From "Reports on Agriculture", number 2, August 2005

A comparative assessment of the performance of organic and conventional arable farming systems on high-quality soils in Northern Germany

By Friedhelm Taube, Ralf Loges, Michael Kelm and Uwe Latacz-Lohmann, Kiel

Studies comparing the performance of organic versus conventional farming systems have often demonstrated the superiority of organic systems in terms of nitrate leaching and energy efficiency. Little is known, however, about the relative performance of organic arable systems on high-quality soils and under favourable agricultural conditions. Against this backdrop, field trials were conducted on the Lindhof, the experimental research farm for organic agriculture an extensive land use systems of the University of Kiel, over a period of three years during which organic and conventional farming systems were run in parallel. The performance of both systems was measured using a set of agronomic, economic and ecological indicators, including yields, gross margins, nitrate leaching, energy usage and energy efficiency. A conventional rotation comprising oilseed rape - winter wheat - sugar beet - winter wheat was compared with two organic rotations, with 33 % and 50 % legumes, respectively. The results differ from the findings of other studies to the extent that the organic rotations performed less well than the conventional rotation with respect to the indicators of abiotic resource conservation. We demonstrate that the farm type (specialised arable versus mixed) has a decisive impact on the results. We conclude that a comprehensive assessment of land use systems at both the regional and the farm-level is needed to legitimate incentive payments for the adoption of organic farming methods.

Mid term evaluation of the Bavarian Kulturlandschaftsprogramm - methods, results, outlook

By Karin Eckstein, Jutta Glöggler and Helmut Hoffmann, Freising-Weihenstephan

In the context of the mid-term evaluation of rural development programmes (EU regulation 1257/99) the Bavarian agri-environmental programme, the so-called "Kulturlandschaftsprogramm Part A" (KULAP-A), was evaluated. The effects of the programme on biotic and abiotic environmental resources such as soil, water, species and their habitat and landscape were analysed. This paper focuses on the results concerning the prevention of soil erosion and water contamination.

The measures which refer to the whole enterprise or parts of it receive the majority of the disbursed premiums and cover the most hectarage. On the other hand it can be assumed that measures which refer to single plots are more effective in the range of environmental protection than measures which refer to the whole enterprise. One exception is the organic farm management where a very low intensity in the enterprise is reached.

In the future the programme should be adjusted to the demands of cross compliance.

"Degressive ground contact pressure - dependent wheel load" as a preventive indicator of tolerable mechanical soil strength

By R. Schneider and D. Schröder, Trier

Soil protection against detrimental compaction should be given the same priority as protection against other soil stresses. Protection, control and sanctions can only be achieved by finding one or several indicators that are based on scientific investigations, geared to daily practice and verifiable.

We propose the "degressive ground contact pressure-dependent wheel load" as a preventive indicator of mechanical soil strength. It is based on scientific calculations, data from scientific papers, experiences and assumptions from the following fields (soil physical properties, vertical soil stress according to Newmark, precompression stress, dynamic loading, number of wheeling events, tire inflation pressure, yield of crops et cetera). The indicator is developed for soils of low to medium strength (about 80 % of arable land) and a water suction of about -100 kilo Pascal in the subsoil. Hence, is it a very cautious (precautionary) parameter, but quite realistic and it corresponds to good professional practice.

In addition, all known feasible protective measures have to be observed to achieve the so- called "best practice" (pay attention to soil moisture, use of light machinery, promote soil strength and soil bearing capacity, limit field length to 500 metre to restrict traffic on the fields, on the one hand, and to create differentiated structural landscape elements, on the other hand etc.). Agricultural management that is not in accordance with "good/best practice" has to be punished, for example, by cuts in European Unio (EU) subsidies. This is also justified (compare for Schröder 2003) because in economic terms huge machinery is not necessary and the costs of avoidance are lower than the costs of restoration. The aim is to establish uniform regulations for the entire EU.

Benefits and impact of land consolidation in Lower Saxony

By Klaus Klare, Wolfgang Roggendorf, Andreas Tietz and Irene Wollenweber, Braunschweig

The new regulations of rural land ownership (land consolidation) are traditionally financed with significant public funding. The personnel and material costs of the responsible agency (processing costs) are generally covered by the state. The costs of implementation (id est soil protection or improvement measures, road and water body construction) are subsidized up to 80 percent. Implementation costs alone can be more than 2500 euros per hectare. Despite these high costs, improving the production and labor conditions in the farming sector are often considered priority tasks, in addition to non-agricultural concerns, in current processes. Against this background, the Federal Agricultural Research Centre was asked by the Lower Saxonian Ministry of Agriculture to conduct a study on the benefits and impact of land consolidation in Lower Saxony with the following objectives:

  • Improvement of the basic conditions for the selection of new land consolidation projects with the purpose of increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of public funding.
  • Creation of a uniform and stable basis to determine the costs arising for the land owners participating in the process.
  • Elaboration of proposals on the sharing of third party land consolidation costs.

To achieve these objectives, calculating the economic efficiency of land consolidation practices based on a cost-benefit-analysis, for example, would have been an adequate approach. Especially problems concerning the evaluation of non-agricultural benefits and incomplete data required a pragmatic procedural approach. The results derived from statistical evaluations, case studies, surveys and discussions with land consolidation experts can be summarized as follows:

  • A significant core competence of the land consolidation agencies lies in the future-oriented management of land with a view to solving the massive conflicts between agricultural and non-agricultural land use. The use of land consolidation instruments should therefore concentrate on these priority tasks if there are no less expensive alternatives.
  • To calculate the participants' contributions, the benefits farms can derive from the amalgamation of land were calculated on the basis of individual farm model results and the results put into standardized form.
  • As a matter of principle, land consolidation with the focus on improving agricultural production and labor conditions should no longer be carried out as they lack effectiveness and efficiency. A cost-effective alternative can in some cases be provided by assisted, large-scale voluntary land use exchanges and the implementation of necessary road construction measures in the framework of other (less intensively) subsidized programs.
  • Participating third parties should be strictly obliged to contribute to the land consolidation costs according to the user-pays-principle. Practicable proposals for the implementation of this principle are provided.

