Dairy farming (1,490 farms) and grain production (2,150 farms) are the most common productions. A significant proportion, 31%, of the arable land is used for grain production (44,400 ha). The crop rotation includes annual crops only, barley being the predominant specie occupying 85% of the area for grain production (oat 10%, wheat 5%). Approximately 1.5% of the arable land is used for potatoes and vegetables. Despite a relatively high level of specialization, areas used for different plant productions are in this area closely located to each other.
The Living Lab is a part of a project Crop Rotation owned by the Norwegian Agricultural Extension Service Trøndelag, a farmer owned cooperative. Advisors in the cooperative and farmers in the region are the main target groups.
A diverse crop rotation is expected to improve soil fertility, plant health and yields, reduce the need of fertilizers and pesticides, and consequently improve the economic benefit for the farmer compared to a crop rotation with e.g. barley only. The fact that neighbor farms, each producing grain, grass or vegetables only, are narrowly located, more divers crop rotations may potentially be achieved by co-operation between the farms.
The grass producing farmer may, by such co-operation, grow his/her grass on the neighbor field for a certain period, whereas the neighbor grows potatoes or barley on the grass farmers’ fields during the same period. Through this measure, the Crop Rotation project and the Lab aims at improving agronomic knowledge and practice, leading to increased produce per hectare, reduced costs, and hopefully more climate-friendly grain farming.
The objective of the Living Lab is to support development of an advisory service supporting cooperation between farmers in order to build a shared diverse rotational system in production, including different species of grain, ley (i.e. grass), potatoes and/or vegetables – and thereby improve the agronomical practice.
The Living Lab (LL) started autumn 2017 and is planned to end summer 2020. Involving established organizations in work with Living Labs may be a challenge but it is a great advantage to make a long-term effect after a project is ended.
The first phase with establishing a LL incorporated in a larger project and organization was dominated with establishing communication, trust, and to organize working routines. Further, various dialogues were developed. One has been a dialog between advisors and farmers, where advisors contacted two groups of farmers with experience in crop rotation.
These are two pilots of the LL, and the aim is that advisors learn from experience working with these farmers. The second dialogue is between researchers and farmers, where researchers have contacted farmers joining the pilots and other farmers with experience in the field. During personal and focus group interviews researchers gained knowledge about conditions for cooperation and discussed elements of a new service.
The third dialogue is between advisors and researchers in project meetings to share knowledge and experience from the dialogue with the farmers, to reflect on these and discuss input to a new advisory service. Different conditions have delayed the co-creational nature of the work. The Crop Rotation project was in first half of project period re-organised involving new ownership, a new project leader and a reduction of budget and activities.
Other conditions, such as lack of knowledge and experience in working in a LL and the fact that the advisers have not been able to prioritize the project among several other tasks, has influenced progress. For researchers it has been challenging getting involved in the project due to constant changes of project conditions and people involved.
It takes time to get to know each other, develop reciprocity, openness and trust, which is decisive for the co-creation of a successful LL. In 2019 and early 2020, before Covid-19, the project and the lab were working well. In March 2020 with Covid-19 restrictions it is hard to know how the continuation will be.
More info about the Norway Living Lab
Info on Ruralis website:
Blog post on AgriLink website: