Press release ILVO seeks balance between agriculture and nature on pastures in the Gondebeek Valley

Overview of the planned interventions on the 5 plots of grassland

Public review of draft nature management plan runs through mid-May

Of the 240 hectares of East Flanders agricultural plots on which ILVO is conducting trials of sustainable agriculture, almost 5 hectares are in a special protection zone for nature. These are grasslands in the Gondebeek valley of Merelbeke. As a result, the ILVO research center, like all agricultural companies in Flanders, faces major challenges. The 'nature management plan Research Kouter-Gondebeekvallei' has to offer an answer to this and provides for measures that both benefit the surrounding nature and offer the agricultural and nature management sector relevant insights and knowledge to meet these challenges in the rest of Flanders. The public inquiry for this official management document runs from April 17 to May 16, 2023. On Sunday, May 7, ILVO is organizing an information walk for interested parties along the plots involved..

The draft nature management plan Research Gondebeek Valley describes the future management of 5 ILVO plots with a total area of 5.6 ha. Of these, 4.9 ha lie in SPA, a special protection zone for nature. ILVO consciously chooses to combine agricultural and nature objectives in this area.

"With this plan, ILVO wants, among other things, to boost biodiversity in the area by preserving wet meadows, planting a new grove and creating an amphibian pool. In this way, we are helping to build a missing link in the ecological connection between the Aelmoezeneiebos and the Makegem forests." - Elke Vanempten, senior researcher Agriculture & Society and coordinator for ILVO's Agri-Food Research Landscape

In addition to ecological goals, ILVO, as an agricultural knowledge center, also sees an opportunity in this plan for knowledge building and education. Farmers often have pastures in natural areas. Fertilization and crop protection that provide higher yields are prohibited there. The search for possible balances between agriculture and nature is a particularly topical and socially relevant topic. The 4.9 ha of wet ILVO plots located in SPA are a rewarding research area that can soon provide valuable insights for both farmers and nature managers.

This nature management plan, which will apply for 24 years, offers ILVO the opportunity to conduct research into the effects of extensive agricultural management, such as, among other things, the feed value and composition of grass derived from extensively managed grassland, soil fertility, surface and groundwater levels, the effect of shade on cattle during heat, etc." - Thijs Vanden Nest, farm manager ILVO

Informational walk around the Agri-Food Research Landscape

On Sunday morning, May 7, ILVO is organizing an information walk along the affected plots on the Research Kouter. Guides will verbally explain the nature management plan and the planned measures. ILVO's Research Kouter is a dynamic open-air agricultural laboratory on the border of Merelbeke and Melle. Independent scientific research grows and flourishes on the more than 240 hectares of experimental fields, providing innovative insights into sustainable agriculture and food production.

Practical info:

Public inquiry into the draft nature management document

The public survey runs from April 17 to May 16, 2023. ILVO invites to take note of the draft nature management plan Research Kouter-Gondbeek Valley. During this period, substantive suggestions, comments or objections can be submitted in writing to the Agency for Nature and Forests.

The draft text can be read here:

Farm Manager Thijs Vanden Nest about the Gondebeek valley


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