Geographical description

The study site is situated in the East of Leuven (indicated as blue area) at an elevation varying between 20 and 100 masl. It includes the communities of Leuven, Holsbeek, Lubbeek, Boutersem, Bierbeek and Lovenjoel. The Bodemkundige Dienst van België is situated at the Western border of the study site, while the Zoötechnisch Centrum lies within the study site. On the map the long-term (since 1997) compost trial (in green), as well as some of the long-term (since 2002) trials on reduced tillage (in purple) are indicated.

Flanders map

Map of study site in Flanders, Belgium. The study site is indicated in blue.

The maritime temperate climate in Flanders is characterised by significant precipitation in all seasons (no dry season),fresh/humid summers and relatively mild/rainy winters (according to the Köppen climate classification:Cfb). The average annual temperature is 10.5°C (3.3 in January and 18.4 in July), while the average minimal temperature is 6.9°C and the average maximal temperature is 14.2°C.The average annual rainfall is 852.4 mm. The study site is characterized by sandy, sandy loam and loamy soils. At parcel level also a variation in soil erosion potential is present in the study site.

Soilmap Soilerosionmap
Map indicating the different agricultural
regions present in de study site. From light to dark
colour, Flemish sand region, Sandy loam region and
Loam region
Map indicating the potential soil erosion at
parcel level. Green: soil erosion potential is very low, yellow: soil erosion potential is low, orange: soil erosion potential is medium, red: soil erosion potential is high and purple: soil erosion potential is very high

Cropping systems

Cropping intensity
The study site is characterised mainly by conventional cropping systems. However, also conservation cropping systems (e.g. reduced tillage) and to a smaller extent organic cropping systems are present. In general in Flanders, crop production is highly intensive (high inputs, high yields).

Types of crop
Mainly cereals, sugar beet, potato, maize, grass, apple and pear orchards. Management of soil, water, nutrients and pests 
Soil management: typically conventional tillage (ploughing), but also reduced tillage (e.g. as a measure against erosion). In the framework of CAP and cross compliance attention is being paid to maintain good soil conditions in terms of acidity (pH) and soil organic carbon.
Water use: drip-irrigation in pear-orchards (common practice), sprinkler irrigation in arable crops and vegetables
Soil fertility management: high nutrient input, mainly organic fertilisation, but also use of mineral fertilizers. The tradition of high inputs of organic fertilisers resulted in a poor water quality (especially high concentrations of nitrate and phosphate). As a consequence the Manure Decree sets fertilisation limits for both organic and mineral fertiliser input.
Pest management: Since 2014 integrated pest management (IPM) is common practice, implementing the EU directive 91/414 and the EU Regulation 1107/2009.

Soil improving cropping system and techniques currently used
Minimised input and tillage, crop rotation, use of cover crops, application of organic amendments

Problems that cause yield loss or increased costs
Water deficit: on average, irrigation in pear production results in an higher yield of 800 euro/ha/year
Poor soil quality (low soil organic carbon content): application of compost compared to only mineral fertilisation results in a higher wheat yield of 50-250 euro/ha
Erosion: increased cost of 122-342 euro/ha.year on highly sensitive parcels
Soil compaction: yield loss of 100-200 euro/ha.year

External drivers and factors

Institutional and political drivers
Water quality and nutrient input: Nitrate directive, Water Framework Directive, Manure Decree in Flanders 
Integrated Pest Management: EU directive 91/414 and the EU Regulation 1107/2009
Soil quality (pH, soil organic carbon, erosion): EU CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), MTR (Mid Term Review) and Cross Compliance

Bio-physical drivers
Impact of soil compaction, acid pH, low soil organic carbon

Multi-actor approach

Relevant end-users and stakeholders
Farmers, farmers associations (like Boerenbond and Algemeen Boeren Syndicaat), governmental extension services (ADLO in Flanders), policy makers like VLM (Flemish Land Agency), LNE (the Environment, Nature and Energy Department of the Flemish Government), but also other stakeholders of the rural area, e.g. inhabitants, tourists.

Involvement stakeholders in study site
Stakeholders will be involved in the study site at different levels:

  • Direct participation in field trials
  • Field trial visits
  • Information meetings
  • Open farm days
  • Publications