From "Reports on Agriculture", number 3, December 2005

Bone fragments in arable soils - zero tolerance for animal feed?

By Christa M. Hoffmann, Klaus-Wenzel Becker, Brunk Meyer and Bernward Märländer, Göttingen

In autumn 2004, minute traces of bone fragments were found in some samples of sugar beet dried pulp, which meant that these pellets could not be used as animal feed. An investigation was carried out to clarify if this could have been caused by soil adhering to the sugar beet root. For this purpose, 198 soil samples were fractionated; the fine sand fraction (63 to 200 metre) was microscopically analysed for bone fragments. Bone fragments were found in 67 % of the soil samples - even in soils where it can be proven that they had not been treated with organic fertilizer for 130 years. The topsoil contained up to 97 tons bone fragments per ha. This shows that bone fragments are a ubiquitous component of arable soils. Therefore, it is likely that in all plants with adhering soil bone fragments will be found regardless of whether fertilisers containing bones were applied to the soil.

Learning from the BSE crisis - Empirical findings on consumer behaviour and its importance for producers, trade and consumer protection

By Rainer Olbrich and Anja Voerste, Hagen

The present analysis is based on the analysis of Point of Sale scanner data from food retailers to show that decreasing individual signal-effects of potentially unsafe products are connected to lower levels of non-consumption. Results of a survey of consumers in four outlets show that marked differences exist between intended shopping behaviour of consumers, reflected in the survey, and actual consumer behaviour mirrored in the scanner data analysis. Survey results indicate that the family background (children in the household), shopping frequency, brand consciousness, labels of origin and quality labels and the price exert an influence on the purchasing decisions of consumers.

Consumer protection and business objectives of food producers and retailers do not necessarily contradict each other. More quality competition instead of price competition in trade can certainly ensure a higher degree of food safety and protect consumers against health damage and companies against economic damage.

A long-term economic comparison of good agricultural practice and integrated farming - an approach in light of the aims of pesticide reduction

By Horst-Henning Steinmann,Göttingen

For many years now, agriculture has been required to reduce its production intensity. The national pro-gramme to reduce pesticide use, launched by the German government, is one of the most recent demands in this regard. Here, integrated pest management and its elements are mentioned several times as effective instruments to reduce the use of pesticides. A large-scale arable farming system experiment, comparing a system of good farming practice and a system of integrated farming for a period of thirteen years, is evaluated with a view to reducing the pesticide input. Cost-performance comparisons are conducted on the basis of marginal costing and data is presented as time series.

On a high-yielding site, located in a floodplain in Lower Saxony, integrated farming can almost compete with good farming practice. On a hilly site, where soil conditions are less favourable, integrated farming results in a contribution margin difference of around 150 per hectare and year. Taking winter wheat and winter oilseed rape, these crops had been grown annually in the crop rotation patterns of both systems, as an example, different structures of production costs are pointed out. Apart from the crop yields, crop protection exerts the greatest influence on the profitability and the development over time of a cropping system. Pesticide use has steadily increased in oilseed rape cultivation over time. This applies especially to the integrated farming system where weed control has become a greater problem. In integrated winter wheat production, plant protection could be maintained at a low level over the years. By decreasing the fungicide input, wheat, that was cultivated in line with good farming practice, increasingly led to lower production costs.

Two methods of calculating gross margins were used:

  1. annual calculation of current prices and subsidies and
  2. fixed prices and subsidies on the basis of 2002.

The future economic performance of integrated farming can thus be estimated after the Luxembourg agreements on the reform of the EU agricultural policy have been implemented. The pros and cons of the implementation of integrated farming as an agri-environmental scheme are discussed.

Effects of a grassland minimum care in accordance with "cross-compliance"

By Gottfried Briemle, Aulendorf

In accordance with cross-compliance, grassland which is no longer used is to be kept in "a good agricultu-ral and ecological condition". To achieve this, one annual mulching after 15 July or one mowing operation with removal is scheduled every two years.

