Multifunctionality in agriculture: impact of hedgerows, grass strips and extensive grassland management on crops, regulating ecosystem services and biodiversity

  • Reubens, Bert (Project Manager)
  • Van Vooren, Laura (Former PhD Student)

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal

    The central question in this (completed) project is: Can we develop a solid framework to choose and implement nature-oriented measures on agricultural land, so that an optimal balance between agricultural production and ecosystem services/biodiversity is obtained? The project specifically studied these measures: hedgerows and grass strips on the plot edges, and an adapted (extensive) management of grasslands. All existing knowledge about its impact on ecosystem services/biodiversity has been brought together through a meta-analysis. An additional verification for the Flemish context has been carried out through local field campaigns. The economic impact of the measures has been estimated. Finally, ILVO has developed a practical calculation tool that predicts the effects on production and fnancial costs-benefits, both at plot and farm level.

    Research approach

    The planned meta-analysis was able to quantify the impact of the measures, even with variability according to certain characteristics: for example, the influence of a different height/width of the hedgerow and grass strip. The own field work on Flemish parcels (with hedgerows or grass strips on the plot edge and on grasslands with different management forms), and interviews with concerned farmers (socio-economic and cultivation aspects of the measures) has been able to further refine the meta analysis. The developed calculation tool is able to predict productivity and financial cost-benefits at farm level for different scenarios.


    Global biodiversity is under great pressure due to numerous human activities. Research shows that biodiversity is a necessary factor for a functioning ecosystem. This ecosystem provides services that are essential for humans (Díaz et al. 2008). In the Flemish context, the landscapes are fragmented and highly urbanised, and an efficient use of the farmland is of high importance. That is why the partners of this project advocate for improved quality and diversity of the habitats present, including by applying ecological remedial measures in agricultural areas. However, economic feasibility for the agricultural sector remains a priority. The project therefore pushes cost-effective realisations of nature-oriented measures ahead, which are a win-win for different sectors. This study has exposed the multidimensional effects of such measures and that is essential for the purpose in mind.

    Effective start/end date1/01/1431/12/17