Living lab opened in Mol.

Provincial research centre Hooibeekhoeve and VITO are working together on climate-robust cultivation systems in the Kempen region. The goal? A sustainable and economically profitable dairy farm that can respond to extremely dry and wet periods. Researchers from Hooibeekhoeve are working on climate-robust cultivation systems in VITO's trial fields.

"An important criterion is to what extent the crops or cultivation techniques can withstand extreme drought or endure wet periods. But own protein production is also addressed here. Currently, you can find both maize, grass-clover and mixed crops of cereals and leguminous plants on the trial fields of VITO-Hooibeekhoeve. We compare conventional techniques with precision agriculture, agro-ecological techniques and combined methods. In this way, we are investigating how we can grow fodder for dairy cows in a more ecological, profitable and climate-protective way," says Hooibeekhoeve researcher Gert Van de Ven.

Every plant in sight

VITO's 'Remote Sensing' unit has more than 25 years of experience in processing satellite, aerial and drone images for various agricultural applications, among others. Thanks to the collaboration with Hooibeekhoeve, VITO wants to be able to offer innovative services such as WatchITgrow faster and assist farmers even better to monitor their crops and make adjustments where necessary.

"Remote Sensing is making a steep advance in agriculture. This is due to the ever-increasing resolution of satellite, aerial and drone images as well as the accessibility of the data. The spatial resolution of the data is now so fine that it is perfectly possible to track individual fields and even individual plants. Moreover, the European Commission now makes most satellite data available free of charge. This makes its use economically viable. All this is part of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which aims to make our agriculture more efficient, sustainable and climate-robust," says Anne Gobin, senior project manager agriculture at VITO.

First workshop big success

Hooibeekhoeve Binnen(ste)Buiten
During Hooibeekhoeve's annual big study day on Tuesday 13 June, these experimental fields were open to the general public. "It is the first time since the start of the cooperation between VITO and Hooibeekhoeve that we are jointly coming out with findings and results. Take grass, an important crop in our province with 50% of agricultural land. Besides being a nutritious source of cattle feed, it also sequesters carbon and grass plots are part of our landscape experience. Together with the project partners of GrasSat, Hooibeekhoeve and VITO are developing a decision-support tool for grass cultivation. At a single glance, farmers can see the current state of their grassland plots with information on grass growth, yield forecasts, time of mowing and an indication of grass quality. This way, you increase yield and quality and ensure an economic and ecological benefit for both farmer and society. By cooperating with VITO and using our complementary expertise for sustainable and climate-robust agriculture, we want to help dairy farmers prepare their farms for the future and the increasingly frequent extreme weather conditions," said delegate Kathleen Helsen.
When registering, interested parties could choose workshops linked to three ongoing VLAIO projects. The researchers involved from Hooibeekhoeve and VITO discussed precision agriculture and the benefits it brings. The smart combination of crop choice and technology for profitable climate-robust agriculture and horticulture was also discussed in detail. A first workshop took a closer look at what satellite images can do to estimate grass growth. The researchers took those interested along the path from grass height measurement to grassland update and grass growth model. Another workshop zoomed in on the potential of precision fertilisation based on satellite images and soil scans. The potential of real-time measurement of fertiliser composition also fits into this picture. What can soil tillage and green cover crops do as climate-robust measures was the topic of the third workshop. The target audience of the study day Hooibeekhoeve Binnen(ste)Buiten was farmers and those interested in dairy farming and/or arable farming.

+32 14 33 68 21