Our research and teaching approach is rooted in the tradition of C.T. de Wit, combining empirical knowledge and production ecological theory with understanding of farming systems derived from surveys and databases.
Methodology development and application are central to understanding current systems and design of new production systems that contribute to addressing societal problems of global significance. Various modelling approaches based on simulation of crop and animal production, bio-economic optimization and statistical techniques are key (http://models.pps.wur.nl/). The societal problems require analysis at multiple levels, and a key research issue is scaling from the field to farm, region and the global level. The group also works on analytical and explorative methods to assess the scope for intensifying or improving current systems.
An interdisciplinary approach is central, as the issues deal with complex human systems. With the Animal Production Systems group we have established the Wageningen Centre for Agro-ecology and Systems Analysis. Qualitative analytical social science contributes to scenarios for future studies and examines the role of models in communication and co-learning with stakeholders. Our focus lies firmly in the natural sciences but close collaboration with groups from social sciences (e.g. economics, rural sociology, communication science) furthers integrated assessment methods.
We play a leadership role in developing and executing major collaborative programmes, and disseminating the knowledge generated. Over the past years, our group led three major research projects: SEAMLESS (System for Environmental and Agricultural Modelling; Linking European Science and Society); NUANCES (Nutrient Use in Animal and Cropping Systems: Efficiencies and Scales) and Competing Claims on Natural Resources. These projects have delivered concepts and methods for integrated assessment of agricultural systems, that continue to play a key role in our research.
Major current projects that we lead are:
- N2Africa: putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers growing legume crops in Africa;
- Global Yield Gap and Benchmarking Atlas: developing an Atlas with local relevant information on yield gaps, resource-use efficiencies, including underlying causes, of agricultural systems;
- Biomass for fuel: how can feasible options be realised in present farming systems and how can biomass for fuel produced on family farms be attached to the biofuel chain?
We also contribute to the following ongoing projects:
- LIAISE: developing an interdisciplinary community of IA researchers and practitioners
- CARE: assessing the effects of climate change and adaptive strategies on agriculture, nature and other land-use functions in the rural landscape of the Netherlands
- CATCH-C: assessing the farm-compatibility of ‘Management Practices’ that aim to promote productivity, climate change mitigation, and soil quality