SOILDIVERAGRO Belgium partners organized a discussion group with stakeholders last 19th May in a digital format due to the corona crisis. Even there was no previous experience in developing such a type of format, and it was an uncertain sucess at the begining, the event exceded expectations.

Fourteen people from different profiles and backgrounds take the change and participate on the debate. Between them, many researchers with different expertise attended, next to i.a. policy officers, industry advisors, and even a couple of farmers took the time to join the session, despite of the busy period on the fields.

After a short introduction of the overall project, some general conclusions of the survey were presented. What are the main problems and best fitting solutions for vegetable cropping in Flanders? The main topic followed where the experimental design was discussed. Together with the attendees, it was figured out a feasible extensification of the conventional and organic vegetable production system to increase the soil life and quality. Different themes were discussed, such as tillage practices, organic fertilizers and cover crops. Each topic was introduced by a central question, which the attendees could answer by means of a live online poll.

The extensive system will include conservation tillage and the use of plant-based compost or animal manure as organic amendment. Cover crops are considered as a good option in the system, but are sometimes difficult to combine with vegetables harvested late. However, it is an option to install them in spring, before the main crop. Many other interesting inputs were given, such as the use of strip tillage or the good results achieved with farm-made compost.

Image meeting 1

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Two and a half hours later, Belgium partners thanked the attendees for the interesting input and advises. Many positive feedback was given and the participants were happy to stay in tune with the further progress of the project. However a live session still is preferred, an online system is a good alternative and have some advantages. Distance for example doesn’t give any problem, they could even welcome someone who was in Spain. With these experiences in mind it is now the time to start the preparation of the next discussion group which will be held soon for the other Flemish case regarding potato production.