In December 2019, at the IFS Agronomy Conference, Renske Hijbeek won the runner up prize for the Brian Chambers international award for early career researchers in crop nutrition. She won this prize for her PhD thesis which focussed on the role of soil organic matter for crop production in European arable farming (conducted at PPS).
In her PhD thesis, Renske analysed yield effects of soil organic matter in 20 long-term field experiments and compared outcomes with views of more than 1500 arable farmers. She found that more soil organic matter can improve crop yields beyond macro-nutrient supply (for example due to improved soil structure) in specific situations, but not always. She also found that farmers perceive a trade-off between improved soil quality on the one hand and increased pressures from weeds, pests and diseases and financial consequences on the other hand when using organic matter inputs. These findings have relevant societal implications, for example when discussing threshold values for soil organic matter in agriculture. Her findings show that thresholds for soil organic matter will be more meaningful when specified per soil texture, climate and farm type and that financial benefits of increasing soil organic matter cannot be taken for granted.
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