National Committee of the Netherlands (Nederlands Veengenootschap)


Drs. A.H.P. van Berckel
Nederlands Veengenootschap
Intervema BV 
Burg. J.G. Legroweg 80
9761 TD Eelde 
phone: +31 50 309 5950
e-mail: vanberckel (at)


Dr. Michiel Gerding new!
Nederlands Veengenootschap
Parkstraat 4
9401 LJ Assen
phone: +31 592 300450
e-mail:  secretaris (at)

Annual Report 2018

2018 was a very special year for our Dutch Peat Society: our regular activities and, of course, the 50th IPS Symposium and the Summit.

This was the year that the capital of Friesland Province, Leeuwarden, was also the Cultural Capital of Europe. One of the activities was an exhibition of the famous Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher (1998-1972, see Wikipedia), who was born in Leeuwarden. Many of his works deal with items of interest to IPS members: air, water and (peat) meadows, often visualized in mathematically fascinating ways. Combining our Annual Meeting with an exhibition and presentations about, among others, how to manage the water level in Friesian polders, given the imperfect predictability of periods of excess rain and dryness, allowed for a very interesting balance between culture and professions.

Most of the time spent this year by the National Commission and others (!) concerned activities around the 50th anniversary of the IPS: the Summit and the Symposium in September.

The one-day Summit and the joint three-day Symposium took place aboard the former ocean liner SS Rotterdam, in – yes – Rotterdam Harbor: a unique and beautiful venue. The meetings, presentations and tours (mostly below sea level) often surpassed our immodest expectations. The number of participants at the Summit was higher than expected, while that of the Symposium was somewhat lower. More information about the Summit and the Symposium can be found in the IPS Annual Report. The National Commission would like to thank its members for all the work they have done, especially Jan Schram and Sjef Enthoven for all the organizing they undertook.

This year was the last year that the Secretary and Treasurer Anne Jelle Schilstra performed these functions; he will however remain on the Dutch National Commission.

Annual Report 2017

This year, two activities have been organized for our members:

-    Visiting the national peat grassland research centre
-    Speed dating with peat (peat dating)

In addition, the National Commission has been preparing for the IPS’ 50th anniversary in 2018.

In spring, members of the Nederlands Veengenootschap visited the Dutch Peat Meadow Innovation Centre, “Veenweiden InnovationCentrum”, organized in cooperation with the Dutch Soil Science Society, “Nederlandse Bodemkundige Vereniging”. Presentations and a field trip dealt with soil subsidence, water level and water quality control, the loss of agricultural peat grasslands due to the growth of cities and increases in natural grasslands. In total, about 50 people attended this spring event.

Our autumn meeting was a very special event. Our members typically come from very different professional backgrounds, which makes networking particularly interesting. But, at our meetings, one is inclined to enjoy pleasant conversations with familiar colleagues. To overcome this traditional behaviour, we organized a “speed dating with peat” event. About 20 members joined the meeting, in which they were randomly coupled in pairs. After introducing themselves, they started to exchange knowledge and experience. The secretary had a strong impression that this approach allowed members to make new contacts in a relaxed manner!

The only problem concerned the lack of discipline among our members. When the secretary decided it was time to switch partners, he was often ignored. This meant that a number of potentially very interesting meetings and discussions unfortunately did not materialize! On the other hand, on the basis that certain discussions were more important than the secretary’s authority, this meeting could be labelled as a success. To be continued…

In September 2018, the 50th jubilee of the IPS will be celebrated in Rotterdam. While preparation, planning and contacting speakers take a lot of time, the National Commission is pleased to be involved in this event. In the process, we expect to meet a lot of people from different professional backgrounds.

Annual Report 2015

In 2015, three meetings for our members were programmed. In collaboration with the Royal Geological and Mining Society, a study tour to the peat harvesting company Griendtsveen AG in the Esterweger Dose area was organized. This area is the largest intact mires of Western Europe, see Presentations, a narrow-gauge tour and a visit to an open clay mine were new and interesting to many of our guests.

