SLU news

Unique landscape experiment for sustainable food production and biodiversity

Published: 18 February 2024
Brown and white cow in natural pasture stands and looks into the camera. Grass, trees and bushes grow in the meadow, a small road runs to the right.

The Kamprad family's foundation finances a new project at the Swedish University of Agriculture's research facility,Lövsta outside Uppsala. The project focuses on the reintegration of crop production and grazing animals in the same agricultural landscape and is unique in its kind as it includes both animals and crop production in the same landscape experiment. The results will contribute to the development of sustainable production of crops, milk and meat in a way that promotes both biodiversity, soil fertility, an attractive environment for people and a resilient agricultural system. The project is connected to the knowledge center SustAinimal and in run in collaboration with RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden).

A sustainable and reliable food production requires a multifunctional agricultural approach. During the last century, production has become increasingly specialized and animal husbandry and crop production have become increasingly separated geographically. A highly specialized agriculture supplies food at a low cost but is dependent on fossil and chemical inputs which to a large extent are imported to Sweden. At the same time, the number of grazing animals is drastically decreasing and the area of pasture land in Sweden is historically low. Animal husbandry is concentrated in certain parts of the landscape and on the arable land where annual crops are grown we see very few animals. This development makes agriculture more vulnerable, and entails negative effects on the environment, including decreased biodiversity.

SEK 8 million from the Kamprad family foundation

Researchers at the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU) have been granted SEK 8 million from the Kamprad Family Foundation in support of integrating crop production and animal husbandry with the help of modern technology. The project is a collaboration between three faculties and several subject areas within SLU - including soil science, crop production, ecology, animal husbandry and landscape architecture, and in collaboration with the Swedish research institute Rise. The project is closely linked to SustAinimal (knowledge center focusing on the future role of food-producing animals) and welcomes interested partners. The focus of the research project will be a landscape experiment at SLU's facility in Funbo Lövsta outside Uppsala.

- We want to counteract the specialization that is often required in both research and in practical agriculture. In this unique project, we produce knowledge that leads to modern and robust systems and that takes the bigger picture into account: agriculture, profitability, environment, landscape, and people, says Sigrid Agenäs, professor of ruminant management and the director of SustAinimal and the manager of the new landscape experiment.

Pastures are extremely rich habitats that contain a large biodiversity and have high cultural values. Historically, semi-natural pastures have been well spread across the landscape, but a large proportion have grown back or been planted with forest as it is difficult to use this type of land for grazing in a rational way. Fencing, moving animals and to do the daily check of the animals when at distant pastures can be time-consuming and costly.

Unique landscape experiment

In the new project, a landscape experiment will be established that includes both arable and semi‑natural pastures where virtual fences (used in collaboration with RISE) and digital geographic information systems enables research on the impact of grazing on efficiency in resource utilization and effects on biodiversity. The project will develop methods and tools will be developed that make it possible to direct grazing to places where the benefit for the animals as well as the function is greatest in terms of benefits for the crops on the land, the agricultural landscape, biodiversity and possible carbon storage.

- The need of the landscape experiment to move animals between different sections of land in order to get the grazing where it is best for the landscape and the crops is an excellent example of how useful virtual fences are, says Per Peetz Nielsen at RISE, who will be responsible for the use of virtual fences in the project.

Using the data from the trials, the researchers will perform systems analyses and evaluate different future scenarios based on actual data to a greater extent than would otherwise be possible.

- What we are aiming for is efficient reuse of animal manure, greater opportunity to grow diversified crop rotations with hedgerows, food and service crops to build soil fertility and counteract weeds and pests, which can contribute to reducing the need for and increasing the lifespan of herbicides and pesticides, says Göran Bergkvist, professor of weed ecology at the department of plant production ecology and one of the researchers in the project.

- Today, technology is available that we believe provides opportunities to develop farming systems that are environmentally friendly, species-rich, productive and economically profitable. In return, we get a contribution to a vibrant countryside, continues Göran Bergkvist.

The landscapeexperiment will be the first of its kind as it includes both grazing animals and crop production.

- Internationally there are experiments that include the landscape scale, patchCrop in Germany, Kellog Biological Station in USA, and the CA-SYS platform in France, but as far as we know nothing addresses the importance of grazing for the functioning of both cropping systems and landscapes. There are a number of long-term trials that investigate the importance of grazing, but none of these have a clear focus on the development of sustainable cultivation systems in combination with annual crops or have a landscape perspective, says Sigrid Agenäs.

Coordinator for the project will be Rebecca Danielsson, researcher in ruminant nutrition at the department of applied animal science and welfare. She sees several possibilities with the landscape experiment.

- It can be used for teaching as well, above all for students at agriculture upper secondary level schools of natural resources and students in agricultural science who needs to understand the connection between crop production and animal husbandry. And as a central point for workshops around these issues, says Rebecca Danielsson .

The Kamprad family's foundation aims, among other things, to support scientific research and projects that promote a better environment and a vibrant countryside. - We are very happy to be able to contribute to the establishment of this unique infrastructure and we are convinced that the project has the potential to produce both new scientific findings and practical solutions for increased sustainability in Swedish agriculture, says Lena Fritzén, executive member of the Kamprad Family Foundation .


The project currently includes the following researchers (more will be added):

Sigrid Agenäs, Professor of Ruminant Management, Dep. of Applied Animal Science and Welfare

Rebecca Danielsson, Researcher in Ruminant Nutrition and Coordinator of the project Dep. of Applied Animal Science and Welfare

Göran Bergkvist, Professor of Weed Ecology, Dep. of Crop Production Ecology

Riccardo Bommarco, Professor of Agricultural Entomology, Dep. of Ecology

Georg Carlsson, Professor of Sustainable Farming Systems, Dep. of Biosystems and Technology

Anna Jansson, Professor of Domestic Animal Physiology, Dep.  of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry

Ingrid Sarlöv Herlin, Professor of Landscape Planning, Dep. of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management

Ingrid Öborn, Professor of Agrarian Cropping Systems, Dep. of Crop Production Ecology

Per Peetz Nielsen, associate professor in animal behavior and welfare at SLU, senior researcher at RISE , Dept. Agriculture and Food

About SLU Lövsta Field Research Station and The Swedish Livestock Research Centre

SLU Lövsta Field Research Station runs about 70 agricultural field trials in the Uppsala area. Many of the trials are connected to research projects at SLU, but also welcome external missions. The heart of Lövsta field research station is Funbo-Lövsta 10 kilometers east of Uppsala. Lövsta field research station is a collaboration between the Department of Crop Production Ecology and the Department of Soil and Environment.

The Swedish Livestock Research Centre is the most modern facility for research and education on dairy cattle, pigs and poultry, in northern Europe. The animals are central in the research and education, but are also part of the facility´s basic food production. The facility represents technology at the forefront of development and the personnel has expertise in production, research and education. Registration of animal production, consumption, behavior, reproduction and health is taking place continuously.

The facility provides the right conditions to perform quality assured research into animal welfare, behavior and health, animal environment and care and building function as well as sustainable and climate-smart food production. These resources shows possibilities and safeguards the researchers results. 


Sigrid Agenäs, Dep. of Applied Animal Science and Welfare

Göran Bergkvist, Dep. of Crop Production Ecology

Rebecca Danielsson, Dep. of Applied Animal Science and Welfare