Cosun, CZAV, and farmer Eugène van den Eijnden have launched a unique experiment to investigate whether profitable cultivation and nature development can go hand in hand, with support from chain parties. For the next seven years, research will be carried out on 12 hectares in West-Brabant into the practical feasibility of strip farming, an ecologically balanced form of agriculture.
The Crop Field/Nature Field is located on Dassenberg Estate, near Steenbergen, on a plot of land owned by arable farmer Eugène van den Eijnden and landowner Henry Deckers. Among other things, the field must ensure rich biodiversity, high soil fertility, and (economically) sustainable food production. To this end, ten crops will be grown, divided over strips that are six meters wide. According to scientific research, this distance ensures that functional insects can move across strips or harmful insects cannot. Moreover, such widths are in line with the existing standardization of, for example, harvesters. In addition to potatoes, sugar beet and chicory, the crops include rye, spring wheat, and capuchins. The field will also include flower strips, hedges, and beetle banks. Thanks to strip cultivation, a plot is less susceptible to diseases and pests compared to a monoculture. Moreover, the potential damage is much more limited. Control and crop protection comes largely from insects, and the use of additional resources is minimized.
A viable form of agriculture
The Crop Field/Nature Field project is an initiative by the HAS University of Applied Sciences at ‘s-Hertogenbosch. “For decades, mechanization and the urge to meet the growing world food demand has led arable farming to produce as much as possible at the lowest cost” says lecturer Erwin van Woudenberg. “Combining nature and arable farming is an important next step. Not only does it benefit biodiversity and does it create a beautiful landscape, it also reduces the amount of crop protection agents needed”. This prompted the HAS University of Applied Sciences to investigate how to develop a nature area with regular crops that yield a good return. This resulted in the Nature Field. “Theory shows that this is an ecologically viable form of agriculture. The question is whether it is also economically viable”.
The Nature Field is a project from the research program Innovative Entrepreneurship in Rural Areas that is led by the founders of Nature^Squared: Daan Groot and Erwin van Woudenberg.