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vor 1 Jahr

FELD 01/2022

  • Text
  • Articifial intelligence
  • Precision farming
  • Intensification
  • Patchcrop
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate
  • Agriculture
  • Farmers
  • Ecosystem
  • Zalf
  • Researchers
  • Sustainable
  • Landscape
  • Soil
  • Agricultural
Small squares instead of large fields: Together with a real farm, a research team is testing an unusual cropping system in the patchCROP landscape laboratory. // ZALF researchers are developing agricultural strategies to explicitly promote valuable ecosystem services like fertile soils and clean drinking water. // Striving for a resource-efficient agriculture without yield losses, more and more farmers are implementing measures of sustainable intensification on their farms. // Using precision farming to detect pest outbreaks and predict climate change effects: artificial intelligence holds great potential for agriculture.


Sustainable intensification Sustainable intensification Approximately half of Germany’s land area — around 18 million hectares — is used for agricultural purposes. The fields, meadows and pastures, vineyards and orchards, vegetable gardens and livestock barns are producing the food that ends up on our plates every day. The overall balance of a farm has two sides: the amount of food produced and the revenue generated, but also the consequences of cultivation on soil, climate, groundwater and biodiversity. »We have an economic and an environmental outcome«, summarizes agricultural economist Dr. Meike Weltin. In many places, the two outcomes have been drifting apart for a long time: International competition exerts an enormous pressure on farms. The cultivated land has to provide as much yield as possible. How fertilizers and pesticides affect water bodies, or whether wild animals and plants find sufficient habitats in the agricultural landscape, has received little consideration in the overall balance. But over the past 20 years, more and more farmers have changed their thinking. High yield should no longer be at the expense of the environment. Farms implementing measures for climate or soil protection should ideally not have to suffer losses in harvest volumes and thus in their wallets. Methods of so-called sustainable intensification are intended to support farmers in this endeavour. HEDGES FOR SPECIES DIVERSITY, DIGITALIZATION FOR LESS PESTICIDES »The term sustainable intensification was established by scientists in the mid-1990s — although the concept also draws on historically well-known agricultural practices«, explains Meike Weltin. The associated measures are diverse and vary from region to region: digital tools contribute to the reduction of fertilizer and pesticide use, a balanced crop rotation protects soil health, and the planting of hedgerows or flowering strips helps to prevent soil loss through erosion and promotes biodiversity. Where wild bees and birds find sufficient forage and habitat, crops are pollinated and pests are naturally regulated. Regional marketing of products can increase farmers’ sales while at the same time helping to reduce emissions due to shorter transport routes. The idea is to use established practices in a targeted manner and in combination with new measures. Together with the agronomist Dr. Annette Piorr, Meike Weltin explored why farmers decide for or against measures of sustainable intensification on their land, as part of the »VITAL« research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). More than 400 farms from all over Germany provided information about their objectives and preferences as well as about measures they are implementing or can imagine implementing. While many farms are already cultivating their soil without ploughing, practicing undersowing for weed control, using digital tools to reduce the application of chemical-synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, or regionally marketing their goods, other measures are rarely used. »Especially at the landscape level, there is still a lot of potential for improvement«, emphasizes Annette Piorr, referring to tree rows, hedges or flowering strips that could be planted across several fields or even across farms. Do the owners consider themselves in a position to initiate change; are they open to take entrepreneurial risks? Are they significant employers in the regional context? Do they care about how the environment in their region is developing? Those who answered »yes« to these questions seemed particularly open to sustainable change. Hedges and shrubs located along field edges ensure that the soil can retain moisture for longer periods and prevent fertile soil from being blown away by the wind. 24 25

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