Science - July 11, 2018

WUR receives 11 million euros for climate research

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Lieke de Kwant

The Dutch Climate Agreement, for which the outlines were presented yesterday, has yielded WUR a total of 11 million euros worth of research assignments this year. Researchers will spend the money to develop climate-smart greenhouse horticulture, livestock farming and forest & nature management.

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The European Union aims to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in 2030 by at least 40 percent relative to the emissions in 1990. The Dutch Cabinet takes it a step further and aims at a reduction of 49 percent. In the past months, government bodies, industry and societal organisations have held discussions within five ‘sector bodies’ – Electricity, Built environment, Industry, Mobility, and Agriculture & land use – regarding what needs to be done to achieve this goal. Chair of the Climate board Ed Nijpels announced these agreements yesterday.

Research gaps
The research assignments that WUR received were generated by the agreements made in the body Agriculture & land use (website in Dutch), explains Saskia Visser of the Environmental Sciences Group, who is responsible for coordinating the Wageningen efforts for the Climate Agreement. ‘The sector body determined where the research gaps are and what actions must be taken to fill these. Research lines are currently being set in collaboration with various partners and pilot projects, and we are among the receivers of these projects. Forest management already sees many local initiatives. Our task is to investigate how efficient they are in terms of climate, what we can learn from that and how we can help them to scale up.’

Three subprojects
For the time being, WUR’s climate research will consist of three subprojects: Climate-smart forest & nature management led by Gert-Jan Nabuurs, Climate-smart livestock farming led by Ingeborg de Wolf, and Greenhouse as a source of energy led by Sjaak Bakker.

The research must offer farmers, horticulturists and forest managers concrete tools to reduce emissions.
Saskia Visser, coordinator of the Wageningen efforts for the Climate Agreement

The forest & nature managers will, among other things, investigate whether the emission of greenhouse gases can be reduced by planting forests with a wide range of tree species on nutrient-poor soils, extending forests along motorways or planting trees around farms (agroforestry). Visser: ‘We will look for promising business cases. For example, could we gain CO2 credits through forest management? Or could a farmer fetch higher prices for “climate eggs” were he to plant trees around his chicken runs?’

In Greenhouse as a source of energy, the plant researchers in Bleiswijk will design four new climate-neutral greenhouse systems that do not use fossil fuels nor emit any greenhouse gases. ‘In addition, they will investigate cultivation systems for specific crops. For example: how does one cultivate a rose as efficiently as possible?’, Visser says.

Connection with industry
In the Climate-smart livestock farming project, animal researchers will investigate methods to reduce methane emissions from manure and animals. To do so, they will look at the feed of the animals and at the processing and storage of manure. This will be done in collaboration with farmers. Visser: ‘For each of these research projects, collaboration with industry is very important. The research must offer farmers, horticulturists and forest managers concrete tools to reduce emissions and act in a climate-smart manner.’

This year, WUR will receive 11 million euros from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in order to set up these projects. The projects will most probably receive follow-ups in the years to come. ‘But the budget of next year depends on the results of this year’, claims Visser.

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