Research project LEGCOMBIO
In 2017, Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) started the project "LEGCOMBIO: Creating added value in organic agriculture through sustainable combinations of crops with poultry". In this project we investigated how the same parcel of agricultural land can be used more efficiently (optimizing production) and more sustainably through the thoughtful combination of crops for the production of food, wood and/or biomass with a free-range for (organic) poultry.
A desk study was carried out in parallel with the activities in the field. Based on this, own observations and experiences were supplemented and validated. This study makes it possible to make existing experiences (mainly) abroad known to the organic sector in Flanders. The use of space by the chickens, the impact on soil quality, the impact on crop yield, plant quality and health, economic feasibility / added value, management and the legislative framework were discussed.
The LEGCOMBIO project also consisted of two complementary experimental parts: an experimental design with laying hens at ILVO and an evaluation of broilers under practical conditions, including an observational study at a biological company (O'Bio).
The specific objectives for these experiments were:
1. Experimental research into the adaptation of outdoor use by laying hens
- Quantify the weather conditions in which hens choose to stay in the house.
- Test if specific conditions during early life of the chicks influenced animal welfare and use of free range in later life (laying period).
- Evaluation of the preference of laying hens for two types of plantings outdoors (short rotation coppice in dense plantings versus hazel in wide plantings).
- The assessment of the correct preference depends on the weather conditions and the rearing condition.
- Relate individual outdoor use of laying hens to animal welfare indicators.
- To evaluate the influence of the presence of hens on the growth, yield and quality of the woody crops, on the presence of weeds and harmful pests, and on the nutrient content in the soil.
- Development and validation of a method to quantify the use of free-range chickens on farms.
2. Evaluation of combinations of berry cultivation with outdoor assortment for poultry under practical conditions at the company O’Bio.
- Estimate the added value and possibilities of mixed systems for chicken and vegetable cultivation for several dimensions, in particular: use of space by the chickens, impact on soil quality, economic feasibility, management aspects, legislative framework.
- Validate the observations in the field and the experiences of the farmer on the basis of a desk study, whereby existing experiences at home and especially abroad are made known to the organic sector in Flanders.
- Encouraging the exchange of practical experience and expertise between plant growers chicken farmers and involved researchers by means of practical operations and a number of exchange moments.
Here you will find the final report of LEGCOMBIO, which consists of three parts:
- the desk study
- results of a long-term experimental study at ILVO
- system evaluation under practical conditions at O'Bio