Science - May 21, 2015

Wageningen working towards smarter agriculture

Text:
Roelof Kleis

Wageningen scientists have been commissioned by Europe to set to work getting smart technology introduced in existing agricultural practices. CSA Booster is the name of the project; that stands for Climate Smart Agriculture.

The project is running in five European countries, costs ten million euros and will last four years. In Wageningen eleven people are involved; eight from Alterra and three from Management Studies.

Agriculture accounts for 20 percent of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. ‘Which shows that agriculture needs to undergo a transition,’ explains project leader Vincent Blok (Management Studies Group). ‘The technology is available. The problem is that there is no incentive for producers and buyers to embrace it. There are no investors to convert the technology into products. And customer demand for climate-friendly products is lacking.’

The CSA-Booster is intended to change this situation by developing services that will bring together producers and buyers. For example, by making cattle feed that reduces cattle methane emissions, explains co-project leader Madeleine van Mansfeld (Alterra). ‘Cows expel a lot of methane when they break wind and excrete waste. With additions to their concentrate feed you can reduce these emissions.’

Another part of the project is focusing on policy change. ‘What measures are needed to help bring about the desired turnaround in agriculture?’ asks Blok. ‘Just think of things like tax measures and subsidies. We are busy setting up an international CSA focus group within the government body DG Agro that will be occupied with influencing policy.’

Certification is another important theme. ‘Can you prove that a product has been produced with fewer emissions? It’s also a question of generating awareness,’ explains Blok. ‘Climate Smart Agriculture needs to become a familiar notion.’



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