FABulous Farmers


Project Summary

FABulous Farmers is a European project designed to support farmers in the transition to more agro-ecological practices on their farms. The project aims to reduce the reliance on external inputs, like chemical fertilisers and pesticides, by encouraging the use of methods and interventions that increase the farm’s Functional AgroBiodiversity (FAB). These are targeted measures of biodiversity in and around the field to improve pollination, pest management, soil and water quality on the farmland.

One example is to attract beneficial pest-eating insects by planting strips of wildflowers in the same fields as cereal crops. Another example would be to break the routine of single-crop production; a rotation of crops has a beneficial effect on soil quality, the impacts of weeds are reduced and production yield increases. The project assists the farmers in identifying and adopting relevant FAB-methods specifically for their farm. Networking sessions will be organised in which the farmers can exchange ideas and experiences. Several demonstration fields will show the effects of particular FAB-measures so that farmers and others can come and see how the measures work.

The effect of some FAB-measures taken on the farm can be improved further by similar actions in the surrounding area. That’s why we are active in 14 pilot areas in 6 countries (BE, NL, LUX, FR, UK and DE) in which we cooperate with other stakeholders, e.g. landowners and municipalities, to come to an integrated FAB-landscape-integration plan. At the same time, the local community will be involved and engaged with educational materials, practical and fun activities and the use of citizen-science tools to help monitor the effects of the interventions. The community activities will be tuned to needs and environment of the 14 pilot regions.

The results of the trial fields and on farms overall will be communicated to European and regional policy makers. In this way the evidence-based lessons learnt in this project can be implemented in ambitious but realistic European and regional agricultural policies. This will lead to an economically viable and buoyant agricultural system that is resilient to climate change.

To deliver this project and achieve these objectives we have a team of 15 project-partners each with their own expertise.

 

Project Partners

  • Hooibeekhoeve APB

    1 Hooibeeksedijk
    Geel
    2440
    Belgium

    View partner details

  • Soil Association

    South Plaza Marlborough Street
    Bristol
    BS1 3NX
    United Kingdom

    View partner details

  • Southern Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation

    225 Onderwijsboulevard
    's Hertogenbosch
    5223 DE
    Netherlands

    View partner details

  • Association of Chambers of Agriculture

    Atlanpole la Géraudière
    Nantes
    44939
    France

    View partner details

  • UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

    North Star Avenue
    Swindon
    SN2 1EU
    United Kingdom

    View partner details

  • Biobestgroup

    18 Ilse Velde
    Westerlo
    2560
    Belgium

    View partner details

  • Province of Antwerp

    22 Koningin Elisabethlei
    Antwerpen
    2018
    Belgium

    View partner details

  • Agricultural Technical School Ettelbruck

    72 Avenue Lucien Salentiny
    Ettelbruck
    9080
    Luxembourg

    View partner details

  • Own Capital of the Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

    92 bus 1 Burgemeester Van Gansberghelaan
    Merelbeke
    9820
    Belgium

    View partner details

  • National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty

    1 Heelis, Kemble Drive
    Swindon. Wiltshire
    SN2 2NA
    United Kingdom

    View partner details

  • Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics / University of Amsterdam

    904 Science Park
    Amsterdam
    1098 XH
    Netherlands

    View partner details

  • Landscape park De Merode

    Diestsebaan 28
    Herselt
    2230
    Belgium

    View partner details

  • Innovatiesteunpunt

    Diestsevest 40
    Leuven
    3000
    Belgium

    View partner details

  • ZALF (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research)

    84 Eberswalder Straße
    Müncheberg
    15374
    Germany

    View partner details

  • Boerennatuur Vlaanderen

    40 Diestsevest
    Leuven
    300
    Belgium

    View partner details

Lead partner

Organisation Address Email Website
Boerennatuur Vlaanderen 40 Diestsevest
Leuven
300
Belgium
bart.schoukens@boerennatuur.be https://www.boerennatuur.be/
Name Contact Name Email Country
Hooibeekhoeve APB Katrien Geudens Katrien.geudens@provincieantwerpen.be Belgium
Soil Association Liz Bowles lbowles@soilassociation.org United Kingdom
Southern Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation Wico Dieleman Wico.dieleman@zlto.nl Netherlands
Association of Chambers of Agriculture Alexandre Morin contact@ac3a.chambagri.fr France
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology Prof Bridget Emmett bae@ceh.ac.uk United Kingdom
Biobestgroup Felix Wackers felix.wackers@biobest.be Belgium
Province of Antwerp Laurien Danckaerts laurien.danckaerts@provincieantwerpen.be Belgium
Agricultural Technical School Ettelbruck Gérard Conter gerard.conter@education.lu Luxembourg
Own Capital of the Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Lies Messely lies.messely@ilvo.vlaanderen.be Belgium
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty Phil Lakin phil.lakin@nationaltrust.org.uk United Kingdom
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics / University of Amsterdam Paul C.J. van Rijn p.c.j.vanrijn@uva.nl Netherlands
Landscape park De Merode Sander Dragt Sander.DRAGT@landschapsparkdemerode.be Belgium
Innovatiesteunpunt Kristof Severijns Kristof.Severijns@innovatiesteunpunt.be Belgium
ZALF (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research) Bettina Matzdorf matzdorf@zalf.de Germany