Impacts of the genetic modification of plants on crop insurance schemes

By Klaus Menrad and Tobias Hirzinger, Weihenstephan

This paper analyses possible impacts of the genetic modification of plants on crop insurance schemes. Since their first commercial cultivation in 1994, transgenic plants have spread rapidly outside Europe and gained significant economic importance in agribusiness. Transgenic plants have already become very important to crop insurance as in the United States of America and Canada, the countries with the highest premium volume in crop insurance, they already account for a significant proportion of important arable crops such as soybeans, maize, oilseed rape and cotton.

From an insurer's point of view, transgenic plants can in general be insured like conventional plants as yield level and yield variability under the risks induced by biotic and abiotic hazards are comparable to those of conventional plants. In a few cases, however, a different loss potential with regard to natural hazards was reported and might have been directly induced by genetic modification or secondary effects of this technology. In that case, the insurer can exclude this cause of loss from the insurance coverage or consider a premium loading for transgenic plants. This is necessary because such risks do not exist for conventional plants and are therefore not included in the premium calculation. Under applicable product liability laws, the insurer also has a right to take recourse against seed companies for losses paid if it can be proven that the genetic modification had been the cause for these losses. In case of minor transgenic plant losses, raising the deductible would also be an option. For some transgenic plants it is also to be taken into account that insurance sums can vary as a result of different prices and yields. A special case is the so-called revenue insurance where stock market fluctuations influenced by transgenic plants can result in higher loss payments.

But latest research results suggest that a further reduction of losses and an increase in yields can be expected for future transgenic plants with tolerances towards biotic and abiotic hazards. The market is expected to demand reduced premium rates for such transgenic plants as they will result in reduced loss payments.

Crop insurers should continue to follow the latest scientific developments in transgenic plants and establish separate loss tables for transgenic and conventional plants with the help of pilot projects. These loss tables would enable the insurer to objectively evaluate whether transgenic plants will reduce or increase production risks and take this into account when calculating the insurance premium. As a whole, it can be said that the active monitoring of research results with regard to the cultivation of transgenic plants is currently the most important task of the insurer.

Chefs as customers: Direct marketing of agricultural products towards gastronomy

By Maren Lüth, Achim Spiller, Angela Wegener, Anke Zühlsdorf, Göttingen

Direct Marketing of agricultural products in Germany is of rising importance. At least 60 000 farmers offer their high quality products through this distribution channel to gain a higher profit. Beside yard sale and weekly markets the supply of gastronomic enterprises offers an auspicious potential for direct marketers. In this study the sourcing behaviour of 112 medium-sized gastronomic firms in Northern Germany has been analysed. Almost 70 % of the caterers procure at least one product directly from farmers or hunters. Concerning the requirements towards the suppliers, high quality and fair prices were ranked on top, while regional aspects or an extraordinary variety of products were mentioned to be less important. On base of factor and cluster analyses a typology of gastronomic enterprises has been developed which gives detailed information about different buying patterns and offers opportunities for target group specific communication strategies to the farmers. The following five clusters can be identified: the "Convenenience-Oriented", the "Professional Distribution-Oriented", the "Traditional Craftsman-Oriented", the "Regionally Integrated" and "Quality gastronomy". For direct marketing especially the clustergroups "Quality Gastronomy", which is characterized by high quality requirements, and the "Regional Integrated", who often can be found among small businesses, are of high interest. Cooperation with the Convenience Oriented, who insist on special services, therefore appears to be more appropriate for engaged farming cooperations. On the whole, the study and other successful examples of direct marketing show that gastronomy can be a successful marketing channel for professional suppliers.

Extension to promote environmentally-friendly wheat production in South-East Anatolia

By Yasar Aktas, Sanliurfa, Volker Hoffmann, Hohenheim, Güzel Yilmaz and Fatma Öcal Kara, Sanliurfa

The study area, the province of Sanliurfa, is located in Upper Mesopotamia, a region where a comprehensive and integrated development project is currently under way. This project will inevitably also have some adverse impact on the environment as it is aimed at modernising agricultural methods.

This study is therefore meant to provide information on action-relevant factors that might affect the farmers' behaviour with regard to environmentally-friendly production techniques in wheat cultivation. It is also supposed to give a first idea of suitable extension methods to promote the introduction of environmentally-friendly technologies and innovations.

The survey design includes interviews with 207 farmers in 105 villages in the 11 districts of the province of Sanliurfa. The selection of villages in each district was based on the number and size of their wheat cultivation areas. The interviews were conducted with two respondents per village, chosen by random sampling. The survey results were statistically processed and t-tests were performed to confirm correlations.

Albrecht´s situation-functional approaches on the adoption and diffusion of innovations served as theoretical model. The research results mainly referred to the analysis of the socio-economic circumstances in the study area and their influence on the farmers' adoption of innovations in environmentally-friendly wheat production. It was shown that the common socio-economic indicators are less suitable to explain the adoption behaviour than the particular dependences of small-scale farmers on their tribal leaders.

Conclusions drawn from the research results are summarised in the following four subject areas: tribal structures, farmers´ self-organisation, agricultural extension service and the evaluation of the theoretical model.

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