Crop rotation [Belgium]

vruchtwisseling / teeltrotatie

technologies_5578 - Belgium

Completeness: 80%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:

Van de Ven Gert



Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
European Interreg project FABulous Farmers
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) - United Kingdom

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

The use of crop rotation in dairy farms to provide fodder on a healthy sandy soil

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Belgium has favourable conditions for agriculture: moderate temperatures, evenly distributed precipitation, and a long growing season. Today, ~28 % of the country is under cultivation. Farming engages only 2 % of the total labour force, but it produces sufficient quantities to make Belgium a net food exporter. About 2/3 of the farms are intensively cultivated units of less than 10 hectares (25 acres).

The Functional Agro-Biodiversity (FAB) measure on avoiding monocultures and implementing crop rotations was established on a trial field in Belgium, Geel. The region is characterised by sandy soil and the main crop is maize, mostly in monoculture. Main reasons to stick in the monoculture of maize are the lack of knowledge of the alternatives, specifically on feed value of the crops and storage of the harvested product.

In this trial field different crops are placed in small fields (18 x 25 m) next to each other. The crops are always chosen to be part of the fodder for the dairy cattle. The different root types ensure a better soil structure. The diversity in plants make the field less susceptible for diseases and weeds and give a better uptake of the nutrients that are available in the soil. After one year, we already saw a 50% reduction in weeds compared to the monoculture maize.

The soil is less degraded and even soil carbon sequestration is possible. The latter is not only beneficial for climate regulation but also provides a spongy soil which can capture the water more easily, but also stores the water and makes it available to plants in drier periods. This makes the land more resilient to extreme weather conditions. The difference in sowing time and harvesting time give a higher range in choice for the type of cover crops and give less chance for weeds to develop in the same way year after year. In the reference year 2017 (maize in all the fields), we already saw an additional yield of 10% where crop rotation had been implemented.

The compilation of this SLM is a part of the European Interreg project FABulous Farmers which aims to reduce the reliance on external inputs by encouraging the use of methods and interventions that increase the farm’s Functional AgroBiodiversity (FAB). Visit and for more information.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:


Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • applied at specific points/ concentrated on a small area
Is/are the technology site(s) located in a permanently protected area?



Latitude 51.225145
Longitude 5.025308

2.6 Date of implementation

Indicate year of implementation:


2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • during experiments/ research

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • adapt to climate change/ extremes and its impacts

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Land use mixed within the same land unit:




  • Annual cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • cereals - barley
  • cereals - maize
  • cereals - sorghum
  • cereals - wheat (spring)
  • fodder crops - clover
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1
Is intercropping practiced?


Is crop rotation practiced?


If yes, specify:

5 experimental fields:
Field 1: 2016: maize + cover crop, 2017: maize + cover crop, 2018: maize + cover crop, 2019: maize + cover crop
Field 2: 2016: grass clover, 2017: maize + grass, 2018: grass clover, 2019: grass clover
Field 3: 2016: spring barley + cover crop, 2017: maize + wheat (saw), 2018: wheat + grass, 2019: grass clover
Field 4: 2016: spring barley + grass, 2017: 1 cut grass + maize + wheat (saw), 2018: wheat + grass, 2019: 1 cut grass + sorghum
Field 5: 2016: fodder beet, 2017: maize + wheat (saw), 2018: wheat + cover crops, 2019: fodder beet

Plan for all fields is to plant maize in 2020.

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
  • No (Continue with question 3.4)
Land use mixed within the same land unit:


3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • rotational systems (crop rotation, fallows, shifting cultivation)

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A1: Vegetation/ soil cover

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

The crop rotation field trial is set-up in two replicates. 5 fields per replicate are planted with a mixture of crops (bottom table). The crop rotation in 2019 is illustrated exemplary. Previous crop rotations on each field (field numbers 1 to 5) are detailed in the table. For 2020, a maize monoculture is planned to assess the impact of crop rotation trials on yields and ecosystem services.