With the help of the results of long-time grassland trials in South Western Germany it is demonstrated that it will be difficult to achieve the planned goal. The reason is that for the overwhelming majority of the currently managed grassland a reduction of 3 to 5 harvesting activities to just one maintenance pruning operation will result in serious redistributions in the plant stands. Only on lean soils with low productivity (yield expectation below 40 quintal of dry matter/ha) this type of minimum upkeep is an appropriate mea-sure. In addition, according to the present results of the trials it cannot be expected that there will be an increase in plant species or a reduction of nutrients in the soil. The later in the year such a maintenance pruning operation is carried out, the more top grass is dominant and the fewer species the plant stands have. From a bio-ecological general perspective it is irrelevant whether a measure starting after the summer solstice is carried out already during midsummer or only in autumn. Only when there is an additional early pruning in May/June, the percentage of herbs needing light increases.

Conclusion: Only if the ecological demands according to cross-compliance expressed by buzzwords such as "Keeping the countryside open" (= prevention of forest) are extremely moderate, mulch pruning only once a year is the right measure. Yet this would not have anything to do with the conservation of a traditional cultural landscape with a high biodiversity.

Surplus Grassland in Baden-Württemberg

By Konrad Raab and Christine Rösch, Karlsruhe

Today, in many regions of Germany the landscape is characterised by meadows and pasture. Despite the high appreciation among the general public, the decline in grassland use by cattle farming seems inevitable. Essentially, this is a result of progress in breeding and production technology and of structural adjustments in agriculture leading to a further increase of milk production per cow and to a decreasing demand of (less productive) grassland for roughage production. Against this background, the article will assess the surplus grassland no longer needed for animal feed production today and in the midium-term future on the basis of the example of rural districts in Baden-Württemberg. The study was done by calculating the roughage requirements of cattle, horses and sheep on the basis of available statistical data on livestock populations, land use and agricultural yields. The land needed to meet the fodder demand was calculated and balanced out with the existing grassland areas. For the target year 2015, assumptions were made about the development of livestock, the area devoted to organic farming and the sealing of soils.

The calculation showed that at present around 135,000 ha or 21 % of the permanent grassland is no longer needed for livestock feeding. Until 2015, the area of surplus grassland will increase to 167,000 ha or 26 % of the existing permanent grassland. Today mainly the rural districts with low stocking rates are characterised by significant surplus grassland. In the future, however, an increasing number of rural districts with intensive dairy cattle farming will be affected by this development due to increasing milk yields. In rural districts with an already relatively high number of horses which continues to rise, the area of surplus grassland will hardly increase or, on the contrary, it might even decrease to a certain extent.

Environmental and Product Quality in Agriculture - Report on the 44th annual meeting of the German Society for Economic and Social Sciences in Agriculture (GEWISOLA) in Berlin in 2004 -

By Konrad Hagedorn, Uwe Jens Nagel and Martin Odening, Berlin

From 27 to 29 September 2004, the 44th annual meeting of the German Society for Economic and Social Sciences in Agriculture (Gesellschaft für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften des Landbaues; GEWISOLA) took place at Humboldt University in Berlin. The overall topic of the conference was "Environmental and Product Quality in Agriculture". Protection of the natural environment and food safety are two important aspects of multifunctional agriculture, the guiding principle of the "new" European agricultural policy. Quality management strategies, management of the food chain and sustainable production systems were discussed from the perspective of individual economic units. The impact of recent changes in agricultural policy and the design of agri-environmental programs were addressed from a sectoral point of view. In addition to the key topic of the conference, participants also presented topics of their own choice, for example contributions on advanced quantitative methods or special problems in transformation countries. For the first time, the best contributions were awarded a prize and presented in the scope of a plenary session.

Periodic very late cut of permanent grassland as a measure to facilitate self-reseeding of grasses

By Branko Kramberger, Anastazija Gselman, Andreja Borec and Mitja Kaligariè, Maribor

In the utilisation of permanent grassland in compliance with modern ecological and biological trends in grassland management, we constantly seek ways of utilisation that would in the long-term lead to stable forage yields of suitable quantity and quality. In addition, we have to ensure the conservation of natural and diverse grassland. On the basis of three experiments and the data from specialist literature, this paper presents the possibility of implementing a periodic very late first hay harvest on four-cut permanent grassland as a measure to facilitate self-reseeding of plants, with the emphasis on grasses as a major component of sward.

