Buijtenland van Rhoon: transition towards nature-inclusive arable farming

How do you organise regional spatial planning in such a way that it contributes to nature value and for recreational users to be able to experience nature, while also facilitating agricultural production? And how do government authorities, farmers, nature organisations and parties along the chain work together to make a success of such a transition? The regional cooperative Gebiedscoöperatie Buijtenland van Rhoon is working on these major agricultural issues, supported by the Louis Bolk Institute.

Towards nature-inclusive arable farming

Local farmers have initiated the process of rezoning the Buijtenland van Rhoon region with the aim of preventing the area from being turned into a marshland nature reserve as part of the key planning decision Rotterdam Mainport Development Project (PKB PMR). In 2017, an alternative plan was written, together with, amongst others, the Louis Bolk Institute and the Dutch Cultural Landscape Association, combining agriculture, nature and recreation. In this new location-specific approach, targets were set for nature value and recreational development as well as nature-inclusive agriculture with an appropriate revenue model for farmers. These objectives and the pathway towards their achievement are described in the Streefbeeld (i.e. the desired situation).

Location-specific approach

In the location-specific approach for the development of Buijtenland van Rhoon, the interests of all parties have been united, leading to a better appreciation of nature values, recreation and agriculture. The ultimate design fits in perfectly  with the landscape: existing landscape elements, the cultural-historical background and the businesses in the area have all been taken into account. As a result, the design has a solid basis.

Collaborations and revenue models

To successfully implement the new plans in a coordinated way, the regional cooperative Buijtenland van Rhoon was founded. This regional cooperative is guided by a knowledge consortium in which the Louis Bolk Institute plays an important role. Following the ‘learning while managing’ cycle, Buijtenland van Rhoon is working on the nature-inclusive transition. For this area, the main issue is to unite the interests of nature parties and farmers, and to involve the public, as well, through recreational opportunities and by creating short chains. All this must fit in with a profitable revenue model for the farmers in the area.

Research and monitoring

Research into soil quality, the diversity and presence of endangered flora, and the numbers and diversity of insects and meadow birds provides indicators that show whether and how the goals are being achieved. In addition, researchers at the Louis Bolk Institute are mapping the performance of local farmers through agricultural monitoring. We use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to describe the status of, for instance, organic matter balance, crop diversity and the environmental pressures caused by the use of pesticides. We subsequently link this to agricultural economic monitoring, on the basis of which we determine a realistic lease price for nature-inclusive agriculture in the area. The monitoring results can be used to make adjustments and indeed ‘learn while managing’.