Erosion and run-off represent a huge challenge for farmers – and potato cultivation is particularly sensitive to it. Rain can cause soil to be washed away, along with important nutrients and crop protection products. This not only reduces farmers’ yields but also puts the environment at risk. Implementing micro-dams is a proven solution.
Sustainable potato production is the overarching goal of the Food Chain Partnership project between Bayer and the Dutch potato processor, Farm Frites. They joined forces in 2015 and since that time have established a number of pilot projects on ambassador farms in Belgium and the Netherlands. Together, they tackle challenges to improve potato growing.
Implementing measures to reduce erosion at the farm level is one of the aspects Bayer and Farm Frites are working on in this collaboration. After heavy rain, mudslides are a nuisance for farmers – but the environment is also affected, as residues of crop protection products can contaminate surface water. There are a number of measures farmers can take to prevent this, such as installing grass buffer strips and micro-dams. The success of micro-dams depends on what kind of machine is used to install them – and the type of soil present in the field.
Proven benefits for farmers
Bayer and Farm Frites conducted several trials on ambassador farms with a range of different soils. On one pilot farm, for example, the soil was sandy; here, the challenge was that the dams needed to be high enough, because micro-dams can erode very quickly in sandy soil. The micro-dams were built accordingly, and the effort was worth it. Despite last year’s heavy rainfall, yields increased on average by 1 ton per hectare. Trials on sandy loam soil also proved successful. The moisture sensors showed better water infiltration and the water was available for longer after periods of heavy rain.
In general, the results have demonstrated the added value of micro-dam technology, in fields with slight and steep grades alike. In addition, these trials confirmed results from previous tests with micro-dam technology. On the Bayer ForwardFarm in Belgium, higher yields of up to 2.9 tons per hectare were noted, and measurements showed that run-off and erosion were reduced by more than 90 percent. What the overall experience with micro-dams and buffer strips has shown is that it gives potato farmers social, economic, and ecological benefits.
Mudslides following heavy rains are a nuisance for farmers.
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