From "Reports on Agriculture", Exercise number 2, August 2006

The use of maize for energy production in biogas plants – is research up to date with agricultural practice?

By Antje Herrmann and Friedhelm Taube, Kiel

An increased trend towards the construction of biogas plants can be observed in Germany since the entry into force of the Renewable Energies Act (EEG) in 2000 and, in particular, since its amendment in 2004. Consequently, the acreage of maize for co-digestion with slurry or mono-digestion has been expanded which is mainly due to its high methane yields per hectare and the easy mechanisability and storability of maize silage. The objective of this contribution was to review and critically assess the state-of-the-art in agronomic research on maize grown for use in biogas plants and to indicate the potential need for research. Many problems that are still unresolved are pointed out in the fields of harvest time optimization, methods for estimating the methane yield, breeding, assessment of energy maize production with respect to C and N flows at system level and ecological assessment. To date, for instance, no systematic, multi-annual experiments are available which allow a substantiated derivation of the optimal development stage for maximizing methane yield or a quantification of the impact of biogas slurry application on N loss potential. The authors identify potential conflicts between energy maize production and cross-compliance standards, in particular, with regard to the Fertilizer Ordinance and the obligation to maintain all agricultural land in good agricultural and ecological condition. Furthermore, the contribution addresses reservations about an increase of energy maize production from the perspective of nature conservation. The study draws the conclusion that an application of suitable models might facilitate the assessment of energy maize production at field, farm, and regional levels.

Keywords: Biogas, maize, methane yield, breeding, forage quality, C and N dynamics, cross-compliance, energy balance, nature conservation.

The Role of Plant Breeding for Global Food Security

By Matin Qaim, Stuttgart-Hohenheim

Hunger is both a problem of production and distribution. Plant breeding should not be regarded as a silver bullet, but its contribution to global food security can be substantial. Given the continued growth of the world population and an increasing scarcity of natural resources, the important role of plant breeding in increasing production is widely acknowledged. Less appreciated is the fact that plant breeding can also be instrumental in easing the distribution problem. The majority of the undernourished

people worldwide lives in rural areas, where they directly or indirectly depend on small-scale farming. Suitable new crop varieties – both conventional and genetically modified ones – can increase small farm incomes, alleviate poverty, and stimulate economy-wide growth. Furthermore, biofortified crop varieties can reduce micronutrient deficiencies which are particularly widespread among women and children. These positive impacts notwithstanding, public investments into breeding research programs are being increasingly scaled down. This trend should be stopped and reversed. In addition, the private sector, too, should put a stronger emphasis on the interests of developing countries in specific fields of its breeding research.

The Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Services in the Internal Market of 10 January 2005 - Assessment of Legal Implications for the Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection

By Thomas Pfeiffer, Burkhard Hess, Boris Schinkels, Matthias Weller, Dennis Blechinger, Steffen Ganninger and Benjamin Gündling, Heidelberg

With the examined proposal for a Directive on the realisation of fundamental freedoms (Art. 43, 49 of the EC Treaty) and on the promotion of an ever closer union of the states and peoples of Europe (Article 1, subsection (II) of the Treaty on European Union), the European legislator drew up a completely new regulatory framework for services within Europe. It contains groundbreaking options for co-operation between national authorities and for the creation of a single European administrative network. The impact of these requirements does not only make itself felt in the European judicial area, it has far-reaching implications for national law, both in general acts (Introductory Act to the Civil Code, Administrative Procedures Act) as well as in specific specialised acts (e.g. Animal Welfare Act or Plant Protection Act). There is a danger of standards for protection being lowered in animal welfare law, in particular, because reservations are missing in the catalogue of exemptions regarding the country-of-origin principle. The example of phytosanitary legislation has illustrated that a kind of country-of-origin principle threatens to get in through the back door with regard to freedom of establishment, too, through the envisaged requirements for recognition of decisions taken by public authorities that have a transnational impact. The fact that no general exemptions from the recognition requirements are being envisaged gives cause for particular concern in this field.

There are no reservations about the conformity with primary law of the comprehensive country-of-origin principle with a view to Article 50, subsection (III) of the EC Treaty. The latter is neither inconsistent with the orders concerning administrative procedures laid down in chapters two and five of the EU's Directive on Services that necessitate modifications of traditional administrative procedures in Member States (Sections 4 et seqq of the Administrative Procedures Act) nor does it conflict with the impact within the scope of specialised acts in Member State law.

