Re-balancing soil-plant-animal interactions: towards reduction of nitrogen losses

  • F.P.M. Verhoeven
  • J.W. Reijs
  • J.D. Van Der Ploeg
Keywords: dairy farming, monitoring, farming systems


The practice of farming implies a continuous process of re-moulding and re-balancing of resources. Normally, this process is slow and hardly noticeable, but in times of transition towards sustainability it is accelerated and becomes more visible. Re-moulding and re-balancing require a careful and multifaceted monitoring as well as a high degree of involvement of the farmers concerned. This article is an overview that documents several aspects of the changes realized by two farmer co-operatives in the northern Netherlands: Vereniging Eastermar’s Lansdouwe (VEL) and Vereniging Agrarisch Natuur en Landschapsonderhoud Achtkarspelen (VANLA). It is shown that farmers process and manage manure, silages and diets. Emphasis is given to indications that the newly emerging balances are characterized by high levels of N efficiency. In a final combination of beta and gamma approaches it is shown that the goal-oriented practices of the VEL and VANLA farmers clearly indicate new trajectories towards and prospects for sustainability. Furthermore it is shown that recognition of relevant heterogeneity is crucial and that inter-farm comparisons, careful integration of beta and gamma approaches and multivariate modes of analysis are needed.