The VEL and VANLA environmental co-operatives as field laboratories

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This article describes the Nutrient Management Project of the environmental co-operatives VEL and VANLA as a field laboratory. A field laboratory is defined as a heterogeneous collection of inter-linked scientific studies performed by several actors within a specific field, but – as in normal laboratories – with some protection against outside interference and disturbance. The Nutrient Management Project of VEL and VANLA demonstrates several characteristics of field laboratories. Firstly, in the project, dairy farmers and scientists carry out joint research using different sources of knowledge. Secondly, apart from research the actors are engaged in changing the location, thereby developing new knowledge and practices. In the case of VEL and VANLA this means developing the fields and farms towards sustainability. Thirdly, the actors thoughtfully experiment with several research methodologies to gain understanding on a variety of issues. So within the field laboratory of VEL and VANLA there is heterogeneity in themes, disciplines and methodologies. Simultaneously a systems perspective is created as an interpretative scheme that links up all the different activities. Finally, within VEL and VANLA, alignment among practices, research and the institutional context is essential for the continuation of the research activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-39
JournalNetherlands Journal of Agricultural Science
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • cooperative activities
  • environmental protection
  • nutrients
  • diffusion of research
  • farmers
  • farm management
  • dairy farming
  • knowledge
  • netherlands
  • friese wouden


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