Our annual meeting was combined with a visit to the Soil Museum in Wageningen ( world-soil-museum), which was a unique experience.

This was followed in the autumn by a visit to the certification institute RHP near Rotterdam, the European knowledge centre for potting soil and substrates. See Students attending a school for young agricultural professionals were also invited. About 15 of them attended. Reflecting on last year, the 2015 programme can be described as successful.

Our honorary member, as well as IPS honorary member, Henk van de Griendt, died this year. He was a distinctive and much-admired person who will be remembered by many in our national and international society.

The members of our Dutch society also contributed to the IPS response to the EU Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives, which was put together by the IPS’ Second Vice President, Jack Rieley.

We are also very pleased to mention that two of our members, Intervema and Bol Peat, as well as Klasmann- Deilmann, supported the “Purvitis Project”. Here, students of the Art Academy of Latvia, prior to the IPS’ Peat Technology Conference in Riga (2014), created beautiful art objects from peat. See the article in Peatlands International 2014 (4), page 42. The three sponsors each received two of the art pieces of this year, symbolizing the happy end of the “Purvitis Project”.

Annual Report 2014

In the first part of 2014, most of the attention of the Dutch Board of the Nederlands Veengenootschap was spent on the important meeting of the Executive Board in Groningen, the Netherlands. The Dutch Board had proposed to organize the IPS Congress in 2020 in Groningen. Just like the EB had visited Tallinn, the competing city in Estonia, we wanted to receive the EB in Groningen and give a good impression of what we had to offer: venue, hotels and town. While we had positive reactions, Tallinn won the competition.

Together with the Nederlandse Bodemkundige Vereniging (Dutch Soil Science Society), we organized on 20 June a well-attended meeting in Geeste, Germany. Here, near the Klasmann–Deilmann premises, the Emsland Moormuseum
( offered the facilities for the meeting, as well our annual Veengenootschap meeting. On the programme was a most interesting guided tour of the museum and in the afternoon a visit to the Klasmann-Deilmann peatlands, where projects on re-paludification and reuse of depleted peatland as agricultural lands were exhibited.

In November a trip to Flora Holland (, the centre of the flower-growing business in the Netherlands, was planned. In this important economic sector, most of the imported peat is used. Unfortunately very few members were able to come so we had to cancel this trip.

The number of members of our Veengenootschap remained almost constant. A number of students were added to the list, while a few older members wanted to give up their membership. At the annual meeting, A.J. Schilstra was re-elected as a member of the Dutch Board. He will continue his function as Secretary and Treasurer.

Annual Report 2013

 This year was marked by a number of important events and issues. Our spring activity is usually combined with the formal annual meeting and traditionally, also with the quadrennial IPS conference, as in Stockholm in 2012.

This year the Symposium Grosci 2013 in Leiden, organised in July by the ESHA and the IPS, was the event selected. The Nederlands Veengenootschap contributed to this Symposium, amongst others, organizing a dinner and a city walk through the ancient town of Leiden (first mentioned in AD 860; its university dates from AD 1575) for both attendees of the symposium and our members. Reactions afterwards were very positive. The Nederlands Veengenootschap has proposed to host the IPS Symposium in 2020 in the Netherlands, in the ancient town of Groningen. The Dutch Board is of course of the opinion that Groningen and the Netherlands are ideally suited to host this symposium. Our bid book (on the theme of “Peat and Peatlands: Its Ancient Past and Future Perspectives”) was presented to the Executive Board in August; one year later, in Riga at the International Peat Technology Symposium, the National Commissions will vote on which of the two competing cities (Tallinn is the other bidder) will be honoured with organizing the 2020 symposium.

