  • Monitor the effect of different management schemes on the occurrence of weeds in the field margins
  • Monitor flower visitation by different insects in the field margins
  • Assist during meetings and collect nice photo material
  • Speak to farmers (interviews), explain your work
  • Collect, register and analyse the data with statistical tools
  • Write a report on the findings and an easy readable brochure

Research questions:

  • What kind of insects are important for natural pest control in specific arable crops?
  • How could specific weeds be controlled in field margins?
  • What are the best practices for management measures benefit the water quality end crop p
  • Which implementations derived from the research question above are suitable for Dutch farmers to implement in their fruit orchards?
  • How do you translate the outcomes of the field work into a practical brochure for farmers?

Rough time planning:
Start in April: Preparations and literature review. Getting acquaintance with the people and sites involved.

May until June: During this period, the field work will be carried out, which means driving to farms across the country for collecting data. It may include setting up traps, observations and identifying insects in the lab. Starting experiments with weed control in field margins.

July: Organize the data and start the statistical evaluation. The conclusions of the field work and the outcomes of the tests will be translated into a brochure for farmers whereas I will work on the outline of this brochure if time allows. In this period I will also work on writing the report.

Your background:
This internship is suitable for MSc or BSc students with a background in ecology, applied biology, entomology or agroecology. Basic knowledge on the lifecycle of beneficial insects is required, interest for farmers in the Dutch countryside, a drivers' license and willingness to communicate transparently about your experiments and findings to the people involved.

Are you interested in doing an internship or thesis on this topic? Please contact: Boki Luske