The campaign to use less fertilizer on Zeeland fields is a success. Within a week and a half, farmers have ordered enough green manures for 200 hectares of arable land.
It is a joint initiative of environmental organization Urgenda, agricultural organization ZLTO and the plant breeding and seed company DSV seeds. The province supports the action with 15,000 euros. “We try to persuade farmers to sow something much more sustainable than they are used to,” says Hanneke van Ormondt of Urgenda.
Seed distributor DSV was amazed, but Van Ormondt had expected that there would be a run on the green manures in Zeeland. After all, the campaign to sow grassland rich in herbs has been running successfully among livestock farmers in the Netherlands for two years now. “By the way, there is still a budget for that in Zeeland,” she says. But in the arable land province, the green manures have flown out the door.
“In the past, you often saw fields lying fallow after a harvest, or they were sown with one species, for example yellow mustard. We try to get farmers to choose a slightly more expensive mixture of up to eight varieties. It is good to cover the ground from the sun. If you have crops with long and short roots, water is retained better. Clovers absorb nitrogen. This makes the soil much healthier. With the green fertilizer you avoid the use of expensive fertilizer. So you can also save your investment pay back. That is of course a very nice deal.”
Van Ormondt does not rule out that the action will be repeated. “We always hope to interest new farmers. Hence a maximum of five hectares. Rather forty farmers who sow five hectares than four farmers who sow fifty hectares.”