In the project 'Better farming with biodiversity in Drenthe' (2011-2013), twenty arable farmers working on sandy soils and reclaimed peatland have put sustainable soil management into practice. Guided by researchers and advisers of HLB Consultancy and the Louis Bolk Institute they have taken specific measures to improve on-farm biodiversity and soil quality. For example, through increasing soil organic matter they stimulate biodiversity in the soil. This is crucial for the delivery of 'ecosystem services' such as nutrient cycling, water availability and soil disease suppression. A short movie (in Dutch) has been produced to emphasize the importance of balanced sustainable soil management.
Stimulate natural processes
The participating farmers regularly visited each other's farms for study meetings and soil assessments. At their own farms they set up demonstration plots with green manures and compost applications to increase soil organic matter. This helps to improve soil structure, and reduces nutrient leaching and plant-parasitic nematode populations. Farmers who practise sustainable soil management ultimately save money on fertilizers and pesticides. This is because natural processes such as nutrient cycling and disease suppression work better in healthy soils.
Good for farmers and society as a whole
Improved soil quality and soil biodiversity are not only good for farmers, but also for ground water quality. That is why district water boards and water companies are particularly interested in this project. The project is funded by the province of Drenthe and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The final conference, 19 September 2013, was attended by more than 60 highly interested participants.