Experts at Wageningen University & Research are working on a unique, integrated system approach to future-resistant and regenerative agricultural systems and nature-inclusive agriculture. In so doing, agroecology is the starting point and natural persons are seen as key to achieving a profitable production, for example by recycling natural resources, biodiversity and preservation of a healthy soil.
In multidisciplinary teams we are working on the development of agricultural systems that are used for food production and provide the producer with a healthy income, but which are also climate resistant, cause minimum environmental pollution and are based on biodiversity. All of this is centred on our integrated system approach, with soil and crop diversity as important starting points for the design and redesign of the agricultural system.
We use the cornerstones of stability, diversity, productivity and efficiency to quantify the sustainability and resistance (for example against biotic stress factors) of the agricultural practices and systems to be studied. Our researchers combine generalist knowledge with systems research into ecology and agronomy with specific knowledge of crop growth, biodiversity, soil, disease, pests and weeds, technology and socio-economic aspects.
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After a group of farmers and researchers had joined forces to begin working on crop diversity, research into strip cultivation started in 2010 in the form of experiments and practical trials.
Currently the production of a variety of agricultural crops in strips (of 3 or 6 metres for example) alongside one another is gaining ground and this system is becoming increasingly popular in practice. Strip cultivation (and crop diversity in general) offers a lot of benefits:
- it can make a significant contribution in the search for a resistant agricultural system with yield levels that compete with monocultures;
- optimum and efficient use of natural resources such as water, light and nutrients;
- a reduction in disease and pests;
- a large reduction in the use of crop protection agents;
- a major contribution to biodiversity.
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Mixed cultivation of ‘plant teams’ can contribute to soil fertility, productivity of the main crop and the reduction of weeds, disease and pests. Mixed cultivation also offers opportunities to increase biodiversity both in and on the soil as the increased and more diverse biomass provides food and shelter. Experts have built up considerable knowledge of research into mixed cultivation, for example with mixed cultivation of wheat-field beans and barley-pea.
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Agroforestry is a production system where woody crops are combined with agricultural crops and/or animals (trees and shrubs together with arable land, vegetables or grassland) on the same plot. It is expected that this kind of mixed cultivation will have economic and ecological advantages as compared with monoculture. In the experiments and practical trials we look for answers to questions such as: What can an agroforestry system 'produce' in terms of biomass, biodiversity, soil fertility, disease level and landscape quality? How can you integrate nature and biodiversity into a profitable business? What are the opportunities for and obstacles to these kinds of combinations?