Research Opportunities

2018 - 2019 

please NOTE: We co-create our research with students and the farm, which means that this list will be updated throughout the year and is depending on the urgency and relevance on the farm and preference of the students.

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Reserach opportunities

Description  

Aim: How can farmers do successful intercropping between trees and aromatics or ground covers in dry/semidry areas like the altiplano in the South of Spain

Background: Intercropping in the south of Spain is not a common practice. Besides that,the Common Agricultural Policy surrounding the topic is vague on its implementation, farmers are hesitant regarding intercropping because of the fear for competition with their main cash crop . This has much to do with the fact that the annual rainfall in the region do not surpass 300mm a year. However, polyculture systems are gaining more attention because of their presumed benefits on both environmental and economic performance. Could this also be the case for South Spain, and what would be the most effective polyculture design?

Used skills: practical farming skills, ecological (aboveground/belowground) or economic monitoring, plants, climate knowledge, complex systems

 

Description  

Aim:Identify arthropod (insect) mediated ecosystem services that benefit the farm, their providers and how they can be enhanced

Background: The services that insects provide play an important role in the functioning of agriculture. Most well-known are pest control and pollinators. Due to land use simplification and agricultural intensification we are losing these important players rapidly. What are pollinator and pest controlling species in Southern Spain? What measures are there to enhance their abundance and maximise their activity? Can you prove that their presence has a significant beneficial effect on crop production?

Used skills:biology, entomology, ecology, ecosystem services, biodiversity-friendly farming interventions, insect hotels, natural vegetation patches

 

Description  

Aim:Develop a low-budget monitoring framework on how to measure economic or ecological performance

Background: Identify SMART, low-budget indicators for landscape restoration. Depending on your background and experience you could develop a monitoring framework for the natural zone or the farming zone, and you could decide to focus on ecological performance (soil, biodiversity, water, etc.) or economic performance (production, management costs, market characteristics, etc.). This work will be fundamental for the future monitoring of the farm restoration activities and all follow-up studies that will be done. 

Used skills:Economics, ecology, soil science, statistics

 

Description  

Aim:Ecological mapping  of flora,  fauna  and fungi  of La Junquera farm in the South of Spain (Murcia): map what is  already  there and  what  is its  potential  function.

Background: La Junquera is a big farm in the south of Spain with more than 1100 hectares of which 350 hectares are natural zones and mountain. Even though the landowners own the land for more than 500 years they do not have a good overview of all the species of plants and animals on the farm. It would be of great interest to discover the type of ecological functions existing on the farm and how to use them to improve the ecosystem and to restore the degraded land.

Used skills:biology, plant/species knowledge

 

Description  

Aim: Analyse the  potential  of new crops  uses,  yield, harvest, processing  and  other issues  for  every crop  that  is now  farmed  

Background: La Junquera farm (1100 ha) is constantly innovating and restoring its surroundings. To do this in the most effective way it is important to map the new crops that might be better adapted to climate change and that do well with very little rainfall. The farm is also looking for new sustainable business ideas that help it diversify and spread the risk in an ever-drying region. 

Used skills:business knowledge, crop/plant/biology knowledge, innovation ideas

 

Description  

Aim: Analyse the potential of ground cover and perennials and how it can be implemented in semidry to dry areas in the South of Spain (Murcia)

Background: the combination ground cover and no tilling:  how  can this  be  implemented, what  are  the steps  and  which crops  need  to be  put  as ground  cover?  (there is only one  successful example  in  the region, but  its  considered as  one  of the  most  important practices  in  stopping erosion). There is a great need for  examples  and trials  to  showcase how  this  is done.

Used skills:farming experience, plant/biology knowledge, experimenting, complex systems

 

Description  

Aim: What role do agricultural managed parts on the farm perform in the landscape in comparison to natural  areas on the farm.

Background: this relates to the question how a landscape  could  be optimally  designed  to increase  ecological  (and economic) outcomes,  think  of reducing  erosion  and run-off  and  maximizing water  catchment,  but also  increasing  biodiversity, soil  quality.

Used skills:complex systems, land use, plants/animals, farming

 

Description  

Aim: Productive list of keystone species that are beneficial for restoration or only arrive when an area is restored. 

Background: The region of the Altiplano in the South of Spain is heavily degraded and at high risk of desertification in the coming years as the desert is already reaching the surrounding areas of Murcia. This has a great impact on the livelihoods of farmers and their families as well as on the social structure of the territory. Farmers tell that their lands are not fertile anymore and that all the life has left their land. Farmers who have changed their way of farming to a more sustainable land use, have noticed that some key species are returning; like for example the lady bugs who return to the farms when they transition towards organic farming. It is important for farmers to know how they can monitor the health of their land by looking at keynote species and their abundance.  

