Nitrogen and carbon cycles

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At farms, many processes take place at the same time. This sometimes makes it difficult to control nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. Many interactions also take place, for example between nitrogen and carbon. This is complicated by the fact that processes can behave differently on different soils. Tools such as computer programs are indispensable to understand the complex processes and systems. We participate in many projects aimed at making land use more sustainable in which mapping the nitrogen and/or carbon cycle is key. Some examples of projects related to these cycles:

Nitrogen Instrument NDICEA

The computer program NDICEA has been developed for practical use by the Louis Bolk Institute to readily map the nitrogen and organic matter fluxes for arable and horticultural companies. Nitrogen determines to a large extent the potential yield. NDICEA calculates both the nitrogen requirement per crop, and the amount of nitrogen released and washed out from the soil as a result of the decomposition of organic matter in the soil. As the Louis Bolk Institute, we are constantly working on the improvement and testing of this successful instrument for sustainable agriculture.

Carbon Instrument

In a version that will be available in 2021, the NDICEA model can also provide insight into how business management (cultivation plan) and organic matter management are related. It is also possible to calculate how much CO2 can be captured by the soil through the implementation of soil measures. This is important for the climate challenge, but also for the quantification of carbon credits, which incentivises farmers to take extra measures to increase their soil organic matter.

Mapping corporate carbon balances

Within the Smart Land Use project, Arable Farm Networks are active in various regions. An average of fifteen arable farms per region are connected to these Networks. Various measures are taken on plots of these farms to achieve additional carbon sequestration. This entails, for example, the use of cover crops or supplying (additional) compost. With the help of the growers and the results of soil measurements, these plots could then be modelled in NDICEA. By discussing the results with the growers individually, and by comparing them with each other in regional meetings, we jointly gain more insight into the possibilities of sequestering more carbon under the different practical conditions in the arable regions. This is a critical step towards achieving the carbon sequestration targets in our arable soils.