NIOO Theme Sustainable use of land and water

Studying the ecology of crops
© RefHan / NIOO-KNAW

NIOO Theme Sustainable use of land and water

Healthy surface water and soils are essential for life on earth. They provide a range of life-supporting functions, including carbon storage, oxygen generation, and nutrient cycling. Moreover, healthy ecosystems can degrade pollutants and, importantly, provide the fundament for plant growth and thereby production of food, feed and fibre.

At NIOO, we combine research on the ecosystem services provided to society with research on how these ecosystem services are impacted by society. As such, NIOO contributes fundamental knowledge that will help achieve different UN Sustainable Development Goals, notably including No Hunger, Clean Water, and Life on Land.

Sustainable water management

NIOO studies major threats to water quality caused by changes in land and water use, eutrophication, climate change, and emergent pollutants such as microplastics and pharmaceuticals. Together with societal stakeholders, NIOO works on science-based solutions, thereby moving toward a sustainable future for water quality management.

Specifically, NIOO develops fundamental ecological knowledge by developing predictive ecosystem models, advising on best monitoring practises for harmful cyanobacterial risk management, and studying effectivity of lake restoration measures.

Microbes for sustainable agriculture

At NIOO, we do research that can make food production more sustainable. That means a healthy growth of crops, but with significantly less pesticides. Microbes can act as bodyguards for plants and can foster plant growth. At NIOO, we are digging into the mechanisms: in what ways do they interact? And how can we stimulate this to make our agriculture more sustainable?


Promise (Promoting Root Microbes for Integrated Striga Eradication) is a 5-year research programme coordinated by NIOO and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its aim is to explore the full potential of beneficial soil microbes to protect sorghum (a key cereal crop for food and feed) against the parasitic weed Striga.

The long-term goal of the programme is to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.