In November, the University of Groningen, the Friesland Water Board and the Nederlands Veengenootschap organized a “studyday”, in the old water steam pumping station (1920, in Lemmer, Friesland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Large areas of the province of Friesland are peatlands, mostly used as meadows. The conflicting ideas of what the water table should be, the competing short- and long-term interests, and the issue of who benefits from the profits and who bears the costs were among those illustrated by four specialists. The subsequent discussions indicated the great social and economic significance of how to manage this beautiful landscape, in Friesland and other parts of our country. About 50 people attended the lectures, many of them professionals.

This year, more people than usual left our Genootschap, while others showed genuine interest in becoming members (or actually did so), the former fortunately being outnumbered by the latter.

Annual Report 2012

Nederlands Veengenootschap

 This year our former president and long-time friend Leo Schipper passed away. He has been very active in the national and international peat world, and will be remembered with warm feelings.

Our programme for members and others began in February with a one-day “Seminar on Tropical Peatlands”. Dr. Marcel Silvius (Peatlands International, IPS) organized the meeting where seven specialists illustrated from various angles the past, present and possible future developments of these vulnerable ecosystems cq resources. The meeting was well attended, including a number of students.

In November members of the Nederlands Veengenootschap and others were invited to attend a so-called study-day in the former prison premises in Veenhuizen. From 1823 on in this small prison village poor people, beggars and tramps were forced to be “re-socialized” and work in the (peat) area. In the following century many thousands have toiled in the village that is now on the Unesco World Heritage List. Dr. Michiel Gerding (Commission VIII) told about the local history and its link with the peat economy, and author Suzanna Jansen about her ancestors who lived and toiled there and how they dealt with shame and humiliation (she wrote a book about her family history that sold 200.000 copies).

The major IPS happening this year was the quadrennial IPS conference in Stockholm. A success also from the Dutch point of view: many Dutch members and firms were present.

The president of the Nederlands Veengenootschap, Guus van Berckel who stepped down regulatory, was at the annual meeting of members reappointed as president. The DGMT and the Veengenootschap nominated him as candidate for the Executive Board, he was elected First Vice President of the IPS.

Last but not least, the Veengenootschap organized a “peat course”. As the old-fashioned hands-on experience of peat knowledge seems to disappear in the current curricula, our board member Piet Cleveringa together with a couple of specialists presented a course to about 16 professionals from water authorities, government institutions and soil engineering companies. As a trial the course was a success, it will be repeated the coming years, with various accents.

The numbers of memebers of the Nederlands Veengenootschap remained about the same in 2012, as has been the case for the last years.


Dr. A.J. Schilstra




Annual Report 2011

That peat causes and solves problems is well known. This year a new type of problem solving was illustrated in the 3 days Conference “Natural Cap – Green Rehabilitation Opportunities for Hazardous Waste Sites”, in April. The Volgermeerpolder, a 100 ha peatland just 3.5 km north-east of Amsterdam’s built area, was used in the 1960’s to illegally dump industrial chemical wastes. This major pollution was “discovered” in 1980 causing a huge political scandal. Subsequently it was discovered that peat, old and new, could help to contain the pollution, though at a cost of about hundred million euro’s. In the first Peatlands International of 2012 a comprehensive article explains the details, giving another example of peat’s versatility.

Knowledge and peat from the Veengenootschap side contributed to the success, reason why members were invited to the Conference. It was then convenient to let the annual meeting of the Nederlands Veengenootschap to coincide with one day of the Conference, allowing our members a “hands-on” experience of the landscape that replaced the chemical dump. On Google Earth a view of the then not yet finished project can be found on 52º25' North, 5º00' East.

Progress has been made to develop the peat course to retain the knowledge about peat in the field, knowledge that cannot be found books but has to be learned in stead from experts. This project was introduced in the Annual Report of last year. The course is expected to start next year.

The Board of the Veengenootschap was invited by the Estonian Peat Association who commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Estonian Peat Industry with a conference in Tallinn. A contribution was made to the program with a presentation about the history of peat use in Western Europe and its consequences, focusing on the differences with Northern and Central European peat, i.e. the circumstance that many Dutch peatlands are/were just above and under sea level.