News


Article in magazine BODEM

Posted on

Two researchers from ILVO (BE) and Hooibeekhoeve (BE) wrote an article about the FABulous Farmers project. This article was published in 'Bodem', a magazine about sustainable soil management. Within this article they explain the different FAB measures and show how the project aims to build a (international) farmers netwerk and wants to raise awareness about FAB in the larger society. You can read the full article here (Dutch only). Read More


Events


Towards a FABulous CAP

, Virtual

Based on the project findings, key policy recommendations have been stipulated for the implementation of FAB measures at the EU policy level, including through the new Common Agricultural Policy’s (CAP) green architecture. These recommendations are bundled in a policy paper that will be presented and discussed during this event.
Read More

Masterclass - Mixed crops

, Virtual

22/4/2021 14:00 CET During this masterclass we will focus on the use of mixed crops for forage production. Experts from the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg will share their expertise on the establishment and harvest of herbal leys and fodder legumes.
Read More

Masterclass - Crop rotation

, Virtual

During this masterclass we will explore how to succesfully implement crop rotations in your farm management. We will discuss the benefits and challenges of crop rotations, and discuss a succesful method to design crop rotations in France.
Read More

What's in that flower strip? (Webinar, Dutch)

, Virtual (webinar)

By sawing flower strips in the correct places and with the correct species, these field margins haven't only got an esteatic value, but they are also usefull for agriculture! Next to pollinaters, benefical insects are attracted that combat harmful insects in the crops on the field aside. This has a positive effect on both yield and use of plant protection products. Are you interested in FAB and field margins as a support of your agricultural system? Then join this webinar!
Read More


WP1: Collect, deepen and share knowledge on FAB

There is an urgent need for increased resource efficiency in farming systems to make the transition to more circular agro-ecosystems, which depend less on external iputs and censerve natural resources (soil, water, biodiversity). A very promising concept in this regard is Functional AgroBiodiversity (FAB). FAB refers to the application of farm management practices that enhance and exploit elements of biodiversity for their role in providing ecosystem services (e;g; pollination, biological pest control, soil erosion control, water retention...) and supporting sustainable agricultural production. Although a lot of research has been done, knowledge on FAB is still very fragmented and has not resulted in practical on-the-farm tools to assist farmers in their decision-making for implementation of FAB in their farming activities. This is why we develop a FAB solution toolkit in order to improve the effective use of FAB-solutions for dairy, arable, open filed vegetables and mixed farms. We gather and enhance currently dispersed knowledge and we adapt available but underused development support tools, methodologies and monitoring systems to ready-to-use material.

WP2 Widen uptake of FAB solutions by farmers through demonstration and support

In this work package the knowledge gathered in WP1 will be brought together in a FAB action plan, created with and for the farmers, for each pilot area. the plan is dynamic and will be adjusted based on the knowledge build through demonstrations and implementations on the farms. Demonstration of FAB actions on a growing number of farms, discussion about the effects in the regional network sessions and advice by teh flying experts and kitchen table talks will ensure the uptake of FAB-actions by farmers.

WP3 Embed FAB in the local society

In all pilot regions local stakeholders will be closely involved by regional project partners to increase the long term support and effectiveness of measures taken by farmers. To embed FAB solutions whitin landscape management a regional FAB-landscape integration plan will be developed in each pilot area.

Tools and methodologies will be selected and implemented in the pilot areas for embedding FAB in local communities. With the aid of citizen science tools for monitoring FAB, citizens will assist farmers' decision-making on FAB-solutions. The results of the monitoring by citizens and farmers will be discussed in FAB-farmer-citizen meetings. The objective of these meetings is to foster community building and reconnect farmers with the wider society.

Partners of all pilot areas will work together to produce policy papers, that describe the benefits of FAB-solutions for their policies and list possible policy measures. In this way the use of FAB is assured for the future!

