Overzicht demoperceel agromilieu

Demonstration platform nature based agriculture

By establishing a network of nature based measures, we are creating a resilient agricultural environment where a stable population of beneficial insects (natural pest control and pollination) can settle in the long term.
Have been installed: a perennial flower border, mixed hedge, beetle bank, grass buffer strip, partridge mixture and a kestrel box on a pole.

The targets

  1. To create an agricultural environment where a stable population of beneficial insects (pollinators and pollinators) can build up.
  2. Gain practical experience on establishing and managing agro-nature measures.
  3. Demonstration field where growers can learn about different agro-nature measures, cultivation practices and their importance for the farmer and biodiversity. Measures that have been installed on this field can be seen in the map below.
  4. Test out cultivation practices with opportunities for local biodiversity.
  5. Put good agricultural practices, such as crop rotation, fertilisation, limiting soil disturbance,... into practice.
  6. Investigate alternative forms of crop protection: offer the possibility to set up crop-specific trials around IPM, pollination, at a location suitable for this purpose.
  7. Hub to spark new collaborations with potential partners, on the theme of Integrated Pest and Polinator Management.
foto heg demoperceel agronatuur
Demonstration platform agronature

Biodiversity all year round

The demostration platform on nature based agriculture provides a safe haven for many beneficial animals. Thanks to the perennial flower borders and shrubs, insects enjoy a safe shelter in autumn and winter and a guaranteed meal during spring and summer. Furthermore, many field birds such as partridges and small songbirds are occuring on the field, and kestrels are guest around and in our kestrel box. 

When choosing the species for the hedge, species were selected that, together with the perennial flower border, guarantee the longest possible flowering period during the whole year. The plant species in the hedge ensure flowering in early spring and late autumn, because these are periods that are difficult to cover with only the herbaceous plants in the flower border. In the perenial flower strips, attention was paid to selecting species with flowers that are accessible to insects without long tongues (natural enemies) as well as flowers that are attractive to insects with long(er) tongues (pollinators such as bumblebees and honeybees).

Overzicht demoperceel agromilieu

Cultivation practices with opportunities for agrobiodiversity

Our demonstration platform offers a location where, among other things, innovative cultivation techniques with opportunities for agrobiodiversity can be tested. Think, for example, of research into the effect on yield and harvestability of under-sowing flowering herbs in cereals, or testing which varieties of Black oats are best suited to provide seeds for field birds (such as yellowhammers) late in winter, and what the effect of fertilisation is on this.

Thanks to the perennial flower borders, hedges and beetle bank, beneficial insects find suitable habitats year-round on this field. This makes it possible, for example, to carry out trials on Integrated Pest an Pollinator Management (IPM), in an environment with a 'standing army' of these insects.

Bloem in tarweveld

At the demonstration platform, we want to maximise our commitment to good agricultural practices. By constructing and managing known and potential agro-nature measures over the long term, we gain practical experience that can be shared with farmers. In addition, we focus on smart crop rotation and fertilisation, and limit soil disturbance by reduce tillage as much as possible. 

Such an agro-ecological approach with opportunities for nature not only benefits general biodiversity, but also the farmer: where on much farmland there is little room for beneficial insects, the community of beneficial insects in our demonstration platform is standby! 

Besides space for agronature measures, the demo plot offers two cultivation zones where we can set up trials around cultivation practices with opportunities for biodiversity, or around alternative forms of crop protection. Examples of trials that have taken place on the demofield are

  • a trial assessing different varieties of Black oats as winter food for field birds.
  • Effect of under-sown herbs in wheat on yield parameters.
  • Crops with opportunities for agro-nature, such as Birdsfoot trefoil
  • Bankerfields as a function of thrips control in celeriac.
  • an intercropping trial of onion and peas as a method to control thrips damage.
  • a push-pull strategy to control cabbage flies.

Diversity in all its forms supports a robust and resilient system. With the demonstration platform, we seek to gain practical experience with interventions and principles to achieve such a system.

