Green fertilization for soil sustainability and biodiversity.
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The Dutch cultivated arable farming sector is known internationally for its efficiency and high production, but the farming practices used to achieve this are deemed unsustainable. Many of the sustainability issues in this sector are related to soil. As a result, agricultural soil sustainability management has become an important avenue in the search for sustainability in agriculture. Green fertilization, the practice of growing certain crops to plow through the soil for their sustainability and biodiversity enhancing qualities can help solve these issues arising from intensively used agricultural land. This technique has a long history and has demonstrated its usefulness in combatting modern day agricultural soil sustainability issues. The research identifies four functions by which green fertilization crops does so. It furthermore evaluates the effectiveness of current practices of green fertilization implementation through agricultural innovation system analysis. This analysis creates an overview of the cultivated arable farming sector, the actors and networks embedded therein as well as laws and regulations pertaining to green fertilization. Although uptake of green fertilization is nearly ubiquitous in the sector, its contribution to sustainability and biodiversity improvement is found to be lacking. The reasons for this are shown to be a misalignment between the legislative requirements of the law responsible for this increase, and the intended goal of the legislation. Incentives embedded in the laws surrounding green fertilization do not contribute to the implementation of sustainable forms of green fertilization. The research then assesses the factors that drive and inhibit uptake of more environmentally sustainable forms of green fertilization and provides 4 policy recommendations on how to encourage future uptake of these forms. 1. Incorporate a broader set of farm-level evaluative indicators to assess sustainability and biodiversity effects of GF through the four functions in future legislation. 2. Stimulate fundamental research into GF ‘white spots’, aggregate research initiatives’ results and make the available information usable for farmers. 3. Incentivize GF implementation that promotes biodiversity and sustainability using the broadened set of evaluative indicators. Reward farmers that disproportionally contribute. 4. Create legislative stability by enshrining agricultural sustainability goals in long term legislation. This research provides an in-depth overview of green fertilization practices using the most recent available insights on the subject and shows how green fertilization as an agricultural tool for sustainability can be used in the future of Dutch agriculture.