From "Reports on Agriculture", November 2002

50 years of grassland and forage science in Giessen - History and Perspectives of grassland science in Germany -

Dr. Christine Knödler and Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Wilhelm Opitz von Boberfeld, Gießen

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Department of Grassland Management and Forage Growing of the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen the development of this special branch should be described by presenting the world wide position and the position of grassland science in Germany and by regarding the history of agricultural science. Only the reflection of the past and the present in combination offers a solid basis to assess and to establish perspectives for future actions.

Grass and forage science separated from plant production in its entirely, long before phytopathology and plant breeding followed. The early separation underlines the different scientific focuses of annual and perennial swards and the limited synergistic effects of both disciplines compared with other divisions of the generic subject plant production. Moreover, Gießen was the first University to establish an independent research and teaching institution with relative good potentialities in the field of grass and forage science on the 5th of December 1952. The fact, that in present this subject is established in most Universities of Germany and neighbouring countries as an independent unit, shows that in retrospective the year 1952 was a significant year for grassland science.

The historical development of both, grassland science and crop science, is different regarding methods and site conditions. This can be proofed by the existence of the different standard works in specialized literature and by only few parallels in the structure of international scientific organisations. Regarding methodology, a close relationship can be established between crop science, soil science and plant nutrition as well as between grassland science, forage science and animal nutrition. Because of the also on international view evident trend in grassland science to turn towards molecular biology, the intrinsic central competences of grassland science are transferred to external branches of science such as biology or geography. The basis of grassland science should be agronomy. At present, there is a wide field of research for grassland science in semitropical and tropical regions, the "sleeping forage giants", where certainly the same methods can be used, but other functional contexts are to be deduced because of different site conditions.

Multifunctionality of Low Mountain Range Areas - It All Depends on the Location

Prof. Dr. Thomas Scholten, Jena, Dr. Martin Szibalski, Wiesbaden and Prof. Dr. Peter Felix-Henningsen, Gießen

During the glacial periods of the Pleistocene, periglacial layers developed on almost every slope of the German low mountain ranges because of frost shattering, solifluction and deposition followed by admixing of loess and volcanic ashes. These layers represent the parent rock of today's soils. Due to high stone contents and a small buffer and available field capacity of the soils on steep valleysides and the small potentials of yield resulting from these factors, the present field and grassland cultivation is extensive and characterized by a small-scale change of cultivation forms.

Alternative multi-functional land use options must consider the sensitivities of the soils and the resulting location properties regarding ecological and economic lastingness and environmental compatibility. For the spatial evaluation of these properties in highly various low mountain ranges, large-scale spatial information about characteristic soil properties is needed. These, however, mostly do not exist for soils of rural low mountain ranges that are of low political or economic interest. Therefore, concepts are presented which facilitate a valid regionalization of temporally and spatially highly variable, predominantly use-dependent soil properties as well as by the parent material and the relief of determined soil properties.

The verification of the concepts is carried out in the three study areas of the SFB 299 Erda, Steinbrücken and Eibelshausen with a surface area of 5 to 10 square kilometres. The soil properties soil-pH, organic carbon content, EDTA-extractable cadmium content and buffer capacity of agriculturally used top soils as well as soil type, stone content and usable field capacity for the overall area of the districts are taken into account. The results prove the suitability of these concepts for the regionalization of soil properties in low mountain ranges with a considerable reduction of sampling and laboratory effort compared to conventional methods. The regionalization results show a high spatial resolution and precision and, therefore, practicabillity regarding land use planning.

Agriculture in Structurally Weak Regions - Analysis and Approaches taking the region of Western Pomerania as an example -

Astrid Kowatsch, Greifswald and Prof. Dr. Theodor Fock, Neubrandenburg

In Western Pomerania, a peripheral and structurally weak region, the structure of agricultural production mainly consists of cash cropping and dairy farming. These sectors are highly competitive and profitable. Even if agricultural framework conditions deteriorated slightly their competitiveness would most probably be maintained. The disadvantage of this one-sided orientation of agricultural production is, in particular, the lack of regional interlinkages and impetuses for the region's development as well as its heavy dependence on politics. Furthermore, it can no longer be ensured that farmers continue to manage less-favoured areas should framework conditions deteriorate. Consequences like farm abandonment, job cuts and an uncontrolled increase in fallow land cannot be ruled out for the regions concerned.

Therefore the proposed strategies for action focus on extending the range of agricultural production and on enhancing regional processing. Organic farming, direct and regional marketing, special crops, niche products, service activities and closer ties with the tourism sector are considered to be having promising potentials. However, agriculture's existing strengths should by no means be neglected, as only economically sound businesses are able to engage in new activities. The proposed strategies for action consist of a series of individual measures that are to be further extended. There is no "simple", clear strategy how to give new development impetuses to rural areas. Yet it will be important for stakeholders on regional and Land levels to overcome the past, when actions were often geared to individual interests, and to co-operate to the benefit of the planning region of Western Pomerania. Farmers and municipal decision-makers should intensify their co-operation and make use of synergy effects that could, in turn, be beneficial for individuals, businesses, and the region.

Procedural and system-orientated strategies for reducing emissions in livestock production

Prof. Dr. Albert Sundrum, Kassel

In the efforts to reduce the emissions from livestock production various competing strategies exist with respect to effectiveness, practicability and sustainability. In conventional livestock production the emphasis lies on strategies covering a range of procedures aimed at reducing the application of home-grown and imported nutrients in down-stream stages of the processing chain. In contrast, the system-orientated approach used in livestock production is based on the principle of avoidance. This implies that hazardous means of production will not be employed, and that nutrient input into farms will be drastically reduced by purposeful cutting back of resources.

