The Council for the Environment and Infrastructure has said that subsidence must be stopped, and that achieving this requires both geographical targeting and cohesion with other areas of policy. This is exactly the approach being taken by Green Circle Cheese and Subsidence in Alblasserwaard. The consortium is poised to scale up an innovative water infiltration system aimed at halting subsidence while also improving biodiversity.
Green Circle Cheese and Subsidence is a consortium made up of the dairy cooperative DeltaMilk, dairy factory De Graafstroom, Rabobank, the province of South Holland, the Rivierenland Water Board and Wageningen University & Research. These organisations are collectively tackling subsidence along with related issues such as biodiversity, landscape, water quality, animal health and new revenue models. The various projects addressing these issues are being funded by the province of South Holland, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, and the European Commission.
Since 2019, farmers participating in the ‘Green Circle’ have been experimenting with an innovative level-controlled pressure infiltration technology. Ad van Rees, a dairy cattle farmer with DeltaMilk says: “Using perforated pipes in the soil and a pumping system, we can raise the groundwater level in dry periods to reduce the breakdown of peat. In wet periods, we can lower the groundwater level. We can also adjust groundwater levels for individual plots. This enables us to limit subsidence and CO2 emissions, while also encouraging cattle grazing and increasing the population of meadow birds.” The coalition is investigating whether this can reduce subsidence and thereby deliver a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The partners are also working on new revenue models to open up investment in these interventions.
Making dreams a reality
Following the successful pilot, a new project will be launching in the next few months to enable a large-scale roll-out of water infiltration in Alblasserwaard and to experiment with CO2 credits. Green Circle Cheese and Subsidence is also a partner in a European grant scheme for improving biodiversity in Natura 2000 regions.
Cheese from herb-rich meadows
Dairy factory De Graafstroom, one of the partners, belongs to the DeltaMilk cooperative of 180 dairy cattle farmers, mostly based in the Green Heart region. Raymond Noordermeer, director of De Graafstroom, says: “Our company occupies a unique position in South Holland, in the back garden of the Randstad region. Modern urban residents are increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how it’s produced. If we can show that our production is fair and sustainable, with a low carbon footprint, and that we improve biodiversity with herb-rich grasslands, it gives us a compelling story.”
Green Circles is a network of businesses, knowledge institutions, social organisations and government bodies working together to realise sustainability gains in production chains, improved living environments, and a healthy future. The province of South Holland has taken the lead in a number of Green Circles. Vice-governor Adri Bom-Lemstra says: “Through the Green Circles, the province is building coalitions around major social issues, in this case subsidence. Finding appropriate solutions requires collaboration between farmers, businesses, knowledge institutions, social organisations and other government bodies. That’s why the Green Circles are an important part of our innovative approach to achieving a thriving agricultural sector.”