Soil Health Conference - Harnessing biodiversity for better agronomy

5 Dec 2022

In Europe, 60-70% of soils have been diagnosed as ‘non healthy’ (EC, 2020). Flanders is no exception. The health of agricultural soils is crucial, not only for sustainable food production but also for the provision of ecosystem services. A growing number of farmers all over the world demonstrate that it is possible to achieve rapid improvements in soil health. They are reporting a better farm income, more nutrient dense food, and the restoration of essential ecosystem functions, including soil carbon buildup. Despite these impressive results, it remains a challenge to unravel the systems approach that pioneers apply every day. The conference aim is to facilitate the needed paradigm shift from the current focus on chemistry to an agronomy propelled by biodiversity. Scientists, advisory services and farmers who have made this shift will inspire their peers as well as policy makers. The conference program answers key questions about the future of agronomy, starting with an historical perspective. Other presentations provide scientific evidence for a biodiversity-based approach and present a range of good practices. The conference concludes with grounded recommendations for research, practice and policy.


8h30 - Open doors

9h00 - Knowledge erosion about soils

Historical research reveals that the very foundation of current agronomy may be more shaky than we thought.  Which promising fields of research were abandoned at the start of the 20th century?

Anton Nigten - Independent researcher

Jozef Visser - PhD Soil Science

9h45 - Mechanisms of soil health restoration in regenerative agriculture

How do we restore ecosystem functioning? What soil organisms are crucial? How far can you go in substituting chemicals with biomimicry? How fast can you build up soil carbon in a temperate climate? Is there such a thing as carbon saturation?

Kris Nichols - PhD Soil science, Food Water Wellness Foundation - Physical biogeochemist

Richard Teague - Prof. Emeritus, Texas A&M AgriLife Research - Rangeland ecologist

Koen Willekens - PhD Soil science, ILVO - Soil scientist

12h30 - Lunch

13h30 - What can regenerative agriculture deliver for farmers

What does it take to improve soil health? What policy shift can speed up adoption?

Peter Vanhoof – advisor from Organic Forest Polska

Emiel van de Vijver - Dutch farmer

Jos Van Reeth - Belgian farmer

15h30 - Panel discussion: Let's start restoring our soils!

How can the institutional environment of advisors, agri-food businesses, scientists and policy makers accommodate the new agronomy of regenerative agriculture?

Anton Nigten, Kris Nichols, Richard Teague, Koen Willekens, Peter Vanhoof, Annette Schneegans (European Commission, DG AGRI), Martien Swerts (government of Flanders, Soil & Environment) and Annemie Elsen (Soil Service of Belgium).

17h00 - Reception

Practical information

Target audience: Scientists, advisors, policymakers and the wider agrifood community

Location: Herman Teirlinckgebouw, Havenlaan 88, 1000 Brussel (walking distance from BrusselsNorth train station)

Date/Time: Monday, December 5 th , 2022. From 8:30 to 18:00

Language spoken: English


Early bird fee registration (until October 31st , 2022): 50 euro

Registration fee from November 1 st , 2022: 65 euro

Please register using this link

(Registration is considered final after receipt of payment)

More information on the conference here

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