The opportunities for reducing emissions by specific feeding and other procedural measures are clearly limited in alternative animal husbandry in comparison to conventional livestock production practices. On the other hand, at farm level, the quantities of substances in circulation, due to the drastic restrictions on nutrient imports and a system-orientated reorganisation of the farm, have sunk to a clearly lower level than on comparative conventional farms. A comparison of the various approaches leads to the working hypothesis that, as far as the farm as a whole and unit animal production are concerned, the level of pollution caused by emissions from alternative farming lies below that arising from conventional production. Moreover, the systematic approach offers the prerequisite for a high degree of effectiveness in the application of internal and external farm resources, and is thus an economical and sustainable method for the creation of animal products. At the same time, however, it also involves drops in productive performance and animal-related productivity.

The complex interactions between the different groups of substances, the constantly varying environment in which animals are reared, and the considerable fluctuation found in the quantities of substances in circulation mean that any quantification of the emissions emanating from animal husbandry must of necessity be only very approximate. Any assessment of the efficiency of individual measures or specific rearing systems can only be of limited scope, and the resulting data can scarcely be considered valid, if the farm context is left out of consideration. In view of the future challenges facing farm policy in the sphere of environmental protection, it must be concluded that greater attention will have to be afforded to the systematic approach, taken in conjunction with specific procedural measures and the development of methods for weighing up the relative factors in an interdisciplinary and farm context.

Development and economic assessment of a grazing system on wet meadows compliant with the aims of nature conservation the example of the nature reserve "Arnegger Ried"

Norbert Röder, Prof. Dr. Helmut Hoffmann and Jochen Kantelhardt, Freising

For a protected area of approximately 20 ha the costs and benefits of four different management systems are compared. The considered management systems are maintenance cutting, as reference, and three different grazing regimes with suckler cows. The three grazing systems differ in their environmental impact. Further the potential of integrating the described management systems into an existing agricultural enterprise is assessed.

Without public funding none of the management systems is capable to cover its costs. The site management system with the highest deficit is maintenance cutting followed by a scheme optimised for nature conservation. The most cost-efficient way of site management is a system based on the principles of semi-open grazing systems. The grazing system optimised for nature conservation is economically inferior to the other ones, mainly due to the organization of the funding directives.

I Buy, Therefore I Want? - An interdisciplinary analysis of the consumer decision to buy or not to buy food commodities that are produced in a particularly environment- and animal-friendly way -

Dr. Regina Birner, Ingo Bräuer, Harald Grethe, Jesko Hirschfeld, Maren Lüth, Jochen Meyer, Andrea Wälzholz, Regina Wenk and Dr. Heidi Wittmer, Göttingen

This paper challenges the following argument that has been launched in the current debate on agricultural policy change in Germany: The low demand for environment- and animal-friendly produced food in Germany shows that the consumers do not want these products. Therefore, the argument holds, political measures to promote the production of such commodities or to increase standards of environmental and animal protection are not justified. Based on theoretical considerations and empirical evidence in the literature, we maintain that-contrary to this argument-the purchasing behaviour of consumers does not necessarily reflect the level of environmental and animal protection they prefer. Combining economic and sociological concepts, we develop a model which identifies the factors that influence the consumer´s decision to the disadvantage of environmental- and animal-friendly produced food commodities. The model distinguishes between characteristics of the food products on the one hand, and the decision behaviour of the consumer on the other. Concerning product characteristics, we discuss the following factors: price distortions (due to external effects and differences in market margins, and know-how), and problems concerning the availability, advertising and labelling of environmental- and animal-friendly products. With regard to the decision-behaviour of the consumers, the paper deals with the following issues:

  • in the case of conscious decision-making: trust, information costs, logistical problems, and a social dilemma;
  • in the case of unconscious decision-making: social context, habits, and repression.

We then deal with the question, which of these factors that influence consumer decision to the disadvantage of environmental- and animal-friendly food products could justify political intervention. As possible political measures, the paper discusses the internalisation of external effects, the improvement of market transparency, and the implementation of animal protection standards.

Farm Tourism - second pillar or exit option from agriculture?

Dr. Stefan Mann, Pfäffikon and Klaus Tepel, Herdwangen

It was aimed to test whether farm tourism can be seen as a strategy of a slow exit from agricultural production. For that, a survey was carried out among farms offering accommodation (n=372). It could be seen that such farms do not stop agricultural production on a higher rate than non-diversified farms. Following rough estimations from survey data, on average 30 per cent of gross margins come from tourism. Farmers were, on average, very satisfied with this step of diversification. By cluster analysis, the sample could be grouped in successful climbers, exiting farms, conservatives and "question marks" with undecided development.

The application of the computer supported optimisation model in the case of apple orchard expansion in Slovene circumstances

Crtomir Rozman, Dr. Stanislav Tojnko, Prof. Dr. Jernej Turk, Maribor, Dr. Vjekoslav Par, Zagreb, Dr. Martin Pavlovic, Zalec

Economic standpoints of different apple planting systems were compared in the study. Economic indicators and technological parameters for three different apple-planting systems (pillar, super pillar and improved vertical cordon) were analysed using technologic - economic apple production simulation models. Information obtained by those models was built in the linear program in order to determine optimal orchard size and structure (which planting systems should be used) on the model fruit farms. Technologic economic models and linear program are interrelated by the computer program "OPTPRO", which enables optimisation of apple production on different fruit farms. Subsequently, the optimal structure of apple production for three different fruit farm types was derived. The results show that high-density apple orchards are economically feasible. The optimisation showed that there are important differences in the optimal plan of orchard expansion on different model fruit farms.

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