The Base of Biobased Economy is soil quality

juni 03, 2013

BE-Basic Foundation has decided to grant a new research project aiming at improving the sustainability of the Biobased Economy by maintaining soil quality. In this project in which scientific institutes and business cooperate, the focus is on the sustainable use of organic residues in agriculture. As organic matter is becoming increasingly scarce, various residues, such as compost, manure, digestate and sugar beet pulp, have to be used as efficient as possible in agriculture. The aim of the 4-yr project is therefore to develop a policy-supporting model that enables the most efficient use of biobased residues in agriculture.

Importance of soil organic matter

In agriculture, soil organic matter is crucial: it increases the water storage capacity of the soil, provides nutrients to the soil micro-organisms (which is crucial for the suppression of plant pathogens present in the soil) and plants, and it affects soil structure, which is important for optimal root growth.

Environmental effects

The application of organic residues generally has positive effects on soil quality, but injudicious application can result in nitrogen leaching or increased production of greenhouse gases. To avoid such problems it is important that soil demand is matched with residue supply. Also the timing of organic matter residue application can be important in this respect. Before application, residues have to be free of toxins and pathogens.


The biobased economy is developing strongly because fossil reserves are limited. To avoid competition between food and non-food products, the joint use of the same crop is regarded as a useful option: first harvest the edible parts, then use the remainder for non-food products such as energy. This approach leads to maximization of crop removal from the land and thus increases the risk of soil organic matter depletion. To which extent biobased economy affects soil quality and how this could be minimized, is largely unknown.


In this project, with a budget of about € 4 million, the following partners cooperate: BLGG ResearchBioclearBioDetection SystemsClearDetections Netherlands Institute of EcologyWageningen University department Nematology and VU University department Systems Biology. About 50% of the budget is contributed by the partners themselves.

Contact Project leader Aad Termorshuizen for more information.