This project consists of two separate activities:
1. Implementing flower edges around the plots and biodiversity lanes in-between the plots, and measuring the impact on biodiversity levels and crop resilience.
Since the beginning of our journey, we have grown flower and grass-herb field margins on our Showcase Farm, accounting for more than 10% of the plots' surface. These field margins provide a welcoming habitat for insects, birds and small mammals, which contributes to increasing natural pest control (natural predators) and natural pollination.
From 2017 the University of Amsterdam, Klompe Farm and SHF worked together on validating the ecological benefits of these field margins. The results from 2017 and 2018 were so promising that the project has become an example in the EU-project INTERREG "FABulous Farmers". The goal of this project is to provide insights to the EU-government to help shape European policy on agriculture.
Thanks to Patagonia's support, we have expanded the surface of our flower edges, and together with the University of Amsterdam we are investigating which flower/grass-herb mixes work best for functional biodiversity enhancement.
The results are more than satisfying:
- No aphids were found in our fields while growing potatoes. Large populations of aphids draining the sap of the plants can cause plants to yellow, wilt and wither. Thanks to natural pest control, we didn’t have to use any artificial insecticides to protect our crops from aphids.
- Natural pollination caused yields to increase by more than 40%.
- We have seen a significant increase in bird, insect, bee, bumblebee, butterfly and small mammal populations on our fields.
2. Brewing 10 different recipes of homemade biofertilizer and drawing conclusions on which one (s) is (are) the most suited for different purposes, including biodiversity enhancement, natural pest control, natural pollination and soil and crop resilience.
In 2020 we started experimenting with different recipes of biofertilizer, tracking parameters like costs, brewing process, ease of application and implementation. Through a fermentation processes, we brew a liquid of metabolites (organic products produced by bacteria and fungi) which can enhance crop resilience. We have for example tried using whey-water, which is a residue from making cheese. We are in contact with a cheese-making farm, which delivers the supply in whey-water. Whey-water is very rich in amino acids which helps soils to recover towards a biological balance.
The outcome of this trial is a shortlist of three recipes which we are producing in large batches and spraying on some of our fields, tracking the effect on soil and crops. Next season, we will continue to replace artificial inputs with these biofertilizers on other plots. We are barely halfway through this experiment and there are still some challenges to overcome. For optimal results, the biofertilizer needs to be sprayed every two weeks on the fields, so we need to develop the appropriate infrastructure to increase our production capacity in order to sustain this application rhythm.
However, we start to witness the big potential of biofertilizer and the wide possibilities for adaptation to specific farm needs. It is possible to create biofertilizer recipes for specific purposes like increasing natural plant resilience, stimulating plant growth or fertilizing the soil.