Six members of the Veengenootschap participated in the ad hoc working group “Enhancing the Sustainability of the Peat Supply Chain for the Dutch Horticulture”, this year the final report “Sustainable Peat Supply Chain” was published (Wageningen University, Alterra report 2167). Members also contribute also to the current project “Principles and Criteria for Responsibly Produced Peat”, with the aim to develop a certifying system for the European peat industry.

The list of members had a few changes, both positive and negative; the net membership did not change very much.

Annual Report 2010

Leo Schipper, who last year stepped down as president of the Dutch National Committee was awarded with an honorary membership of our Veengenootschap on the 2010 annual general meeting. His stimulating interest in all aspects of peat, its use and its people were herewith symbolically recognized, as his successor, Guus van Berckel, eloquently formulated.

We are proud Gerald Schmilewski, nominated by the Veengenootschap with support from the DGMT and the RHP Foundation was awarded the “IPS Award of Excellence 2010”, formerly the “Wim Tonnis Peat Award”. Among many other things Gerald was the stimulating force behind the successful series of “Peat in Horticulture” symposia, in the first years together with Wim Tonnis. This year the sixth symposium with the title “Life in Growing Media” was held as usual the day before the opening of the Amsterdam Horti Fair. About 120 people attended this very interesting symposium.

Incidents have made clear that old-fashioned hands-on knowledge about peat and peat dikes is disappearing. The Netherlands National Committee is preparing a course to preserve this knowledge for professionals in for example landscape maintenance and water regulating bodies. The Dutch Board has joined a similar DGMT-course to find out the German way of disseminating this knowledge. Related to this is the initiative for the Board to brainstorm with organisations like Wetlands International and experts from the Agricultural University Wageningen in areas of potential mutual interest. Interest is growing, as also can be seen in the attendance of our annual meeting where dr. Geert van Wirdum and drs. Piet Cleveringa presented most interesting lectures on the subject peat, dikes and safety. The subject will remain vital to the Netherlands in the centuries to come.

The Dutch government has organized Stakeholder Meetings on Sustainable Trade in Peat and Peat Products, with the aim of gaining thorough insight into practices in the peat chain and the potential to increase its sustainability. From a global context point of view the project is also looking at the relevance of peat use by the horticulture sector for the total availability and use of peat in the world and the influence of the use and degradation of peat lands on the climate and vice versa. Experts from the peat industry, universities and government attended. The final report will be ready in the first part of next year.

Annual Report 2008

The Dutch National Committee of IPS met three times in 2008 and organised two occasions where members could meet.  Firstly, Alterra of Wageningen University hosted the annual meeting where the Board of the Netherlands Veengenootschap reported on their activities and plans to its members.

Both the report of activities and the financial reports were recorded. After the meeting, those present were fascinated by four presentations on the relation between hydrology and ecology in tropical peatlands, the history of landscape development of the province of Drenthe in the last 1,000 years, the effects of climate change on bogs, and finally on an experiment about the influence of birches on the development of peatlands.

In the autumn, a so-called study-day was held in Griendtsveen, a village named after an ancestor of our honorary member Henk van de Griendt. The program included presentations on the economics of peat production in the past and the interwoven history of Griendtsveen and its local peat production.

Members of the Board of the Nederlands Veengenootschap participated in negotiations with three other organisations in the Dutch peat business, aiming at combined meetings that would reinforce their interest and increase the number of attendants at these events. The Board repeated its proposal for its candidate for the “Wim Tonnis Peat Award”. The candidate was, however, not selected.

Many Dutch members participated in the Tullamore Congress, also with oral and poster presentations. The Tullamore Commission VIII meeting with interested Congress participants selected a successor for Dr. Anne Jelle Schilstra. Out of three candidates that were proposed by their respective national committees. Dr. Michiel Gerding, historian of the Dutch province of Drenthe, was chosen.  

A small number of members ended their membership at the end of 2008, although with new members joining, membership was seen to have increased at the turn of the year to 78.