Responsible partner:
»Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek (DLO) 
Authors: Marie Wesselink, Wijnand Sukkel 
iSQAPERiS editor: Jane Brandt


Contents table
1. Infographic
2. Study site description
3. Participation of stakeholders in the iSQAPER research programme
4. Research tasks
5. Long-term impact of iSQAPER's research programme in the study site

1. Infographic

An infographic was made by the De Peel study site team to describe the way in which a locally used management practice benefits soil quality.

  Infographic  Infographic
video 04 screenshot sq »Aandachtspunten voor duurzaam bodembeheer in zuid oost Nederland.
In de Peel regio in zuid oost Nederland zijn er 3 belangrijke aandachtspunten op het gebied van bodembeheer: voorkomen van (nutriënten) uitspoeling, de organische stofbalans en nematoden.
(in het Nederlands) 

»Focus points for sustainable soil management in the Netherlands
The De Peel study site provides examples of focus points for sustainable soil management including prevention of nutrient leaching, subsoil compaction addition of organic matter and crop rotation.
(in English)

2. Study site description


The study site ‘de Peel’ is located in the southeast part of The Netherlands with the region being constrained by the river Meuse in the north and east. It covers an area of flatland of approx. 2500 km2 with elevations ranging from 10 meters in the northeast bordering the river Meuse, to a maximum of 50 meters a.s.l. in the southwest. The centre of the circular shaped study site area with a radius of approximately 25 km has coordinates 51° 32’19 N, 5° 51’05 E. The region has a temperate sea climate with a mean annual temperature of 10.5°C and mean annual precipitation of 775 mm. The area used to be nature, with lots of heather fields. Starting about 100 years ago the area was piece by piece reclaimed and taking into use for agriculture.

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Main farming systems and typical agricultural management activities in the study area

Nowadays the area has a very mixed but intensive agricultural land use. Dominant land use is a mix of arable and vegetable production and intensive grassland. The main farming systems are intensive dairy production, intensive vegetable production and intensive arable production. The region also has many farms for intensive pig production which are mainly fed with imported concentrates. Intensive dairy and pig production are causing a high input of manure and slurry on the land. The high manure and slurry input, together with the intensive production of grassland, crops for roughage, arable and vegetable crops are causing a high nutrient input into the environment. Sandy soils are very susceptible to nitrate and phosphorus leaching into groundwater. Legislation from the EU-nitrate directive is increasingly limiting nitrogen input. Therefore, there is a high need amongst farmers to improve their Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE). Improvement of soil quality is considered a possibility to improve the NUE.

The intensive land use and the narrow rotations are also causing considerable problems with soil pathogens like pathogenic nematodes. Together with the ban on metam natrium and other soil disinfectants there is high demand for new management options to improve soil health. Intensive land use, the high degree of mechanisation and often crops that are harvested late in autumn (like silage maize) are placing additional demands on the soil thereby directly impacting upon soil structure and subsoil compaction.

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Characteristic soils and soil quality monitoring practice

The main soil type is sand to sandy loam with an average organic matter content ranging 1 to 5%. Since the soils are relatively young, the topsoil is very shallow, soils with the original parent material on a depth of 50 centimeters are not exceptional. The depth and quality of the topsoil is dependent on human practices. Soil quality monitoring in practice involves regular (once in about 4 years) monitoring of soil nutrient status for N, P, K and micronutrients, pH and soil organic matter. Depending on the crop type and identified soil health problems, there is regular monitoring for specific pathogenic nematodes and other soil borne pathogens. Assessment of cation exchange capacity (CEC) and soil biological indicators, are only occasionally used but are rapidly gaining interest.

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Previous research and innovation actions on soil improvement and monitoring

The study area has been intensively studied on various aspects of soil quality and related ecosystem services. At a central location in the area is an experimental farm from Wageningen University and Research, at Vredepeel. This experimental farm represents the centre for research, demonstration and communication for agriculture in the region. The experimental farm has several mid to long-term experiments focusing on soil quality. Management options like organic matter management, soil tillage and soil health treatments are scientifically tested, either separately and or in combination. Various research and demonstration projects with farmer networks and/or pilot farms on various aspects of soil quality have been or are running in the study area. The networks have been focusing on various soil aspects including nitrate leaching, phosphorus accumulation, soil pathogens and organic matter management. One network of farmers in the study area has been focusing specifically on the monitoring, storage and exchange of GPS labeled information on soil quality indicators.

