CropMix - Designing mixed cropping systems and transition paths towards sustainable ecology based agriculture

Arable farmers, researchers and chain partners are joining forces to achieve a breakthrough in the transition to sustainable arable farming in the 5-year research programme CropMix. The focus is on increasing crop diversity by means of strip cropping. This will bring ecology and arable farming closer together and facilitate the societal transition to a more sustainable agricultural system in the Netherlands.

Big challenges

The Dutch agricultural sector faces major challenges, including serious loss of
biodiversity, waste of resources, dependence on environmentally unfriendly
inputs (e.g. pesticides), public health risks from pesticide use and climate change. In addition, the economic position of farmers is often fragile, while the general public wants both affordable food and a clean and biodiverse environment. Meanwhile, the EU is increasingly restricting the use of pesticides. All these issues require significant changes in farming practices and create an urgent need for a transition to more sustainable and environmentally friendly cropping systems

Biodiversity and resilience

CropMix encourages the transition to more robust agri-food production ecosystems, in which biodiversity and resilience are the starting points. Sustainable agriculture is based on the ecological principle of (crop) diversity, but the transition to ecology-based agriculture requires changes in technology, knowledge, and values and regulations as well. Therefore, CropMix includes not only researchers from various disciplines (ecology, economics, social sciences), but also various chain partners, such as governments, crop protection companies, breeders, nature organisations, banks, food chain partners, green education and other partners who play a role in helping to accelerate the transition in practice. Central to the research programme, however, are the 25 arable farms working on crop diversity using strip cropping.

Improving soil life and biodiversity

The allocation of 10 million euros from the Dutch National Science Agenda gives the interdisciplinary team the opportunity to develop new knowledge on the
ecological principles that make cropping systems sustainably productive and
which socio-economic and societal factors hinder or enable the transition to
diverse cropping systems. By promoting crop diversity, the programme aims to
increase soil life and biodiversity in and around fields. At the same time,
good business models for farmers and healthy, affordable food for consumers are
also important. By studying the entire chain, from soil life to consumers, the
programme looks for effective and integral solutions that match the specific
problems arable farmers face in practice.