Arable farmers in the Dutch Veenkoloniën (former peatlands in the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe) are facing various problems with their sandy soils, such as increased susceptibility to wind erosion and droughts, compaction and low organic matter content. As a result, soil fertility is decreasing. The objective of the Skylark Veenkoloniën farmers' network (2013-2015) is to help arable farmers in this region to manage their soils more sustainably. For example, interactive field sessions have been held to show participating farmers how to observe, analyse and evaluate their soils using a structured approach. In these sessions the following themes were addressed:
- Organic matter management
- Nutrient management
- Rooting patterns and nutrient inputs (manure/fertilizers)
- Soil tillage
- Long-term effects on environment and climate
Working on soil fertility in arable farming
In knowledge sessions organized by the network, farmers learned how to evaluate their soils using the 'soil scan' method. Advisers from the Louis Bolk Institute and the Skylark Foundation explained what follow-up steps to take depending on the outcome of the soil scan. Sustainable soil management measures related to soil hydrology and drainage, tillage, and use of green manures were discussed.
Digging a soil profile pit and conducting the Soil Scan
Thanks to their participation in the Skylark farmers' network, arable farmers in the Veenkoloniën are now able to manage their sandy and reclaimed peat soils more sustainably. The knowledge shared during the various workshops has been published in a brochure (in Dutch). In addition, an instruction video has been produced to demonstrate how to dig a soil profile pit for observing soil structure, rooting patterns and presence of compacted soil layers.
Watch the Soil Scan video (in Dutch):
About the Skylark Farmers' Network
The Soil Scan video and brochure have been produced within the framework of the Skylark Veenkoloniën farmers' network, a collaborative partnership between arable farmers, the Skylark Foundation and the Louis Bolk Institute. This project is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe Investing in Rural Areas.
A soil profile pit provides insight into soil structure and rooting patterns