Landscape inclusive agriculture

De Marne once was a salt marsh area, where people lived on mounds to protect themselves against the spring tide. During this period, a fertile layer of clay was deposited throughout the area, which was brought into use through embankments and improved drainage and forms the basis for successful agriculture today. Discussions with farmers and other stakeholders in De Marne reveal in particular issues such as soil quality, closed cycles, biodiversity, water quality and water quantity. Based on the input of these farmers and stakeholders in the area, the perspective ‘landschap inclusieve landbouw Marne 2050’ has been drawn up. According to the perspective, the future landscape wild in many ways resemble the landscape as we already know it. Nevertheless, the landscape will have changed in 2050 due to numerous of smart connections between agriculture, nature and landscape, as a result of which the area is not only more attractive in terms of scenery, but can also rely on healthier soil, more biodiversity and cleaner water, and where the farmer can earn a fair income. In outline, the perspective for De Marne 2050 consists of the following components:

- Linking arable and dairy farmers in a matching farm and broadening the crop plan.

- Using landscape structures such as dikes and maars for spatial and ecological interconnection, water storage and the production of cut-and-carry fertilizers

- The focus on strip cultivation around the villages, which not only ensures a more landscape-inclusive agriculture, but also strengthens the distinction between salt marshes

- Enhanced cooperation between farmers in the area, resulting in the exchange and joint processing of fertilizers, the marketing of agricultural products under the brand ‘de Marne’ and the joint management of the continuous landscape elements

- An adaptive approach to salinization through the construction of water buffers and the switch to more salt-tolerant crops

The coupling company with a sustainable construction plan

The coupling company consists of a partnership between four farmers consisting of one dairy farmer and three arable farmers. In the coupling farm, the various companies complement each other in terms of fertilizer and feed, which means that the nitrogen cycle is completely closed and concentrates can be grown and produced without nitrogen fertilizers and without externally purchased concentrates. Instead of a one-to-three rotation that is common in the current system, the plan in this future perspective has a one-to-six rotation in which one part is always filled in by grass-clover as cut-and-carry fertilizer. Other arable crops can be grown on the remaining five parts, including seed potatoes. The expansion of the crop plan and the use of organic fertilizers will have a positive impulse for the quality of the soil, making crops more resistant to diseases, less fertilizer is needed and fresh water will be better retained.

Landscape structures for improved veining

The dikes, maars and roads form the landscape structure of De Marne. By linking the landscape structures to the agricultural system, not only will the landscape and biodiversity in the area be enhanced, but agriculture will also have the benefits. For example, an ecological approach to pest regulation, the collection and delayed discharge of water and the use of grass clippings as a source for compost. Together the butts and dikes potentially form a fine-meshed ecological network. When all parts of the dike are merged into the agricultural collective, a clearly visible ecological zone and landscape structure can be created through uniform management. The banks of the maars will be widened and designed as wet overflow areas that can flood during heavy rain. The vegetation can absorb rinsing nutrients and purify the water before it ends up in the maars. Along the dikes recreational routes are being constructed at strategic locationsalong the banks and the dikes. This creates a network of routes that increase the visibility of the maars and the dikes. By making one party responsible for the management of the dikes and the maars, better coordination can take place and work is done more efficiently.

Strip cultivation for diversity

The transition to strip cultivation contributes to making business operations more sustainable. Strips are laid out on one plot on which different crops are grown. Between the strips with crops, biodiversity strips of three meters wide are being created to give the infection pressure and pest species even less chance in the crop. The biodiversity strips also contribute to the ecological connection of the region. Strip cultivation can be used to strengthen the distinction between the salt marsh walls and the salt marsh basins by only applying strip cultivation to the salt marsh walls.

De Marne, commissioned by College van Rijksadviseurs, i.c.w. Louis Bolk Instituut, Kennis Centrum Landschap van de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, artist impressions i.c.w. Ananda de Vos