Functional AgroBiodiversity (FAB)

FAB is the biodiversity that is usefull for agriculture. Think of pollinators, soil life... When they are implemented actively, it is named a FAB-measure or FAB solution. So these are targeted measures of biodiversity in and around the field to improve pollination, pest management, soil and water quality on the farmland.

10 FAB solutions

In FABulous Farmers we aim for 10 measures:

  • Non-inversion tillage
  • Crop rotation
  • Mixed crops
  • Cover crops
  • Organic matter input
  • Modify manure quality
  • Agroforestry
  • Hedgerow management
  • Field margin management
  • FAB-supporting action: physical and biological crop protection

More information on these FAB solutions you can find in our digital one-stop shop where all practical information is gathered.

 The effect of some FAB-measures taken on the farm can be improved further by similar actions in the surrounding area. That’s why we work in pilot regions in which we cooperate with other stakeholders, e.g. landowners and municipalities, to come to an integrated FAB-landscape-integration plan. At the same time, the local community will be involved and engaged with educational materials, practical and fun activities and the use of citizen-science tools to help monitor the effects of the interventions. 

The pilot areas will serve as an axample for other pilot areas regarding to certain FAB solutions and by extension to the rest of the NWE region.

 

The 14 pilot areas are spread over 6 countries, as shown on the map. In each area the farmers can choose from a list of 10 FAB-solutions to implement on their field.

The pilot areas are:

  • De Merode (Belgium)
  • Het Pajottenland (Belgium)
  • Pays de la Loire (France)
  • Ouest et Brocélian Bretagne (France)
  • Eure Normandie (France)
  • Stausee Ouwersauer (Luxembourg)
  • Hoeksche Waard (The Netherlands)
  • West-Brabant (The Netherlands)
  • Zeeland (The Netherlands)
  • East of England (United Kingdom)
  • Pembrookshire (United Kingdom)
  • South West (United Kingdom)
  • West Midlands (United Kingdom)
  • Germany

 The contact persons for the pilot areas, you can find here.

In crop rotation a diversity of crops enters the field one after the other and over the years, this in contrast to mixed crops where multiple crops co-occur at the same time on the field. By using different crops, the risks are spread for the farmer, but it also has a positive influence on the soil. Because the crops change every (few) year(s), the development of soil pathogens is limited. Diverse rooting ensures a better development of the soil life. Finally we also see a reduction of the weed pressure.

Some testimonials on crop rotation by farmers who implement these measure, are listed below:

Mixed crops are multiple crops that co-occur on the field. This can range from herbal pastures over crop mosaics to crops in lines. Aim is the positive influence of the crops on each other. This can occur in a direct way in which the combination of crops leads to higher total yield than the individual crops, but also indirect. For example clover in grass can fixate nitrogen, diversity of roots in herbal leys lead to a better soil structure or beneficial insects can always find shelter because parts of the soil are always covered.

Through the links below, you can find interviews with farmers who apply herbal leys as a FAB measure within their farm:

When we think of field margins, in the first thing we think of are flowering margins that attract beneficials (insects that that eat pests, pollinators). A second important function of the field margins is the use as buffer strip. This is a strip between the field and the watercourse which is not fertilized and the use of pesticides is not allowed. Aim of the strip is to avoid the leach of nutrients or pesticides to the watercourse. 

The function of hedgerows is multiple. Hedgerows provide habitat to insects that benefit cropping (pollinators, insects that eat pests). Often it concerns the hibernation spot of these beneficiaries. A suitable combination with field margins gives the perfect habitat! 

Just like for flower strips, also for field margins an informed choice need to be made concerning the species to avoid the attraction of harmful insects.

Below you can find a interview with a farmer who has sown flower strips in between his crops:

 

 

Agroforestry is a cultivation system in which agricultural crops or cattle farm are combined with the production of trees at the same parcel. Different layers, above and under the ground, give a more efficient use of light, water and nutrients. The use of trees leads to a healthier soil, higher yields and homes for wildlife.

These farmers take about the pros and cons of agroforestry:

The aim of a cover crop is to minimise exposed soils, which can lead to soil erosion and loss of soil organic matter. Additionally, a cover crop can catch nitrogen from the soil. In this case the name 'catch crop' is used, since it avoids the leaching of nitrogen.

Cover crops can be sawn on different moments. Sawing after the main crop is most common. In combination with a late harvest this gives a limited choice in crops and the later they are sawn, the porer the development of the cover crop. That is what makes sawing the cover crop between the main crop interesting (e.g. grass between mais). In this case the cover crop can be sawn together or after the main crop. This gives an early growth of the cover crop and a better development of this crop. In addition the cover crop protects the soil during the harvest of the main crop.

