Project properties

Title Quantification of soil ecosystem services from diversified cropping systems through farming systems experiments
Group Farming Systems Ecology
Project type thesis
Credits 24-39
Supervisor(s) Dirk van Apeldoorn
Examiner(s) Walter Rossing
Contact info
Begin date 2018/01/01
End date 2021/06/01
Description Keywords: soil ecology, field experiments, Netherlands, nutrient management, intercropping, ecosystem services

In this project you will contribute to realise the full potential of crop diversification through rotation, intercropping and multiple cropping, promoted by actors and value chains towards sustainability, by demonstrating clear technical, economic and environmental benefits for farmers, value chains and society and by providing rural actors with those key enablers and innovations that remove existing barriers and ensure actual uptake of combined benefits at farm, value chain and territory levels.

Traditional farm holdings in Europe used to be highly diversified with mixed cropping-livestock farms. Over the last 50 years, there has been a trend towards specialisation and intensification with the aim of increasing the efficiency of food production and the agri-food sector as a whole.
The side-effects of this specialisation of both territories, farms and rotations are becoming obvious.
Temporal and spatial diversification of crops through rotation, multiple and intercropping schemes, by allowing the implementation of low-input agronomic practices is highlighted as a key issue for future sustainable development of multifunctional agroecosystems (Kremen et al., 2012) and, consequently, to reverse in a long-term perspective the trend towards specialisation.
More diversified cropping schemes would underpin more resilient and resource efficient farming systems that are able to fulfil simultaneously the need to produce food, feed, industrial products (e.g. bioenergy, biomaterials, biochemicals) and other ecosystems services.

Several benefits of crop diversification can be expected at the cropping system level and these benefits differ according to the strategy of crop diversification (rotation, intercropping, and multiple cropping). There is lack of results on the advantages and limits of combining these three strategies making it difficult for famers and advisers to find quickly relevant references helping their transition towards more diversified cropping systems both in time and space.

Thesis objective:
Quantification of soil ecosystem services of crop diversification in space and time at farms experimenting with diversification.
Used skills -Applied soil science and soil ecology
-System thinking; weekly meetings are held with fellow students to elucidate interactions between system components.
-Hands on experimental fieldwork; you will actively participate in the long term farming system experiment
-Quantification of ecosystem services; you will be responsible for the quantification of one or several services following protocols.
-Statistical analysis of systems experiments; you will use the statistical software R for generalizing your findings.
-Scientific writing; your report will be in the format of scientific article
Requirements Assumed knowledge or ability to acquire this knowledge on self-study:
-system analysis (like FSE-30306),
-agro-ecology (like FSE-31806),
-research methods (like CSA30806)
-soil quality course like (SOQ-32806)