Towards regenerative agriculture: the case of dairy and arable farming in the Netherlands
PhD project by Loekie Schreefel. Farm animals reared under a circular paradigm can play a crucial role in feeding humanity while decreasing the environmental impact. These farm animals would not consume human-edible biomass, such as grains, but mainly convert leftovers from arable land and grass resources into valuable food. The objective of this study is to develop pathways, by means of a ‘proof of principle’, towards regenerative farming in the Netherlands, with a focus on dairy and arable farming by 2050.
The key challenge nowadays is to produce enough safe and nutritious food for a growing and wealthier population within the carrying capacity of the planet. Four of the nine planetary boundaries have been crossed: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, and altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen). Farmer’s initiatives focus on the aspect of regenerative farming in which farmers aim to contribute to a circular food system.
Those initiatives, however, are not based on scientific concepts as so far, a sound scientific framework is lacking. To this end, we first need to establish a definition for regenerative farming. Then, we want to assess the environmental sustainability of regenerative farming systems by making use of a food system approach. This will be done by first analysing the environmental impact of case studies on farm level, focusing on dairy-, and arable farming. Then secondly, we want to combine the best performing innovations and asses their scalability to a regional scale. Upscaling of the case studies provides insight in potential competition for resources and markets between regenerative farms and other agricultural activities (e.g. horticulture, pig and poultry production). Finally, to direct us towards regenerative agriculture, transition scenarios will be created for dairy, - and arable farming in the Netherlands, in which agro-environmental and socio-economic aspects will meet.
Thus, the overall objective of this study is to develop pathways, by means of a ‘proof of principle’, towards regenerative farming in the Netherlands, with a focus on dairy and arable farming by 2050.