Some testimonials on cover crops by farmers who implement these measure, are listed below:

 

With non-inversion tillage, the soil is not ploughed, but only loosened. This has a positive effect on soil life: there habitat is not disrupted every year. A stable soil life ensures a good soil structure, which leads to an airy soil and increases the water retention. Therefor the soil can absorb more water in wet periods and this water is longer available in dry periods.

Below you can find testimonials of farmers who minimise the use of tillage on their farms:

 

Manure appears in a range of forms. Important is that the manure can be taken in the plant, to prevent leaching of nutrients. A better intake means a better crop and less leaching! This can be achieved by implementing the manure near the plan, using diverse manure types (mixtures, digestate) or by changing the sowing distance.

 

 

Organic matter input increases the sponginess of the soil: the higher the content, the better moisture can infiltrate in wet periods and the longer the moisture stays available in dry periods. It also has a positive influence on soil life. The organic matter content can be increased in several ways: working-in of harvest residues, use of farmyard manure, compost, woodchips…

 

This is not a FAB-measure on itself, but can reinforce the other FAB-measures. The use of physical and biological crop protection instead of chemical crop protection has less negative impact on the beneficial organisms that settle in and around your field. The attendance of these beneficial organisms has a positive effect on the control on plagues, thereby reducing the needs of interventions at field which creates a virtuous circle.

The FABulous Farmers team wrote an EU policy paper to combine their recommendations towards European policy makers. Based on the project findings, seven policy recommendations have been formulated that will support the uptake of FAB measures by farmers and establish the policy conditions necessary to realize the agricultural, ecological and societal benefits of FAB.

You can find the full paper here

On the 11th of June 2021 the FABulous Farmers' team presented their EU policy paper in an online conference. Here you can (re)watch our policy event as a whole or some parts of it:

During the project several masterclasses are organised. by a simple click on the links, you can watch the presentations given during this masterclasses!

 

For scientific data gathered through the project, we are using WOCAT, a global network on Sustainable Land Management (SLM) that promotes the documentation, sharing and use of knowledge to support adaptation, innovation and decision-making in SLM. 

The FABulous Farmers partners have published some articles on WOCAT. These articels are based on knowledge the partners built in the past. In this way all information is collected in one place. The next step will be to bring all the knowledge (past and new) together on a technical sheet. You can see the data here:

 

 

For practical information on the FAB-solutions and join the FABulous Farmers network, we like to refer to our digital one-stop shop.

  

 

A summary of the project you can find in our flyer in Dutch, English, French and German.

 

 

We've worked hard to give an overview of usefull tools for farmers to decide which FAB measurement gives the best results on their farm or situation. You can find all this bundled in this FAB Farm Decision Support Toolkit.

 

Within the FABulous Farmers project a report was made on the effects of the 10 FAB measures on the environment, on the farmer field as well as on the surroundings. The aim of this report is to:

  • Review methods to measure the environmental performance of FAB solutions. The focus is on biodiversity, soils and water quality.
  • Identify scientific approaches that could be used at the farm level and implemented by farmers or extension workers.
  • Determine if and potentially how these measurement approaches could feed into and support regional or national monitoring.

You can read the full report here.

 

An important part in broad embedding of FAB is the participation and cooperation of the community. During the project we made a review of good practice tools and methodologies that can be used to stimulate the engagement of the FAB community, serving ultimately a triple goal:

  1. fostering the development of a good relationship between the citizens and the farmers, based on mutual understanding,
  2. educating the citizens on the role they can play in the sustainable management of FAB, and
  3. creating a favourable environment for the adoption and implementation of FAB solutions by the farmers.

The full report is available here.

 

In the FABulous Farmers project four types of indicators and tools are distinguished:

  1. Performance indicators: measuring the effect of the implemented FAB measures
    • Economic performance - profitability: cost/benefit (yields)
    • Ecological/environmental performance: external input use (pesticides, fertilizers) and effects on natural resources (water, soil & biodiversity)
  2. Tools to support farmers’ learning processes: indicator sets that provide insight into overall farm sustainability and the positive impact of FAB.
  3. Decision support tools: practical on-the-farm tools to assist farmers in their decisionmaking for implementation of FAB in their farming activities
  4. Citizen science tools: community engagement tools and methodologies.

A report was made on the second type of indicators: tools to support the farmers’ learning process about overall farm sustainability and the positive impact of FAB. You can read the full report here.

Share this

Tweet Share