LIFE CO2SAND

Using clay to make farmland climate proof
LIFE CO2SAND
modules.bodyText.updatedAt: 10-October-2022

As a result of climate change we increasingly see longer periods of drought or, on the other hand, extreme rainfall. This has a great impact on farmers on sandy soils. Clay soil enhances the resilience of sandy soil, strengthening its capacity to handle extreme weather conditions.  Clay can also increase the fertility of sandy soil. In the LIFE CO2SAND, Rijkswaterstaat, (the Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management) and the Province of Gelderland match the supply and demand of clay soil. We are applying the ‘clay-in-sand’ principle in 5 demo fields. Farmers, area managers and land designers are welcome to visit these ‘field labs’ and make use of this technique for their own soil.

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LIFE CO2SAND, how does is work?

LIFE CO2SAND, how does is work? transcription

This is a nature development project and part of the topsoil will be excavated here and a large secondary channel will be built here. Yes, a lot is being rewetted here to essentially improve the water quality in our rivers. What you see behind this is that the top layer is now removed. And that top layer is the layer that was farmed on. We are left with agricultural land, which is fertile land and we want to transfer it to farmland and those who desperately need it. And those are the sandy areas. e think it is important that the soil improves, and that biodiversity improves in the Netherlands. And we think by applying clay in sandy soils that you can retain the water longer and that has an effect on all kinds of other things in nature. I can mow this about four times a year and usually I get quite a bit off all around. It is always disappointing in the middle and I hope in a few years there will be enough crops everywhere. I have every confidence that it will work on this ground. I've done it myself once. That clay will still be there a hundred years from now. Organic matter and compost that perish and that is sometimes gone in three years. Clay always stays. I see it as an investment in your company. In the ground, in a sustainable future. We know from the past that farmers went to this IJssel valley early on to remove sediments. Layer by layer they improved their soil a bit so that they could grow more crops. The properties of clay are such that they can retain more moisture than sandy soils, but can also store CO₂, so they can capture more carbon. So it becomes more sustainable farming if I can get more output with less input. That is actually what you as a farmer want, which clay also makes possible. In our team, we often refer to the word eternal value of the soil. If we manage the soil well, make it better, it may well be better in a hundred years than it is now. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this LIFE CO2SAND demo in Brummen. It's a set of five. A demo with spreading the clay, how that works. Nice to see how the project works and also to see how the spreading of the clay goes around in practice. So in that respect it was a successful afternoon. Yes, of course. It's nice how many people from different walks of life, up to and including the farmers, with their knowledge of the land, come together here today. And then you notice in those short conversations that a lot is learned from each other and that the pilot brings people together and provides insights that you had not thought of beforehand. Still a nice demo. The clay was also really nice and loose and spread very nicely. I think you should be able to use valuable clay in the Netherlands. Would you like to know more about the clay-in-sand method? Check out our website LIFECO2SAND.eu and visit one of our demo days.
Contribute to climate objectives

Contribute to climate objectives

Especially now that farmers cannot or at least far less frequently irrigate their land, this is an excellent solution.  In addition, clay can retain higher levels of organic matter in the soil; this not only contributes to lower CO2 emissions but also offers a valuable natural raw material to create fertile agricultural soil. So we also contribute to the climate objectives.

Jan van der Meer

Member Provincial Executive Gelderland

Clay for sandy soil: demand finds supply 

Farmers need to improve the quality of their farmland. There is a surplus of clay soil, which is not used at this time. In lowland areas, clay is extracted in nature restoration works and area development for road & house building. This clay is suitable to improve drought-sensitive sandy soils of farmers. The clay particles enable the soil to retain more water, organic matter and minerals. More organic matter in the soil goes with a reduction of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. This helps to slow down climate change. 

700 hectares of climate-proof agricultural land by 2027

We transport clay that is released in creating nature areas and in building roads and houses, to drought-prone sandy soils of farmers. 

The approach: 

We assess the quality of a parcel. Together with the farmer we determine which clay is most suitable and how much clay we need to sustainably improve their soil.
We work with 5 demo fields. Each demo field is different and each farmer works differently. This enables us to gain experience with different local circumstances, clay types and ways of applying the clay.
On the demo fields we measure how much extra water the soil retains through the clay, and the change in soil fertility. We also measure differences in organic substance levels between the treated fields and untreated soil.
We engage with policymakers and land developers responsible for clay releasing projects to promote the inclusion of clay delivery to farmers in planning studies and tendering procedures.
We share knowledge with farmers, researchers and authorities by publications, demo days, congresses and calls.
We develop education kits for business consultants and agricultural schools.

We transport clay that is released in creating nature areas and in building roads and houses, to drought-prone sandy soils of farmers. 

The approach: 

We assess the quality of a parcel. Together with the farmer we determine which clay is most suitable and how much clay we need to sustainably improve their soil.
We work with 5 demo fields. Each demo field is different and each farmer works differently. This enables us to gain experience with different local circumstances, clay types and ways of applying the clay.
We assess the quality of a parcel. Together with the farmer we determine which clay is most suitable and how much clay we need to sustainably improve their soil.
On the demo fields we measure how much extra water the soil retains through the clay, and the change in soil fertility. We also measure differences in organic substance levels between the treated fields and untreated soil.
We assess the quality of a parcel. Together with the farmer we determine which clay is most suitable and how much clay we need to sustainably improve their soil.
We engage with policymakers and land developers responsible for clay releasing projects to promote the inclusion of clay delivery to farmers in planning studies and tendering procedures.
We assess the quality of a parcel. Together with the farmer we determine which clay is most suitable and how much clay we need to sustainably improve their soil.
We share knowledge with farmers, researchers and authorities by publications, demo days, congresses and calls.
We assess the quality of a parcel. Together with the farmer we determine which clay is most suitable and how much clay we need to sustainably improve their soil.
We develop education kits for business consultants and agricultural schools.

Sand belt

The South and East of the Netherlands are part of the European ‘sand belt’. This belt is covered with sandy soils that are prone to droughts. The belt runs from Flanders in Belgium to Belarus and has intensive agricultural use. This is the target area of LIFE CO2SAND.

What are the results? 

Farmers, land designers and area managers are encouraged to visit the 5 demo fields and use the technique for their own soil.

Expected LIFE CO2SAND results:

  • Water conservation of 10 mm per drought period;
  • In the long term an extra capture of 1.9 tonnes of CO2-equivalents per hectare per year;
  • Higher crop yield;
  • Reduced leaching of fertilisers and minerals;
  • Value-added reuse of released soil.

Other sectors may use available clay as well. By applying clay to peat lands, peat oxidation slows down and soil subsidence is reduced. Clay can also bind organic substances in compost or bokashi so they decompose more slowly.

Demo days

In the coming years, we organise a demo day 5 times a year to show the ‘clay-in-sand’ principle. We exchange knowledge and experiences on demo days. Together with the participants, we explore opportunities and challenges in order to further improve the technical aspects.

Contact

For any questions or additional information, please feel free to contact us by telephone: +31 (0)26 359 99 99 or e-mail.

LIFE CO2SAND received financing from the LIFE programme of the European Union. Rijkswaterstaat is project partner.

LifeRijkswaterstaat Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management