  • Experiment 1: It started in 1996 on grassland which prior to the experiment had been a 2 to 3 cut meadow (Ranunculo repentis-Alopecuretum pratensis community). During the experiment, a 4-cut utilisation was implemented on the sward. In the first treatment (N), the first cut took place before mid-May, and/or at the beginning of the heading/panicle earing of the major components of the sward. In the second treatment (S), however, the first cut in the odd years took place only at the end of May. The yield of this cut was dried on the sward to facilitate self-reseeding of the plants. After a six-year experimental period, the total yield and the yield of even years, when the cuts of both treatments were conducted simultaneously, the dry matter yield was significantly higher in the S treatment. Differences in the botanical compositions in favour of grasses could also be observed.
  • Experiment 2: In spring 2000 (April, May), average soil samples (0 to 15 cm) were taken from the same meadow. In the period of one year the germination capacity of plants was examined. There were no statistically significant differences in the seed banks of both treatments, but the absolute number of germinating plants and the portion of grasses were slightly higher in treatment S.
  • Experiment 3: In June 2000, seeds of Alopecurus pratensis L., Anthoxanthum odoratum L., Bromus hordeaceus L. and Holcus lanatus L. were collected from grassland with the same plant community. In August, the seeds were placed in plastic net bags and dug into the soil at a depth of 5 and 10 cm. The germination rate of these seeds in individual periods was examined until June 2002. In general, the treated grasses at a 10 cm depth retained a higher germination rate for a longer period of time. On the basis of the obtained results, bromus hordeaceus can be classified as a transient plant. In contrast, the other three grasses can be classified as short-term persistent plants.

The results obtained show that by periodic self-reseeding a significant effect on the increase in forage yield in the next years can be achieved, but no significant increase in the grass seed bank in the long run can be expected. Therefore, a very late first cut of meadows with suitable botanical composition cannot be considered as a one-off measure to be conducted only once. To ensure a long-term suitable plant composition of permanent grassland, it is important that the self-reseeding is facilitated from time to time over a longer term.

Draft of a method for the early detection of corporate crises, taking the economic-psychological interactions into account

By Ulrich Bodmer, Freising

Traditional methods designed for forecasting a corporate crisis usually do not take more than a subset of cri-sis-relevant attributes into consideration. Quantitative economic data from the past are evaluated in most cases. Apart from this restriction, a nomothetic methodology is generally used. As a result, the distinctiveness of the individual corporate crisis is disregarded.

This article now presents a proposal for an early detection of a corporate crisis by evaluating economic and psychological parameters. Fundamental to this idiographic approach is the assessment of the attitudes of the stakeholders (the entrepreneur, the entrepreneur´s family, bank(s) and other business partners) towards the situation of the company. Other basic elements consist of the measurement of efficiency of corporate situations and the determination of causal attribution of those involved in this situation.

Finally, an example is presented that explains the procedure of economic-psychological efficiency measurement for the early detection of a crisis by means of Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA).

The current Implementation of the EC Water Framework Directive - Consequences and Prospects for Agriculture taking Lower Saxony as an Example

By Britta Kastens and Jens Newig, Osnabrück

The article discusses the requirements of the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD), their consequences for agriculture as well as the prospects, which result, in particular, from the provisions regarding public participation. The Land of Lower Saxony, with a strong focus on agriculture, is taken as an example. In this context, the reduction and/or avoidance of water pollution from diffuse sources gets special attention. Apart from the so-called priority substances (for example pesticides), nitrate pollutions are being examined, in particular. An analysis of the individual instruments of the WFD - water quality inventories ("Article 5 reports"), monitoring, sets of measures and river basin management plans as well as public participation - also shows the uncertainties that are still involved in the implementation of the framework directive. First results of the research project "PartizipA" have been incorporated into the considerations this article.

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