The impact of the planned Directive on institutions under civil law is comparable to these fundamental innovations and requirements for modification of national law: the country-of-origin principle as a choice-of-law rule invokes the application of foreign law, inter alia. German consumer protection standards cease to be applicable, in part, due to the regulatory content of the Directive according to the examined draft version. While this inapplicability is not necessarily negative in the sense of a loss of quality, it must be noted as a result of a general analysis that the country-of-origin principle is hardly suitable to cope with competing interests related to conflicts of laws in an appropriate manner as a general connecting principle having a largely sweeping impact in spite of the open general clauses in the statutory definitions of exemptions.

Labour Input in German Agriculture and Employment Effects of Policy Measues

By Ferdinand Fasterding and Daniela Rixen, Braunschweig

The study shows that the labour input in German agriculture will continue to decline. Nevertheless a certain shortage of qualified workers is emerging. For some of the agricultural holdings this results in a situation where the persons working there will have to take up or expand non-farming jobs also in the future. For holdings with an emerging shortage of qualified workers, staff management is an important managerial task. In this case, strategies to recruit and train the needed workforce are required, including support by advisory services, associations and policy-makers. Possibly the potential of the unemployed needs to be tapped. For potential workers this means that with regard to the emerging shortage of skilled workers they have to weigh up the opportunities and risks of starting a traineeship or job in the farming sector. This also applies to the family members of self-employed farmers or potential farm successors. For policy-makers this means that they should (continue to) promote strategies to train or retrain workers for agricultural holdings in accordance with their needs. Substitute wage payments may facilitate the employment of poorly qualified workers and hence counter a shortage of farm workers.

If there is a demand for the products backed by purchasing power, support to convert farming operations to an organic system, or - generally speaking - to diversify agricultural production can contribute to creating or preserving farming jobs. Yet this merely leads to lower reduction rates of the labour input. In future, too, agricultural policy will not be able to prevent the fall in the number of agricultural holdings and farm workers, and in view of the importance of the reduction of the labour input for the increase of per-capita income, it should also refrain from trying to prevent it. Therefore it is still true that to solve income problems and hence to secure agricultural jobs an“ integration of agricultural policy into the general economic policy (in particular regional policy) " is necessary (1, p. 68).

Beyond Rubicon? – the potential contribution of systemic constellations and solution orientation to extension work in agriculture

By Hermann Boland and Thorsten Michaelis, Gießen

Agricultural extension has in the past been enriched by various impulses from other disciplines. This paper discusses concepts originating from the therapeutic background of the “solution-oriented extension" and the systemic constellation, also known as family- or organisational constellation, for their potential contribution to a further development of agricultural extension. The latter is based on the concept of problem-oriented extension: the extension worker is responsible for methodological approaches as well as for technical correctness and completeness whereas the client seeking advice is responsible for the honest description of the situation as well as for the follow-up decisions and actions.

In contrast to this conventional extension approach, the “solution-oriented extension” as well as the systemic constellation are presented. Empirical data provide information about the effectiveness of systemic constellations. However, the tenor of a therapist in “solution oriented extension" and systemic constellation is different from the tenor of a conventional agricultural extension worker. Hence, one has to note that these therapeutic approaches by themselves cannot form part of agricultural extension. Yet, two elements can be identified as possibly relevant for agricultural extension.

In order to clarify the situation as well as the solution concepts, the extreme alienation and reduction of the depictable scene with only a few strangers can prove useful in agricultural extension in the phase of the situation analysis. The communicative instruments stemming from the “solution-oriented extension” could be used in a later extension phase for focusing on the implementation and realisation of solutions after the problem has been identified and the targets have been set.

Enterprises in the Agri-Rural Sector Facing New Challenges

Report on the 45th Annual Meeting of the Society for Economic and Social Sciences in Agriculture (GEWISOLA) in Göttingen in 2005

By Enno Bahrs, Stephan von Cramon-Taubadel, Achim Spiller, Ludwig Theuvsen, Bernhard Voget, Göttingen and Manfred Zeller, Stuttgart

This article provides a general résumé of four plenary speeches, 45 presentations and a final panel discussion held at the 45th annual meeting of the Gesellschaft für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften des Landbaues e.V. (Society for Economic and Social Sciences in Agriculture) (GEWISOLA), that took place in Göttingen from October 5th to 7th, 2005. The conference topic was: ‘Enterprises in the Agri-Rural Sector Facing New Challenges’. From an agricultural economic perspective, the attempt was made to give answers to questions concerning strategies chosen by agricultural and rural enterprises to cope with challenges resulting from diverse pressures to adjust as well as to respond to increasing opportunities opened up by globalisation. The individual contributions focused on the following priority areas: current developments in the agricultural sector, markets and policies, producers and consumers in the agricultural sector and in society, enterprises in a dynamic environment and, last but not least, the financing of the agricultural policy of the EU.


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