Simulating economic and environmental impacts of dairy cattle management using Agent Based Models

The management of a dairy farm decides significantly on its economic success and ecological impact. The simulation of the impact of management decisions was identified as an important challenge when modeling agricultural systems; so-called agent-based models (ABM) are used. The project aims to develop a decision support system (DSS) based on an LCA (life cycle assessment)-ABM-coupled simulator. This way, the economic and environmental effects of different herd management strategies can be tested. For the design and validation of LCA-ABM, phenotypes are collected in more than 320 dairy farms in Wallonia and Luxembourg (e.g. animal characteristics, milk composition and yield, feeding and farm-specific economic data) or on an individual animal basis using milk spectra in the mid-infrared range (body weight, methane emissions). Further phenotypes are predicted in this project from easily collected parameters using machine learning algorithms. These relate both to the behavior of the farmers and to the pasture methodology. Phenotypes, in connection with standard literature equations from the field of life cycle assessments, enable to calculate the environmental impact of individual cows with a higher temporal resolution than with the existing life cycle assessments. Finally, the robustness of the assumptions behind the LCA-ABM-based decision tool is assessed on the basis of detailed economic, feed and production data, which are collected from ten pilot farms in Luxembourg.
2019 - 2023
Supported by the Fond National de la Recherche Luxembourg“INTER/FNR/18/12987586“

braugeescht – vum kär zum béier

Auf Anfrage der ASTA wurde 2019 auf vier Bio-Betrieben im Norden des Landes auf insgesamt 17 ha die Bio-Sommerbraugerste Avalon mit dem Ziel angebaut, die Brasserie Nationale S.A. dabei zu unterstützen, das Bio-Bier Funck Bricher auch mit Malz aus luxemburgischer Bio-Braugerste brauen zu können. Neben der Ausarbeitung der Informationsbroschüre „Braugeescht: Vum Kär zum Béier“ wurden die Landwirte von den Beratern des IBLA vom Anbau und der Kulturführung bis hin zur Ernte und Lagerung fachlich unterstützt und begleitet. Für die Qualitätssicherung wurden das geerntete Getreide bei de Verband auf die gängigen Qualitätseigenschaften von Braugerste und beim Laboratoire National de la Santé auf mögliche Belastungen mit Pflanzenschutzmitteln und Mykotoxinen untersucht. Im Oktober wurden Proben der Braugerste bei der Mälzerei Mouterij Dingemans N.V. auf wichtige Qualitätsmerkmale untersucht um die Eignung für die Weiterverarbeitung in Malz zu bestimmen. Insgesamt war die luxemburgische Bio-Braugerste für das Funck-Bricher Bio-Bier von guter Qualität. Aus der Ernte 2019 konnten rund 44 Tonnen Braugerste an die Mouterij Dingemans N.V geliefert werden, um nach der dortigen Verarbeitung zu Malz in der Brasserie Nationale in Funck-Bricher Bier zu veredeln. 2020 wird die Bio-Sommerbraugerste Avalon auf etwa 35 ha angebaut.
since 2019


Connecting advisors to boost interactive innovation in agriculture & forestry

To strengthen the skills, competencies and attitudes of advisors to support interactive innovation, by: identifying and sharing best practices, developing tools and methods, training, and organizing peer to peer learning & networking.
To enhance and profile the role of advisors in interactive innovation processes, at different scales: by a better understanding of the AKIS at country level, by identifying providers of advisory services across Europe, by creating an enabling environment within advisory services, by better connecting and embedding advisory services within the AKIS and by appropriate public policies.
To create a social support network and a networking culture among advisors facilitating innovative innovation processes. In particular emphasis will be given to ensure that advisors in Central and Eastern European countries make use of the opportunities being created in the project.
This project has received funding from the European union horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

ecological footprint – reloaded

As part of the project, the ecological footprint of Luxembourg is being recalculated in cooperation with the Global Footprint Network (GFN). The ecological footprint of individual countries as well as globally is calculated using a kind of accounting for natural resources based on global hectares and is compared with the available capacities on global hectares, called bio-capacity. This is used to calculate the number of planets that are required to provide the resource consumption of the inhabitants of a country if all people worldwide lived like this population. The Ecological Footprint is intended to draw attention to the need for sustainable development and to promote political decisions. IBLA's task is to calculate Luxembourg's Ecological Footprint for 2018. The aim is to also highlight the resource consumption of tank tourism separately in order to get a more realistic picture of consumption for the Luxembourg population. On the basis of these elaborations, trends are to be shown, and critical consumption areas and critical areas with high savings potential are identified and communicated.


towards an operational very high resolution monitoring of die-off phenomena including the esca complex

