DiverIMPACTS - crop diversity as the foundation for sustainable European production chains

The DiverIMPACTS project (Diversification through Rotation, Intercropping, Multiple Cropping, Promoted with Actors and value-Chains Towards Sustainability) aims to promote and utilise crop diversity to achieve productive, resilient and sustainable European production chains.

DiverIMPACTS is committed to the research and development of resilient and diverse plant production systems in Europe. The agriculture sector is increasing in scale. Moreover, the total surface area for a single crop is increasing while genetic crop diversity is decreasing. This is worrying, given that diversity is an important element in ensuring resilience. DiverIMPACTS approaches crop diversity from two perspectives: diversity in time and diversity in space, in all possible variations, including crop plan, crop rotation cycle, the introduction of new crops, under-sowing, green manure crops, mixed crops and plot dimensioning.

Crop diversification

WUR Field Crops is involved in various DiverIMPACTS activities, including supporting 25 European case studies with a broad range of practical crop diversification methods. These case studies provide insight into the advantages and practical limitations (lock-ins) of crop diversification. WUR Field Crops focuses on limitations at a business level, such as the availability of the right mechanisations. Developing knowledge and practical solutions to enhance crop diversity for Dutch silage maize cultivation is another important task of WUR Field Crops. Silage maize is currently one of the most dominant agricultural crops in the Netherlands, covering roughly 250,000 hectares. However, the current cultivation system for silage maize presents various challenges. Retaining organic matter is a constant concern for growers, as is the risk of soil compaction resulting from the cultivation of silage maize. There are also societal concerns about fertiliser levels and the use of plant protection products. These apply to the agricultural sector as a whole and to the silage maize cultivation system in particular.

Resilient system for silage maize cultivation

Crop diversification

As part of the DiverIMPACTS project, WUR Field Crops is developing a resilient system for silage maize cultivation. We are doing this in two ways: by overseeing a case study with stakeholders in the silage maize chain and by conducting multi-year experimental research on the potential applications of crop rotation and mixed crops. The stakeholder group, which consists of growers, seed breeders, advisors and employees, is working closely with our researchers to develop practical solutions for silage maize cultivation. The experimental research study is testing various cultivation systems and analysing the effects on soil fertility, soil resilience, diseases and infestations, weed control, biodiversity and productivity by mixing crops such as maize and other fodder crops, such as grasses, peas, beans or sorghum. You can follow the progress by reading the interim reports posted on the DiverIMPACTS website.

The project is expected to last five years and has a budget of more than 10 million euros. We are working in close collaboration with other initiatives that are pursuing sustainable silage maize cultivation. These are PPS forage production and soil management and the 'Grondig Boeren met Mais' project.