‘Cabinet ignores easy solution: herb-rich grassland’

‘Cabinet ignores easy solution: herb-rich grassland’
‘Cabinet ignores easy solution: herb-rich grassland’

The cabinet is scrapping a cheap way to keep milk production high, to prevent desiccation and to use less fertilizer. For example, an excellent solution for the long term is sacrificed in order to realize a small saving in the short term. That is both short-sighted and unwise, writes Ernst Boutkan, member of parliament for Volt.

Grassland rich in herbs ensures a higher production of milk per kilo of nitrogen – an average of 80 kilos –, less dehydration and lower use of fertilizer than the monotonous perennial ryegrass. Milk production with ryegrass only yields an average of 45 kilos of milk per kilo of nitrogen, according to a pilot by LTO and sustainability organization Urgenda in which 811 farmers participated.

It should be an abc’s in political The Hague: stimulate grassland rich in herbs. More production for the same nitrogen emissions and less impact on nature and the environment. Yet the coalition makes the transition to herb-rich grassland more difficult. Because the seeds for this are about twice as expensive as those for perennial ryegrass: 300 euros per hectare. A proposed subsidy to stimulate herb-rich grassland has been scrapped in order to be able to make savings.

Transition Fund

At the same time, the government is setting aside 24 billion euros in a transition fund, the yield of which is uncertain. And that while with proven adjustments manageable steps can be taken.

The herbs go deeper into the soil with their roots, allowing more air and water to enter the soil

Ernst Boutkan, Member of Parliament Volt

The problem with perennial ryegrass is that it barely grows. Farmers try to compensate for this by spreading fertilizer or plowing the dry soil. This in turn is detrimental to the quality of nature. Environmental organizations call it “grasphalt.”

No, then herb-rich grassland. The herbs go deeper into the soil with their roots, allowing more air and water to enter the soil. It attracts birds and insects. Due to the great diversity, the grassland is also more resistant to droughts or long periods of rainfall.

Quantity of milk

Due to the intensification of agriculture and the use of artificial fertilizers, the amount of milk has fallen from 80 to 45 kilograms per kilogram of nitrogen applied to the soil. When the soil is stimulated by 30 percent by herb-rich grassland, productivity returns to 80 kilograms per kilogram of nitrogen. The various herbs also provide better nutrition for the livestock and thus contribute to animal health.

As compensation for the scrapped subsidy, the cabinet is now referring farmers to money from the European eco-scheme. The farmer receives a minimum of 60 euros and a maximum of 200 euros per hectare. But this arrangement is subject to strict conditions. For example, the subsidy may only be applied for hectares of productive herb-rich grassland. This makes it less attractive to sow more land with herb-rich grassland.

Accounting grab penny

It should not be the case that such a simple step with so many benefits is dropped for an accounting grabber.

Boerennatuur has calculated that an annual subsidy of 21.8 million is needed for herb-rich grassland on 72,750 hectares. This can be done directly via the Netherlands Enterprise Agency or via a specific payment to the provinces. Volt proposes that both options be explored, so that we finally give a perspective to farmers who want to farm with nature.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Cabinet ignores easy solution herbrich grassland


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