Combining the management of field and ditch margins and embankments

Innovation Biodiversity Groninger Veenkoloniën

Farmers are increasingly managing field margins to stimulate biodiversity on their land. The management of the adjacent ditches, however, is often still being outsourced — although the combined management of field and ditch margins and embankments could be more effective to improving biodiversity and water quality than managing only field margins. In this project, the Louis Bolk Institute is exploring various types of combined management in order to optimise wetland management in the Groninger Veenkoloniën. 

Combining functions

Agriculture in the Netherlands is facing multiple challenges; from restoring and conserving biodiversity to improving water quality. In addition, sufficient healthy and good quality foods need to be produced. It is therefore important to combine various functions. In this project, we are studying how as many functions as possible could be utilised through the effective management of ditch and field margins. 

Learning by doing

Very little is known about what would be the most effective type of management of ditch and field margins in order to improve biodiversity, water quality and natural pest control. There are multiple options available. Ditches can be mowed using a flail mower or a mowing bucket. This can be done all at once or in phases, the clippings can be removed or left to compost on the field margin. Field margins can be sown in the spring or autumn or left naturally. At the experimental farm ‘t Kompas, in the Dutch village of Valthermond, we are testing all the options, focusing on the following 4 functions of combined manegement of field and ditch margins: promoting functional agrobiodiversity, promoting general insect diversity, providing winter feed for meadow birds and reducing pesticide drift and leaching. 

Exchanging knowledge

This experiment showcases various management practices for regional growers to consider. In addition, results from the experiment can be used to start a dialogue between water management authorities, nature conservation organisations and farmers.  

The experiment on the farm at Valthermond started in 2020, when field margins were sown in autumn and the first mowing trial was started. In the spring of 2021, seasonal seeds were sown and mowing management continued. The first results are expected to become available over the course of 2021. 

This project is part of the umbrella project Innovations Biodiversity Groninger Veenkoloniën and is led by the Agrarische Natuurvereniging Oost Groningen, Agrarische Natuur Drenthe (AND) and the Provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. This project is funded by the programme for rural area development (Programma voor Plattelandsontwikkeling 2014-2020) in the Netherlands (POP3).