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3. Participation of stakeholders in the iSQAPER research programme

The local stakeholders listed in Table 1 were involved throughout the duration of iSQAPER in a number of research tasks including: providing experimental sites for the soil quality assessment and agricultural management practice evaluation; testing and evaluating SQAPP; attending demonstration workshops.

Table 1: Local stakeholders involved in the iSQAPER research programme

Stakeholder type Locations Institution  Number and gender M/F Role
Farmers, land managers Vredepeel and surroundings Farm 10M Landowner, -manager or -worker
Advisors South-east of the Netherlands Private advisory companies 4M Giving individual advise and information on management practices/new techniques/products to farmers
Policy-makers Limburg, Brabant Water boards 1M/1F Preparing, executing, regulating regional water plans concerning water quantity and quality of surface water and groundwater.
Researchers Various Wageningen University and Research 7M, 3F Researchers working on soil quality, crop quality, soil borne diseases and statistics.

4. Research tasks

Soil quality assessment and agricultural management practice evaluation

Based on WOCAT database (, iSQAPER selected 18 promising agricultural management practices (AMPs) with potential to improve soil quality (»Agricultural management practices in the iSQAPER study sites). Three examples of a number of these AMPs were identified in the De Peel study site that conformed to the following criteria:

  1. the promising management practice has been implemented for at least 3 years;
  2. at least 2 different soil types are represented; and
  3. at least in 2 different first level Farming Systems (arable, permanent, grazing) are represented.

For each AMP plot, nearby control plots were also identified where the practice has not changed.

Table 2: AMPs identified in the De Peel study site. Climatic region: Atlantic

Plot number Farming system  Farming system detail Soil type AMP general description AMP number*
1.1 Arable  Flower, fruits and vegetables Anthrosols  Min-till 2
1.2 Arable  Flower, fruits and vegetables  Anthrosols  Manuring & composting 7
1.3 Arable Flower, fruits and vegetables Anthrosols Integrated pest and disease management incl. organic agriculture 12
*Note: see »Assessing effect of management practices on soil quality - experimental framework for the full list and descriptions of the 18 promising agricultural management practices.
A first field campaign was conducted in 2016 to evaluate the soil quality in each of the paired AMP-control plots, using visual soil assessment methods (»Visual soil and plant quality assesment). The results from this and all the other study sites were combined to determine which AMPs can be shown to have a proven positive effect on soil quality, see »Assessing effect of management practices on soil quality - experimental results.

Those practices that are innovative for Netherlands were also described and added to the WOCAT database

For details of the assessment analysis methods and the results from this and all study sites see »Impact of promising agricultural management practices.

SQAPP development, testing and evaluation

Of the 90 stakeholders who took part in the evaluation of the beta version of SQAPP, 1 was from the De Peel study site. Participants were asked a series of questions relating to their expectations of SQAPP and the relevance of the soil parameters included in SQAPP, the assessment of soil threats and the suitability of the app's recommendations to their local context. The feedback and comments were combined with those from the other study sites and used in the further development of SQAPP. For details of the responses from all study sites see »Stakeholder feedback and SQAPP development

Demonstration workshops

On 4th July 2019 a demonstration event was organised in the De Peel study site at the Vredepeel experimental farm to present the major findings of iSQAPER to stakeholders and to demonstrate non-inversion tillage as a management practice of proven benefit to soil quality. The event was attended by around 150 participants.

The results from this demonstration event and those held in the other study sites are summarised in »Demonstration events in the study sites.

A leaflet describing the AMP non-inversion tillage was prepared to accompany the demonstrations.

AMP SS06 EN a AMP SS06 EN a AMP SS06 EN b  AMP SS06 EN b

 »Non-inversion tillage, Netherlands

5. Long-term impact of iSQAPER's research programme in the study site

Taking account discussions with the stakeholders and feedback from the various research tasks and events in which they took part, it is anticipated that the iSQAPER research programme could have a lasting legacy in the De Peel study site as indicated in Table 3.

Table 3: Activities in which iSQAPER's research programme could potentially have a lasting impact in the De Peel study site

Activity Impact level: 0 - no impact, 1 - barely noticeable to 5 - important visible impact     
0 1 2 3 4 5
Research results influencing farming practice         x  
Uptake of recommended AMPs       x    
Regular use of SQAPP     x      
Development of new or enhancement of existing stakeholder networks     x      
The involvement of new stakeholder types in existing networks       x    


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