Esca is a trunk disease, which is not new, but its recent spreading is devastating. Probably climate change led to this tremendous spreading in Luxembourg as well as on the whole globe. Esca-related phenomena include wood decay, grapevine leaf stripe disease and vascular dysfunction. Esca is still poorly understood and no treatment to prevent or minimise the infections of the plants exists. Winegrowers are facing this problem without having a sustainable solution. Remote sensing techniques provide spatial and spectral information that allow for the detection of symptomatic or missing plants within a vineyard.
Drone based very high-resolution images can help monitoring long term and small scale patterns of diseases. Recently, innovative hyperspectral sensors, which are very light and can be installed on drones, came on the market. This allows for new insights into diseases reactions and developments in vegetation canopies which haven’t been possible before. Esca, in contrast to many other diseases is not spreading continuously within the vineyard but occurs on single plants. Furthermore, symptoms may occur in one year and disappear the following year on infected plants. Thus, very high resolution is necessary to detect the symptoms. In combination with thermal sensors, innovative methods will be developed which may help to detect and understand the disease.

2000 m2 for our food

Project to promote a sustainable agricultural and food culture

Worldwide each of us has an average of 2000 m2 available for our sustenance; this also corresponds to the amount of arable land and permanent meadows and pastures available to every citizen in Luxembourg. Our dietary habits do not only affect our health, but also our natural resources such as air, water and soil. However on a global scale this is lopsided; our demand for agricultural land is significantly higher, due to the cultivation of plants for energy production and imports of products from abroad like soy, coffee, cocoa or tobacco.
Using 2000 m2 at the “Haus vun der Natur” in Kockelscheuer, we will show the relationships between our dietary habits, agriculture and environmental protection in a very practical, hands-on manner. The 2000 m2 field will show that a sustainable food supply, on the basis of our natural resources, is possible. At the moment, agricultural production plays a minor role in the direct food supply in Luxembourg. Accordingly, the “2000 m2 for our food” project aims to highlight the value of fruit, vegetable and field crop cultivation, because a diverse range of seasonal delights is possible using regionally produced fruits and vegetables. This means: apples and pears instead of mangoes and kiwi. Lentils, peas and regionally produced soybean instead of chick peas from sub-tropical regions.. Being a region with a high proportion of permanent grassland, animal husbandry is very important for Luxembourg and builds an important link to the arable land and crop production, since the organic fertilizers produced by the animals especially enhance soil fertility. Chicken, pig and cow manure play an important role in keeping nitrogen and other important nutrients in the agricultural cycle, maintaining a natural soil fertility and making the use of mineral fertilizers redundant.
The aim of the project partners “Institut fir biologësch Landwirtschaft an Agrakultur Luxemburg” a.s.b.l. (IBLA), “natur & ëmwelt” a.s.b.l. and Co-Labor, is to use this project, financed by the Ministère de l’Environnement, du Climat et du Développement durable, to promote awareness of the arable land that is available for crop production, to encourage reflection about our own dietary habits and consumption patterns as well as to inform about regional and sustainable agriculture.


Integrated analysis of dietary patterns and agricultural practices for sustainable food systems in Luxembourg

Luxembourg is currently facing many environmental problems. The agriculture sector is as much a victim as also a driver of these problems, and changes in the farming practices are needed in order to face them and ensure food security for future generations. Apart from production practices, the sustainability of the food and agriculture sector is also influenced by consumers’ food choices. The aim of this project is therefore a) to assess holistically the current sustainability level of the Luxembourgish agriculture sector, b) to identify necessary changes to dietary patterns and production practices, and c) to develop differentiated strategies for the development of sustainable food systems in Luxembourg. The project will assess the sustainability of the Luxembourgish food system on two levels: the farm-level and the food system-level. Together, the results from these two levels of sustainability assessments will be synthesised and used to formulate target-group specific recommendations for the development of sustainable food systems.
2018 - 2021
Apart from financial support from the "Ministère du Déveleoppement Durable et des Infrastructures" and from the "Oeuvre National de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte" and sponsoring from BIOGROS S.A. and OIKOPOLIS S.A., this project is also supported through private donations.


Grape marc - from underrated waste product to regionally produced premium fertilizer

The residue grape marc is transformed into a regional, high-quality fertiliser by optimizing the composting process. Ways are shown that improve the organic materials cycles in Luxembourg's viticulture in order to in turn minimize the need for mineral nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers and pesticides. The use of the composting process in agricultural and the use of compost products are one way to increase sustainability and counteract climate change.
Locally produced compost products help to promote humus formation and thus help to protect the climate. The aim of the project is to promote wide support for compost products. There will be demonstration windrows and demonstration plots that can be used for composting courses and workshops. The courses are aimed at farmers, winegrowers and private individuals. In addition, information events and communication activities are carried out that appeal to all social groups.
Œuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte Luxembourg