Katrien Geudens



4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology area
other/ national currency (specify):

If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Other Estimate of all-inclusive costs for a 4 yr rotation (workforce/equipment/material) ha/4yrs 1.0 2000.0 2000.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 2000.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 2197.8
If land user bore less than 100% of costs, indicate who covered the remaining costs:



Here you can find an overview of costs for a range of crop rotations. To compare them in a proper way, we also added the price in combination with the milk yield (€/1000 kVEMeq) and this split up for sand and sandy loam.

Crop rotation: maize - leguminous crop - fodder beet - triticale: 1926 €/ha; Sandy soil: 120 €/1000 kVEMeg; Sandy Loam: 108 €/1000 kVEMeq
Crop rotation: maize - winter triticale - fodder beet: 2066 €/ha, Sandy soil: 127 €/1000 kVEMeg; Sandy Loam: 114 €/1000 kVEMeg
Crop rotation: grass clover - fodder beet - maize - winter triticale: 2090€/ha, Sandy soil: 148€/1000 kVEMeg; Sandy Loam: 133 €/1000 kVEMeg
Crop rotation: grass clover - potato - maize winter triticale: 1980 €/ha, Sandy soil: 140€/1000 kVEMeg; Sandy Loam: 126€/1000 kVEMeg
Crop rotation: grass clover - maize - winter triticale: 1944 €/ha, Sandy soil: 148 €/1000 kVEMeg; Sandy Loam: 133 €/1000 kVEMeg
Monoculture maize + grass cover crop + grass clover meadow (no derogation): 2080 €/ha, Sandy soil: 156 €/1000 kVEMeg; Sandy Loam: 140 €/1000 kVEMeg
Monoculture maize + grass clover meadow, 1 cut (derogation): 2304 €/ha, Sandy soil: 167€/1000 kVEMeg; Sandy Loam: 150 €/1000 kVEMeg
Monoculture maize + grass clover meadow (no derogation): 2048 €/ha, Sandy soil: 160 €/1000 kVEMeg; Sandy Loam: 144 €/1000 kVEMeg

(Source: A2018_6 Scenariofiches vruchtwisseling)

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

From 50 cm the soil is white sand.

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

< 5 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

poor drinking water (treatment required)

Water quality refers to:

both ground and surface water

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?


5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium
Habitat diversity:
  • high

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
Market orientation of production system:
  • subsistence (self-supply)
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • employee (company, government)
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Market orientation: subsistence: the fodder crops are for own use, the milk is sold.

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • state
Land use rights:
  • individual
  • No access to water on the field (normally not necessary).
Are land use rights based on a traditional legal system?


5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production


crop quality


fodder production


fodder quality


product diversity


land management

Income and costs



Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency


Ecological impacts


soil moisture


soil cover


soil compaction


nutrient cycling/ recharge


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover


plant diversity


beneficial species


habitat diversity


pest/ disease control

Comments/ specify:

The crops are less susceptible to pests. The damage caused (loss of yield) is less than the cost of protection.

Climate and disaster risk reduction

drought impacts


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

buffering/ filtering capacity


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
seasonal rainfall summer increase well

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly negative

Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly negative

Long-term returns:


6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 1-10%
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Higher resilience to climate change
Higher resilience to plagues and diseases
Increased soil carbon stock
Increased yields and income
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Increased soil carbon stock
Increased food security

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Feed value of the "new" crop Analysis of the crops in standardised tables
More cultivation training/exercise necessary Getting better training/knowledge by joining demonstrations or networks, and use available literature
Investment costs (other than machinery)
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
More planning time needed for the different crops Learn from previous years and other farmers experience

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • interviews with land users

7.3 Links to relevant online information

Title/ description:



Title/ description:

Vruchtwisseling: perspectieven op korte én lange termijn


Title/ description:

Monocultuur kuilmaïs (geen derogatie)


Links and modules

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