Thomas Van Loo

Researcher, Inagro

bloemenrand bij courgette op het demoperceel agronatuur

The mixed hedge

The mixed hedge provides shelter and flowering. Several types of shrubs bloom early (or late) in the season, during periods where the perennial flower border is not yet (or no longer) flowering. For example, willow, hazel and cornel already flower in early spring and ivy (a bushy, non-climbing cultivar) flowers in late autumn. Besides providing food for pollinators and natural enemies during the growing season, the hedge also provides berries for songbirds and field birds during winter. Insects find shelter and overwinter  in the leaf litter or behind loose bark in the hedge. Windbreak and heat reflection also create a microclimate in the adjacent flower border.

Further more, in the mixed hedge there are aphids which can serve as an altenrative food source for natural enemies, at times when prey densities in the crop are to low. On species such as hazel and hornbeam, for example, there are only species of aphids that do not occur on crops at all. Species with rough leaves (such as hazel) are also particularly popular, for example, among lacewings, to deposit their eggs.

To make this hedge easy to manage, it was planted in two rows. The idea is to use phased management to prune each row in a separate year. In this way, a part of the mature shrubs will always remain, and thus there will always be flowering. 

AGM_meerjarige bloemenrand langs gemengde heg.JPG
A mixed hedge provides
a favourable microclimate
for insects in the adjacent flower border.

Perennial grass and flower border

The perennial grass and flower border fulfils two major purposes: providing shelter and/or a place to nest, and providing food, for a lot of animals. 

Within the large group of insects, the flower borders will provide necessary food for many species of natural enemies: nectar, pollen, as well as alternative prey for times when no, or too few, prey are present in the crop itself. For birds, the flower border provides both insects and seeds.

Meerjarige bloemenrand demoperceel agronatuur

Perennial partridge mixture

Space was also made on the plot to experiment with a mixture specifically designed according to the needs of partridges, while also taking into account the common crops in the region. For example, there are no cabbage-like species in the mixture.
It is a perennial structure, of which half of the area is destroyed and reseeded each year. In this way, there is always a part of the area that is a little rougher with a little more structure, and a part that is a little younger, with more flowers. So it is a measure that is useful both for birds and insects. The intention is to obtain a sparse vegetation through which the partridges can walk easily.


Grass buffer strip

To protect the stream along our demonstration platform from inflow of nutrients and plant protection products, no plant protection products may be applied from 1 metre away from the embankment, and the soil may not be tilled. No fertiliser may be applied up to 5 metres from the stream. This is imposed by law. 

Thanks to this grass strip, there is an easy access to remove any sludge from the stream with large equipment.

Grasbufferstrook langs de Godelievebeek

Beetle bank

A beetle bank is a raised grass strip that acts as an refuge and a base of operations in the field for crawling beneficial insects. This measure helps both natural enemies as well as supporting partridges. In fact, this is an ideal overwintering site for carabid beetles and rove beetles. These beetles like to hibernate in the base of the tussocks of grass, and the riased structure ensures that the ground dries faster and warms up more quickly in spring, making the beetles become active earlier in the season. These beneficial insects provide pest control in the plot around the beetle bank. They are also an important source of food for partridge chicks which thus find food ánd shelter in the beetle bank.

Keverbank op het demoperceel agronatuur

As manager of the demonstration platform, I look forward to the return of the kestrels to our kestrel box, every year.

Johan Rapol

Responsible functional agrobiodiversity


Kestrel box on pole

Kestrels need cavities to nest in, at a reasonable height, with a sufficiently unobstructed view from the box. The silhouette of a kestrel can deter pigeons, which can be seen as a natural way to control this problem. Moreover, they also help control mice.

Torenvalk in nestbak.JPG

Want to take a closer look?

Wanting to learn more about our Nature Based Agriculture platform? To include the platform in one of your project actions? Do you just want to visit and see for yourselves?

Current projects at our Nature Based Agriculture platform