SP.20.002 – Transition to circular, ecology-based agriculture: the case of crop mixtures

Route: Sustainable production of safe and healthy food

Cluster question: 015 How can we make agricultural production systems more sustainable as the worldwide demand for healthy, safe food continues to grow?

The Dutch agricultural sector faces major challenges including severe losses in biodiversity, waste of resources, dependence on environmentally malign inputs (e.g. pesticides) and climate change. Furthermore, the economic position of farmers is often vulnerable while the general public demands both cheap food and a clean, biodiverse environment. There is thus urgent need for transition to environmentally benign, circular agricultural systems that are based on the economic strength of collaboration between parties in the agricultural sector and on support and trust from civil society organisations (Vision report Ministry LNV). An innovation trajectory towards circular agriculture requires simultaneous changes in ‘hardware’ (technology, bio-physical dynamics), ‘software’ (mindsets, visions, ideas) and ‘orgware’ (forms of organising, rules, incentives). This research project integrates these dimensions by addressing questions about all three components of innovation, and through a deliberate strategy to embedding the research in society. We are convinced that smart use of biological diversity in space (species/genotype mixtures) and time (succession/rotation) provides a great opportunity to meeting this challenge. Scientific research has shown that systems with more than one crop species on a field are substantially more efficient in terms of land- and resource-use, while exhibiting significantly lower disease incidence and weed and pest infestation than systems with only one species. Specifically we aim to: 1) Understand how crop species diversity influences resource-use and pest/weed suppression for combined benefits in yields and contribute to biodiversity at field and farm level (‘hardware dimension’). 2) Understand the role of economic, psychological and sociological factors in the adoption behaviour of farmers regarding production systems based on crop mixtures (‘software dimension’). 3) Understand how changes at farmer level are dependent on changes in the broader environment (policy, regulation) (‘orgware’).


Dutch agricultural sector, ecological mechanisms in crop mixtures, socio-economic interactions within food supply chains, Sustainable food production, sustainable transition strategy

Other organisations

Agrifirm (Agriculture), Albert Heijn B.V., Artemis (Agriculture), Bakker Barendrecht (Retail), BASF (Agriculture), Bejo Zaden (Agriculture), HZPC (Agriculture), Koppert (Agriculture), LTO (Agriculture), Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Government), Natuurmonumenten, Plantum (Agriculture), Protix (Industry), Province Flevoland (Government), Province Gelderland (Government), Province N- Brabant (Government), Triodos Bank (Financial institutions), Triodos Foundation (Financial institutions), Vitalis (Agriculture), Vlinderstichting (Sustainability)


Organisation Wageningen University (WUR)
Name Dr.ir. E.H. (Erik) Poelman
E-mail erik.poelman@wur.nl
Website https://www.wur.nl/nl/Personen/Erik-dr.ir.-EH-Erik-Poelman.htm