Ecologically intensive agriculture good for farmers ánd the environment

Published on
July 11, 2017

Ecologically intensive agriculture has a positive effect on biodiversity and the environment at and around agricultural businesses. Agricultural entrepreneurs that want to farm in an ecologically intensive way have to invest in the short term, for example in machines and their business set-up. Yet in the long term, the farmer will reap the financial gains. That means a profit both for the farmer and for society. This is the conclusion of research by the Louis Bolk Institute and Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra), commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.

What is ecologically intensive agriculture?

Ecologically intensive agriculture is a form of sustainable agriculture based on a resilient food and ecosystem. It makes optimal use of the natural environment (the 'natural capital') and integrates it into business management. In addition, ecological intensification of agriculture actively contributes to the quality of the same natural environment. Ecologically intensive agriculture produces food within the boundaries of nature and environment and has a positive effect on biodiversity.

Measures tested

Based on existing scientifc literature and practical experience, a number of ecologically intensive measures for agriculture and livestock farming has been analysed for their effects on biodiversity, the environment, climate and business economy. For agriculture, these are measures such as extending the building plan, non-inversion tillage, green manures and winter covers and field margins. For the dairy sector, these are permanent or herbs pastures, pasturing and solid dung. Also the influence of landscape elements on different aspects has been reviewed. From the analysis it appears that most of the measures have a positive effect on one or multiple aspects of biodiversity, the environment and climate. They do however require several investments in for example machines and set-up, especially in the short term. In the long term, the outlook is different and financial gains for the farmer increase.

Integral approach required

Ecologically intensive agriculture ideally demands integral management on farm or even area level, applying multiple measures at once. In the analysis however, the effects of individual measures have been reviewed, allowing farmer entrepreneurs the opportunity to start ecological intensification step-by-step. In the report, for a number of quick measures that farmers can take, the benefits for the farmer and for society at large have been listed.


The report ‘Maatregelen natuurinclusieve landbouw’ (in Dutch) can be downloaded from the Louis Bolk website and from Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra).