Case study 16: The Netherlands: Spatial, temporal and genetic diversification of intensive systems

Cluster 4: Diversification through intercropping, with a special focus on grain legumes

There is a general concern among organic farmers that diversity is decreasing, also in their production systems. Strip cropping is seen as an interesting and very visible counter-movement.The objective of this case study is to rigorously test the idea of strip cropping on larger scale in experimental fields and on-farm to explore the real benefits for the organic arable cropping systems in northwestern Europe and the potential added value for farmers, environment and consumers.

What are the main problems underlying the emergence of the case study?
There is a general concern among organic farmers that diversity is decreasing in their production systems. Strip cropping is seen as an interesting and, for the citizens and consumers, very visible counter-movement. In the case study, a greater bird diversity is expected due to the strips in comparison with the large monoculture fields. If technically and economically feasible, strip cropping would already for these reasons be of interest for the case study farmers to apply.
However, the idea to introduce more diversification in larger fields stays more or less in an experimental stage. Diversification through strip cropping is well known and investigated in small-scale arable cropping systems, but it has not been tested on a larger scale relying on mechanical harvesting. The objective of this case study is to rigorously test the idea in experimental fields and on-farm to explore the real benefits for the organic arable cropping systems in northwestern Europe and the potential added value for farmers, the environment, and consumers.

How is the problem addressed and which actors are involved?
The case study encompasses two commercial farms (DLO and ERF bv) and one farm from Wageningen University, testing strip cropping with different widths and densities. Bionext is active in a large network of organic arable farmers who are interested in the systems approach to combatting pests and diseases and maintaining soil health. From this group, Bionext is recruiting new participants for the case study. Other stakeholders will also be involved, including extension specialists, in order to keep them informed. Exchanges will also take place with larger groups of farmers, e.g., every year, there is an “organic field day” on the experimental farm. The vision is that the group working with strip cropping will grow, and not be static.

Solution investigated
Optimal crop combinations to be used in strip cropping.

Expected outcome

  • To set up a network that allows for feedback from a group of involved actors, i.e. from the farmer and other stakeholders in scientific experiments and from researchers in on-farm experiments;
  • Solve technical barriers and lock-ins;
  • Answer the question: Can you market the diversity?
  • Investigate machinery requirements;
  • Keep eyes open for other effects, pedagogies, and imponderables;
  • Conduct exchanges between clusters;
  • Study biodiversity effects.

Contact

  • Heleen Klinkert, Bionext, case study leader