Nature-based agriculture benefits both farmers and environment
Nature-based agriculture has a positive effect on biodiversity and the environment, both on-farm and in the surrounding landscape. Farmers interested in applying this approach will need to make investments in the short term (for example, in machinery and buildings), but will increase their profits in the long term. Thus, nature-based farming benefits both farmers and the environment, and hence society as a whole. This was shown in a study by the Louis Bolk Institute and Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra), commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.
What is nature-based agriculture?
Nature-based agriculture is a form of sustainable agriculture that is based on the resilience of the ecosystem and food system. It makes optimal use of ecological processes (the 'natural capital') and integrates these into farming practices. Nature-based agriculture also directly contributes to the quality of the natural environment itself, producing food within the boundaries set by the environment while promoting biodiversity.
Evaluation of nature-based measures
Based on scientific literature and farmers' experience, a number of nature-based measures for arable farming and dairy farming were evaluated for their effects on biodiversity, environment, climate and farm economic aspects. These measures included extended crop rotation, conservation tillage, green manures, winter cover crops, and flower-rich field margins (arable farming), and herb-rich pastures, outdoor grazing, and soil fertilization with fresh manure (dairy farming). For both systems, the effect of landscape elements (natural and semi-natural vegetation) was also assessed. The results show that most measures have a positive effect on one or more aspects of biodiversity, environment and climate. Although these measures do require various investments in the short term (for example, in machinery and buildings), analysis shows that they will be profitable in the long term.
Towards an integrated approach
Nature-based agriculture ideally requires an integrated approach, where various measures are combined and coherently applied at the farm level – or, even better, at the regional level. However, the study focused on individual measures, to offer farmers a starting point for implementing nature-based farming on a step-by-step basis. The report provides an overview of possible measures (including 'no regret' measures that are always cost-effective) and their benefits for farmers and society.
The report Measures for Nature-based Agriculture can be downloaded here (English version). The letter to Parliament on nature-based agriculture from the Minister of Agriculture can be downloaded here (English version).
For more information please contact Nick van Eekeren, tel. +31.343.523.860.
This is a translation of a joint press release (in Dutch) 10 July 2017 from the Louis Bolk Institute and Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra).
The analysis shows that most nature-based measures have a positive effect on one or more aspects of biodiversity, environment and climate