Used skills:complex systems, biology, social skills, Spanish

 

Description  

Aim: How can livestock be used to restore agricultural and/or natural zonesin the South of Spain

Background: The region of the Altiplano in the South of Spain knows a long history of extensive grazing both on agricultural land as in the mountainous areas. This research can be about analysing new and other ways of grazing (managed grazing e.g.) that can benefit natural or agricultural areas (e.g. fertility).

Used skills: conservation management, animal science, grazing

 

Description  

Aim: Find a way in which drones can be used to restore the land or monitor effectiveness of restoration efforts?.

Background: the future of regenerative agriculture might include drones although this is not a common practice, yet it could be used to increase efficient and sustainable land use as well as having a part in the monitoring of agricultural land and natural zones. Analysing how this could be used and what the costs and benefits are, is essential to its future use. 

Used skills: technical expertise/interest, restoration, modelling, complex systems, biology

 

Description  

Aim: Analyse how and what type of hedges and  borders can be implemented on farms in the South of Spain that  are benefitting  pollination,  stop erosion  and  increase natural  pest  management.

Background: the south of Spain knows high levels of erosion and is seeing a dramatic decrease in pollinators in the region. This has much to do with the livelihoods of the pollinators who lack space and food on farms as they become less fertile. Besides that the farms become less fertile, farmers increasingly try to keep their farms ‘clean’, meaning less natural zones and definitely no ground cover. Integrating hedges and borders on farms multiple benefits as it increases biodiversity, serves as a wind break, stops erosion and improves soil health. 

Used  skills: plant/animal knowledge, social skills (talking with farmers), understanding of the political system, complex systems

 

Description  

Aim: What is the potential for carbon offset schemes related to regenerative agriculture?

Background: The world of carbon offset schemes is a controversial one, there are pro’s and con’s which are all valid. Nevertheless, it is an interesting opportunity for governance to positively influence the transition towards regenerative agriculture by providing monetary instruments that can help overcome hurdles when it comes to implementing forestry schemes or (possibly) ground covers. Analysing its possibilities for restoration and regeneration are vital to this region as it is one of the poorest regions of Spain with very little resources available. 

Used skills: governance, social complex systems, economy, innovation, business development, environmental schemes

 

Description  

Aim: Analyse climate smart/resilient solutions  or  business cases for farm in Southern Spain (taking into account  future climate  conditions) ?

Background: climate change is a topic often mentioned by farmers when it comes to their drying lands, even if, at times this has more to do with management practices. Farmers in the South of Spain have difficulty creating livelihoods based only on farming, often they rely on subsidies or extra jobs. Finding smart solutions/business cases and diversify farms is one of the key elements in becoming more resilient and work with the changing climate conditions, hereby looking at opportunities in the value chain, tourism, etc. 

Used skills: value chains, sustainable business, governance, complex systems.

 

Description  

Aim: Develop a plan for La Junquera farm (1100 ha) in the South of Spain on water catchments and water management

Background: La Junquera is an 1100 hectare farm with big eroded gullies. It has a few springs of which the water is used at the farm and for irrigation. Besides the farm is testing out swales, keyline, and sediment traps to catch all the rains that may possibly fall (often less than 320mm a year). Developing a plan for the gullies and the agricultural plots on how to trap all the rain possible is of mayor concern for the farm. 

Used skills: water management, satellite maps, climate

 

Description  

Aim: Analyse interactions within polycultures. For instance almond/walnut/pistachio trees and different groundcover species including ecological and economic benefits/losses

Background: La Junquera is an 1100  hectare farm with 300 hectares of almonds. Many farmers in the area do not implement groundcover between their almond trees because of fear for competition. Recent studies have shown that total yield (of both almond and ground cover crop) can still have an economically and ecologically interesting perspective in the long term, because it might increase resilience of almond trees. This research could focus on setting up an experiment with replication all over the farm with different ground cover analysing ecological and economic benefits. 

Used skills: ecology, basic economics

 

Description  

Aim: Analyse the potential of wild/natural seed growing and harvesting economically and ecologically

Background: La Junquera is an 1100  hectare farm with 300 hectares of natural areas. Growing and harvesting natural and wild seeds is a great potential market since local species are generally better adapted to local circumstances and can play an important part in finding the right species for crops used for groundcover.

Used  skills: agriculture, plant sciences, conservation biology

 

Description  

Aim: Analyse and develop a strategy for knowledge sharing with and between farmers and the Regeneration Academy. 

Background: La Junquera is an 1100  hectare farm that is part is a network of 200 farmers in the region that all are interested in implementing regenerative practices. From the research done by the Regeneration Academy a lot of knowledge and insights are created. The question is what is the best strategy to make this accessible and useful to interested farmers in the area. 

Used  skills: social skills, experience with platforms, knowledge sharing, community