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vor 1 Jahr

FELD 02/2017

  • Text
  • Agriculture
  • Latin america
  • Citizen science
  • China
  • Protein
  • Dust
  • Clouds
  • Environment
  • Landscape
  • Cultivation
  • Projects
  • Emissions
  • Environmental
  • Zalf
  • Agricultural
  • Pulses
  • Particles
  • Soil
Dr. Roger Funk studies the effects of raised soil dust on our environment. In his latest project, he reaches high up into the sky and explores its effect on cloud formation. // Lupins, peas, beans and CO. are cultivated on no more than 1.7 percent of Europe’s arable land. ZALF researchers are determined to change this because these plants supply valuable protein and reduce greenhouse gases. // Each year in spring, dust storms sweep across ‘Inner Mongolia’ in northern China carrying enormous amounts of dust particles over thousands of miles. A joint German-Chinese project has analysed the causes and effects. // Local initiatives all over the world are working to protect the environment. A team of researchers has looked into particularly succesful projects in Latin America and is helping to transfer their solutions to other regions.


PULSES PULSES PULSES ARE ALL-ROUNDERS People in the Middle Ages already knew how to maintain the fertility of their fields: By cultivating different crops in turns, they achieved more stable yields over the long term. This knowledge seems to be outdated in the age of highly specialized farming. Lucrative crops, such as rapeseed, maize, wheat and barley, dominate Europe‘s arable land and have almost completely replaced pulses such as peas, field beans and lupins. However, this profit-driven specialisation in agriculture had its repercussions on the environment. In the European Union, almost two thirds of all natural habitats are overfertilised, with consequences for biodiversity and water quality, for instance. The intensive use of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers is one of the main causes of nitrous oxide formation in the soil. When released into the atmosphere, nitrous oxide is around 300 times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide. But the problems are not limited to Europe alone. Up to 70 percent of our domestic cattle, pigs and chickens are given protein supplement feed from the US and Latin America. More than one million hectares of rainforest has been cleared for this purpose. »We can counteract these problems by growing more pulses in our domestic fields again,« say scientists from the Institute of Land Use Systems at ZALF. Agricultural engineers Dr. Johann Bachinger and Moritz Reckling have been investigating the potential of lupine, peas, soybean and co. for many years. »25 years ago, I first planted lupines on the test field at ZALF right in front of our institute’s doorstep,« explains Bachinger. Since then, he has been involved in national and European research projects on the cultivation of pulses. Moritz Reckling has been working at ZALF since 2011 as a research associate and shares his colleague’s passion: »Pulses are true all-rounders,« he says. »As so-called deep-rooting plants, they improve the soil, their flowers provide food for bees and they provide valuable protein.« What’s more, they also have a positive effect on the climate: »Thanks to an ingenious symbiotic relationship, pulses can fix nitrogen from the air and thus act as natural fertilizer factories. Using a messenger substance, they attract bacteria that get caught in their root hair and form small nodules together with the plant. These bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to the plant in the form of fertiliser,« says Bachinger. But how can these positive effects be translated into measurable and calculable benefits for agriculture? »We have carried out a feasibility study for the cultivation of pulses in five European areas, including Brandenburg and regions in Italy and Scotland. It was found that their integration in crop rotations can reduce nitrogen fertilizer consumption by up to 38 percent and the release of nitrous oxide by up to 33 percent. Even higher savings can be achieved by cultivating legume-grass mixtures or lucerne which, like pulses, belong to the plant family of legumes. Thanks to their symbiosis with nodule bacteria, legumes can fix atmospheric nitrogen. 12 13

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