SP.20.003 – MULTI-FUNCTIONAL GRASSLANDS: System innovation for productive, sustainable and biodiverse dairy production based on multifunctional grasslands

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?

One third of the total area of The Netherlands and 50% of its agricultural area consist of grasslands. They form valuable ecosystems that play a central role in the production of feed for cattle in the Dutch dairy sector. These grasslands are also critically important for soil carbon sequestration, water storage, nutrient cycling, erosion control and pollination. From a biodiversity perspective, Dutch grasslands are of international importance as they provide the breeding biotope for meadow birds. Finally, they provide typical Dutch landscapes that are highly valued by citizens. In the coming decades, the Dutch dairy farming sector faces several challenges originating from new societal, market and political demands. Next to the continued provision of high-quality milk, these demands include reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental pressures and enhancement of biodiversity and landscape quality. In addition, resilience to increasing weather extremes is needed to secure productivity. This proposal aims to develop the knowledge basis for sustainable and biodiverse Dutch dairy farming based on multifunctional grasslands, integrating agriculture and veterinary sciences, molecular plant science, ecology, immunology, economics, governance and transition studies. Multifunctional grasslands could also positively influence cattle health and milk quality. In a holistic approach, we will quantify potential benefits (resilient feed production in view of climate change, carbon storage, nutrient cycling, water storage biodiversity in and above the soil, cattle health etc.), identify trade-offs and synergies, and explore transition pathways.


biodiversity, Cattle health, Circular Dairy production, Deltaplan Biodiversiteitsherstel, LNV Visie Kringlooplandbouw, sustainability, Transition


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Prof. dr. M.P. (Marko) Hekkert
E-mail m.p.hekkert@uu.nl