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Healthy topsoil in province of Gelderland

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Within the framework of the project Healthy Topsoil Gelderland, arable farmers are working together to improve soil management on their farms with assistance from PPO (Applied Plant Research, Wageningen UR), the Skylark Foundation and the Louis Bolk Institute. Through on-farm demonstrations, field excursions and knowledge sharing activities farmers are enabled to make better-informed decisions with regard to crop rotation, fertiliser use, crop protection, green manures and machinery use – all factors which have an influence on soil health. The project runs from 2016 to 2017 and is funded by the province of Gelderland.

Organic matter is crucial

The topsoil (top 80 cm) contains organic matter, which plays a critical role in soil management. Organic matter is needed to maintain soil biological activity and hydrological processes (water storage, drainage), to ensure nutrient availability and stable crop production, and to conserve biodiversity. Furthermore, carbon sequestration in soil organic matter is crucial for climate change mitigation. Arable farmers, in particular, are dependent on healthy topsoils with adequate organic matter. In this project they learn how to better manage soil organic matter levels, in order to ensure stable yields of potato, wheat and sugar beets – for now and in the future.

Systematic approach to sustainability

The farmers participating in this project are using the systematic approach to sustainability developed by the Skylark Foundation. They are also establishing regional networks for future collaboration and knowledge sharing. Researchers of the Louis Bolk Institute are involved in this project to share their expertise on resilient farming systems, their practical knowledge on sustainable soil management and their experience with systems thinking.

Performing a 'soil scan': evaluating soil structure, organic matter content, rooting patterns and presence of compacted soil layers