Circular use of local biomass for soil fertility in the municipality of Ooststellingwerf

Prof. Emiel Elferink1

1Van Hall Larenstein, Leeuwarden, Netherlands

In the Netherlands conventional agriculture leads to a number of problems such as: soil compaction, a disturbed mineral balance, insufficient soil life, an increase in soil diseases and a falling humus content. It is known that organic matter has a positive effect on this.

However, in the Netherlands biomass is collected and processed at professional biowaste processing facilities. Biomass is processed into valuable biobased products such as organic amendments (compost, biochar and bokashi). Collecting, transporting and processing of the biomass at dedicated sites come with increased transport and loss of local biomass to increase organic matter locally.

The municipality of Ooststellingwerf and it farmers have the ambition to process local produced biowaste into soil amendments locally on site. This gives opportunity to produced custom made compost on site with a potential lower impact.

Therefore, a study was executed that included

  • An inventory on local available biomass (quality and quantity) for composting and what compost quality could be produced from the available biomass;
  • An assessment of soil quality on 5 farms which are representative for the region, their specific soil related problem and if increased SOM could reduce these problems;
  • A LCA to compare CO2 costs of locally produced compost with the current composting system as well as a costs assessment;
  • An assessment on legislation;
  • An assessment of the pro’s and con’s of different on farm composting techniques

Results show that the available biomass in the municipality, are largely high in nitrogen and low in carbon. Increased SOM could solve soil problems only partly. Local produced compost has a lower environmental impact and costs than the current system.


Dr. Emiel Elferink is an applied research professor ‘Sustainable Soil Management’ at the applied university Van Hall Larenstein in Leeuwarden (NL). He leads a research group that focuses on the relation between agriculture management, biobased economy and healthy soila. Especially soil biology, soil ecology and soil organic matter in relation to climate change are leading research topics. The goal is to come to practical solutions for farmers, companies and landowners that contribute to a more sustainable soil management. Furthermore he is responsible for the knowledge centre and consortium on healthy soils

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