“schlassbierg” pilot project

Since 2016, IBLA has been collaborating with the Syndicat des Eaux Sud (SES) and the Chamber of Agriculture in the context of the "Schlassbierg" pilot project. Continuing in the vein of previous projects for improving the quality of drinking water (the proposed measures of which mainly focused on reducing fertilisation and the amounts of used pesticides), the current project is intended to go even further. The aim is to forego all mineral fertilisers and chemical-synthetic pesticides on the "Schlassbierg" plateau. The project offers the unique opportunity to examine the impact that a complete refusal to use mineral fertilisers and chemical-synthetic pesticides has on the water quality. The entire plateau is the private property of a single owner, all surfaces are cultivated by a single farmer and five springs are fed from this plateau alone. Hence, the effect that a change in the management of the fields has on the quality of the drinking water can be recorded and analysed on the basis of two reinforced springs (sources of drinking water) and three wild springs (natural sources); in fact, the activities on the plateau are reflected directly in the springs. Both the composition of the drinking water and the overall water quality will thus be considered in the evaluation of the "Schlassbierg" project.

The aim of the project is to abandon the use of all mineral fertilisers and chemical-synthetic pesticides in order to analyse the impact that this agricultural practices have on the drinking water quality of the springs. The following questions are addressed in this context:
• What implications does the described procedural change have for the quality of the drinking water springing from the two reinforced sources as well as for the quality of the water springing from the three wild sources, respectively?
• What changes are necessary in order to achieve stable yields despite not using pesticides and mineral fertilisers?
• What levels will crop shortfalls reach?


Sustainable and resource-efficient protein production using various mechanical weed control methods in grain legume cultivation; using soybean as an example

With a protein content of circa 40 % and an optimal amino acid composition, soybean is one of the most important protein sources in animal feed. Due to the current dependency on imports from North and South America, Luxembourg has signed the European Soybean Declaration (2017) in order to promote the regional cultivation of soybean and other protein crops. In addition to the not yet guaranteed further processing in Luxembourg (e.g. toasting), there are above all knowledge gaps in efficient and sustainable mechanical weed control techniques. Five mechanical weed control methods in soybean cultivation are tested and compared under real conditions on three organic farms spread over Luxembourg. An ON-FARM trial is also conducted at the Lycée Technique Agricole for educational purposes. The aim of the project is to show modern possibilities of mechanical weed control in grain legume cultivation in order to stimulate sustainable and resource-efficient protein production in Luxembourg.
October 2017 – September 2020
The project is funded by the Oeuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte and the Ministère de l’Agriculture, de la Viticulture et de la Protection des consommateurs and is carried out with the support of the King Baudouin Foundation and the National Lottery. It is supported by a sponsorship of Wolff-Weyland S.A. and Piet van Luijk Sàrl.
Farm "An Dudel" Emering, Sprinkange
Farm Mehlen, Manternach
Farm François, Hostert

variety trials

in organic agriculture in Luxembourg

The aim of the variety trials is to give Luxembourgish organic farmers meaningful recommendations for the variety selection. For this purpose, winter wheat cultivation trials in organic farming were implemented by IBLA in cooperation with the Lycee Technique Agricole (LTA) in the season 2009/10. In recent years, further crops have been added to the variety trials. Since 2020, maize variety trials have also been conducted in collaboration with the Administration des Services Techniques de l'Agriculture (ASTA). On the basis of these trials, a list of varieties is issued each year by the National Variety Commission as an aid for the selection of varieties for the farmers.
• Winter cereal variety trials since 2009
• Summer cereal variety trials in 2014-2016, and again since 2019
• Soybean variety trials in 2014, and again since 2018
• Clover grass mixture variety trials in 2013-2015
• Pea and faba bean variety trials since 2016
• Potato variety trials since 2016
• Maize variety trials since 2020

grassland and animal health eifel

The optimization of permanent grassland, the pasture management, the perennial field forage cultivation and the fodder conservation, in order to improve the efficiency, animal health, value and environmental compatibility of the dairy production in the grassland region.

In recent decades, more and more new symptoms have developed on dairy farms which no longer can be attributed to classic diseases. Subclinical acidosis, subclinical ketosis as well as Mortellaro have increased in recent years. The causes of these diseases are due to several factors and can no longer be clearly analysed and named. These diseases are therefore grouped together as "factor diseases". An interdisciplinary approach is therefore indispensable in order to optimize dairy production in a sustainable and economically efficient way.
The objectives of the project are:
• Analysing grassland and forage production with regard to their yields while taking into account their fertilization and cutting times.
• Improving the silage process by reducing the pure protein degradation and indicating alternatives to the silage process.
• Analysing the influence of the grassland and forage production, as well as the conservation methods on the basic feed intake and animal health of the dairy cow, thus improving the profitability of dairy cattle as a whole.
2016 - 2020
The project is an EIP Agri (European Innovation Partnership "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability") project, funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (FEADER) within the framework of the Rhineland-Palatinate program EULLE "Environmental Measures, Rural Development, Agriculture, Nutrition" co-funded by the country Rhineland-Palatinate represented by the "Ministry of Environment, Agriculture, Food, Viticulture and Forestry Rhineland-Palatinate".