How are farmers in the Oudlandpolder region dealing with increased saline conditions?

23 June 2021 - Published by Laila Dam
The Oudlandpolder region is the oldest polder region in Flanders, in which parts are protected by the habitat-directive as salty wetlands and pastures. Farmers in that part of the region are therefore used to working in saline conditions. However, due to enduring hot summers the last years, there has been a significant increase in the saline conditions in the surface water in the Oudlandpolder region.

Due to this, the SalFar partners VLM and ILVO teamed up with two partners from the Interreg 2seas project “FRESH4Cs” to conduct a survey on awareness of climate change among 400 active farmers in the region. The main objective of the survey was to learn whether the farmers are aware of the changing conditions, if they are experiencing any problems due to the increase in the saline conditions in the surface water, if they have taken any measures or are planning to do so.

In the following, you can see the main results of the survey, which is based on 101 respondents.

Are irrigation techniques used?
Only 20 % of the farmers use different forms of irrigation techniques. This is mostly used to irrigate potatoes, vegetables and flax.

Which water sources are mainly used?

The survey shows that surface water is mainly used for irrigation and rainwater and groundwater is mainly used for drinking water for cattle.

Are the farmers experiencing problems due to climate change?
The survey indicates that the farmers are indeed experiencing problems due to climate change as 66% of the farmers encountered problems of flooding (surface water), 56 % encountered problems with water-shortage and 40 % encountered problems with salinity.

Which challenges related to climate change do the farmers expect in future?
The majority of the farmers are expecting several challenges due to climate change. More specifically, 77% of the farmers expect more floodings, 70% expect more water-shortage problems and 71% expect more problems with salinity. The latter challenge is mainly perceived as a problem in relation to drinking water for cattle.

Which measures should be taken?
In relation to floodings, the farmers think that following measures should be taken: 1) more active water-level-management 2) more buffer capacity in the water system and 3) more pumping capacity for evacuation of water.

Measures that farmers are considering include use of alternative sources of water (40%), storage of water (48%) and alternative farming techniques. Among the alternative farming techniques, the farmers mentioned using draught resistant crops (70%), salt tolerant crops (48%) or alternative cattle (19%).

If you would like to learn more about the survey, you can read the full report here.