Explaining yield gaps and resource use efficiencies in Dutch arable farming: Analysis at field and farm level


Arable farms in the Netherlands operate close to the climatic potential yield and have to comply with environmental regulations restricting e.g. nutrient use in terms of the type, timing and quantity applied. In this context, reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture without compromising crop yields requires high (water and) nutrient use efficiency, and low nutrient surpluses, both at field and farm levels.   

The increasing availability of detailed field level data for single farms and/or for a multitude of farms allows the quantification of the magnitude, and variability, of yield gaps and resource use efficiencies in farmers’ fields. These data are of utmost interest to unravel the underlying management practices (and biophysical conditions) associated with small yield gaps and high resource use efficiency, which is important to understand the scope for reducing input use while maintaining crop yields.

The objective of this MSc study is to estimate and analyse the variability on yield gaps, water use efficiency and nutrient use efficiency across 1) different fields within a large Dutch potato farm or 2) different fields/crops across different Dutch arable farms. In either case, data is readily available for analysis and you will be using different quantitative methods (e.g. statistics and modelling tools) to analyse large datasets containing detailed crop and farm management information. Field visits are possible and appreciated, but not strictly required.


Option 1: Van den Borne Aardappelen. Van Den Borne Aardappelen is a 450 ha potato farm located in Reusel, North Brabant (The Netherlands, http://www.vandenborneaardappelen.com). Precision farming techniques and decision support systems are widely used in this farm, resulting in nearly ‘optimal’ management, high resource use efficiency and high yields. In addition, an extensive dataset referring to the soil properties and management strategy (quantity, timing and mode of application of inputs) applied in each specific field has been recorded in detail. Field trips to Van Den Borne Aardappelen may be organized for data collection and discussions with the farmer.

Option 2: Agrovision Consultancy. Agrovision is a consultancy company  located in Deventer (The Netherlands), which develops and provides specialized crop and farm management software to arable farmers (http://www.agrovision.com). The company has compiled a large database of individual fields used for arable crop production in the Netherlands containing detailed information on crop yields and crop management in relation to e.g. water, nutrients and plant protection agents. Close collaboration with Agrovision is expected, including regular meetings in the company’s office throughout the project.

Option 3: Other case studies in Europe or North Africa. In the Waterfarming project we collaborate with partners from Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Tunisia and Egypt. Similar methods may be applied in case studies in those countries.




Any time


João Vasco Silva                                                                                            joao.silva@wur.nl

Pytrik Reidsma                                   0317 – 48 55 78                                  pytrik.reidsma@wur.nl