Research in Wageningen has yielded a lot of knowledge on management of semi-natural grasslands, particularly regarding re-introduction, development and management of species-rich grasslands. Experiences from long-term grassland experiments on both clay, sand and peat soils have been translated into recommendations for nature conservation on farm land. Valuable data has been derived from the Ossekampen Grassland Experiment, a unique experiment near Wageningen that has been running for almost 60 years.. Knowledge is also tested and put into practice at the De Marke experimental farm and on commercial farms.
On a total of approximately 1 million hectares of grassland in the Netherlands, only 3% can be considered species-rich. In the early 50s of last century, this was still more than 50%. This shows how drastically biodiversity has declined on permanent grasslands. However, species-rich grasslands are still an important habitat for flora and fauna. For meadow birds, these grasslands are essential in providing adequate food (insects) for their chicks. Species-rich grass also provides healthy roughage, rich in minerals and fibre, which can be incorporated perfectly into the ration of dairy cattle.
Nature conservation on farm land
Nature conservation on farm land is one of the most important tools to maintain and improve biodiversity in rural areas. It addresses the care required for major bird species on grassland and arable land, botanical grassland management and management of field margins and landscape features. The effectiveness of these agri-ecological areas can be increased by improving spatial coherence and enhancing the so-called green/blue interconnectivity.
In De Marke, an experimental dairy farm run by Wageningen UR Livestock Research in Hengelo (province of Gelderland), we have set up a network of different ecological elements. The property has been made accessible to the public by means of a 5-km nature trail: the Markepad.
Currently, the policy governing nature conservation on farm land is being amended to make it more result-oriented, efficient and cost-effective. From 2016 onwards, collectives (associations) of agrarian nature conservation organisations are going to shape the future of nature and landscape conservation on farmland. Agrosystems Research is closely involved in a consulting role in one of these: VALA, Agricultural Landscape Association in the Achterhoek.