NWO - Vital soils for sustainable intensification of agriculture



A key challenge for sustainable intensification of agriculture is to produce increasing amounts of food, feed, and bioenergy for a growing world population, with minimal loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Intensive conventional farming results in high yields, but reduces soil biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Organic farming is more sustainable, but produces lower yields. In a long-term farming systems experiment at Vredepeel, the Netherlands, 13 years of organic management has resulted in yields similar to conventional systems, along with more stable ecosystem properties and soil functioning. In order to inform sustainable intensification of agriculture, the underlying principles need to be understood and validated in farmers? fields to develop predictors and indicators for management. Therefore, we aim at: (1) unravelling the biological, chemical and physical mechanisms underlying the high yields and sustainability in organically managed soil at Vredepeel; (2) validating the Vredepeel results in farmers? fields on major soil types, testing how transition can be accelerated, and what are predictors and indicators of successful soil transformation. Soil organism dynamics may be related to organic matter formation, soil structure, disease suppression, and yield. Therefore, we will validate results from Vredepeel at farmers? fields on sand and clay soils by comparing organic fields, which vary in time since conversion, with nearby conventional fields. In lab and field, we will test how conversion can be accelerated, e.g. by soil transplantation. Results will be synthesized in order to develop predictors and indicators of successful soil conversion, and disseminated to farmers through farmers? organizations.
Effectieve start/einddatum01/11/201615/08/2023


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