Climate research in recent years revealed that the agriculture in the Netherlands will need to combat a warmer, dryer climate with heavy precipitation. The research also indicated that the agriculture can anticipate this change, for example by improving soil structure. MWH launched a project in the area of Witteveen, in the north eastern part of the Netherlands, to support a group of farmers with improving the soil structure.
The aim of the project is:
- to determine the exact effects of the measures on the soil;
- to enhance the farmers’ knowledge of soil improvement measures;
- spreading the knowledge to neighboring farmers.
Within the project several soil improvement techniques are being applied to improve the soil. The participating farmers choose their own technique that fits best in their farming system. The selected techniques are green fertilizers, compost, goat manure and no tillage. These are then measured yearly or once per four years. The project will last four years with a possible extension to eight years. This decision for the long term, is based on the slow build-up of the organic matter. Increasing the organic matter in the soil can take up to six years.
Soil improvement measures not only improve the soil structure, but also the quality of the environment:
- improved soils absorbs nutrients;
- improved soils needs less pesticides;
- improved soils have less drought issues;
- improved soils contain more moisture;
- improved soils needs less irrigation;
- improved soils has less runoff;
- improved soils results in more soil life and meadow birds;
- improved soils results in more CO2 absorption by the soil.
The positive effects mentioned here will not all be visible for some time. However, literature reveals that the farmers will reap a number of essential benefits from improved soils:
- higher quality of crops;
- crops which are more resistant to diseases;
- better use of nutrients;
- less use of nutrients;
- less need for irrigation;
- less flooding issues;
- less fuel use;
- more crop growth.
This project will help stakeholders in the region to enhance their knowledge and stimulate them to improve soils in other areas. The farmers are excited about the prospects and understand that just knowledge about crop growth will not be suffice to sustain agriculture. The data on the effects of soil improvement which will be gathered and shared in the coming years, will greatly benefit them.
- Witteveen, Netherlands
- 52.813592, 6.660510