From "Reports on Agriculture", exercise book 3, December 2012

Effects of climate change on phenology of agricultural crops in Lower Saxony - Opportunities for adaptation demonstrated through energy crop cultivation

By Marianne Karpenstein-Machan and Christine von Buttlar, Göttingen

In comparing two climate periods of the last five decades (1961–1990; 1991–2007) climate changes in Southern Lower Saxony can be summarized as a 1 °C higher annual average temperature and a shift in the precipitation pattern (less precipitation in early summer, more precipitation in harvest periods). When looking at different plant species, it could be observed that the phenological development phases of agricultural crops were five to fifteen days earlier in spring. The vegetation period of winter cereals shortened and the vegetation period of winter rape, sugar beet and maize expanded. The cornel building period of winter cereals became shorter and that of winter rape increased. A correlation between phenological data and yield shows positive effects on yield through the acceleration of plant development in winter cereals. This result stands in contrast to winter rape, where an elongated development after flowering leads to higher yields. Interactions through the influence of plant breeding, further multi-factor climate effects and cultivation are discussed as possible influencing variables. Opportunities and chances of adaptation to climate change through selection of plant species, new cultivation concepts, and improved crop rotations are discussed. The importance of plant breeding for the supply of energy crops, adapted to climate change, and new cultivation concepts are underlined.

Key words: Climate change, energy crop cultivation, phenology, yield development, development phases, wheat, rape, sugar beet, maize.

Phytoestrogen carryover into cow’s milk from legumes – an overview along the food chain

By Martin Gierus, Mirjam Koch, Kiel and Hartwig Schulz, Berlin

Phytoestrogens are hormone-like compounds with estrogen and anti-estrogen activity, with positive and negative effects on the animal and human organism. Primary sources of phytoestrogens in human nutrition are of plant origin. Legumes are the primary source of phytoestrogens in animal nutrition, with soybean meal as the main form of concentrate being fed to livestock in conventional farms. Red clover is more frequently fed to livestock in organic agriculture and, compared with white clover or alfalfa, it contains mostly isoflavones. In contrast, white clover and alfalfa show higher contents of coumestans and lignans. Beside the different phytoestrogen compounds present in forage plants, biotic and abiotic factors may contribute to variable contents. Another important aspect of phytoestrogens in animal nutrition is their ability to be transferred into milk in dairy cattle nutrition. The contents found in milk and milk products may have adverse effects for human nutrition. Literature data suggest that the contents observed in milk are low in comparison to the values which are considered as critical in studies with animals and humans. A cumulative effect from different phytoestrogen sources however cannot be excluded. Equol is basically produced by ruminants, and milk is a potential source of equol, to which stronger estrogen and antioxidative properties are attributed in comparison with other phytoestrogens.

Advantages and disadvantages of cross-breeding in dairy cattle, focusing in particular on Holstein cattle

By Wilfried Brade, Hannover/Dummerstorf

The Holstein cow is – from a global perspective – dominant in milk production. The Holstein cow has significant advantages in milk production; however, it unfortunately also has some disadvantages, especially regarding its fitness traits.
The low heritability of the most important fitness traits, such as fertility, along with the high rate of stillbirth and calving difficulties (dystocia) and the short productive life, unfortunately mean that a purebred population (eg Holstein) can only be expected to make slow genetic progress by selection.

Various breeds have been crossed with Holstein in recent years in order to test the advantages and disadvantages of different crosses. The main results are described in this paper.

Key words: dairy cows, breeding, heterosis, crossing, fertility

Determinants for the adoption and abandonment of organic farming in Germany

By Sanna Heinze and Alexander Vogel, Kiel

Organic farming has become increasingly important in Europe in recent years. This is reflected in the positive trend shown by the total number of organic farms in Germany. This paper, which is based on official agricultural statistics, shows, however, that there is an underlying counter-trend of farms that leave the organic sector by converting back to conventional methods. Between 2007 and 2010 every eleventh organic farm returned to conventional agriculture.

Moreover, this article provides first determinants that affect the adoption and abandonment of organic farming. The estimations were carried out separately for eastern and western Germany and found that experience gathered in organic farming positively impacts on the adoption and continuation of organic farming. A larger share of fully converted land and the existence of organically-reared livestock also has a positive impact on the continuation of organic farming. A higher proportion of permanent grassland positively influences the probability of adoption, but shows a negative impact on the continuation of organic farming.

A documentation system for environmental farm management: requirements and demands

By Daniela Kempa, Christina von Haaren, Hannover

Farm-specific advice and a reliable documentation tool can provide clear advantages for the improvement of success-oriented remuneration and funding of farms’ environmental achievements. In order to fully exploit the benefits of such a software-supported environmental advisory system (e.g. standardized/ automated assessment and flexible ways of presentation), it is necessary to investigate the requirements of potential addressees beforehand. In this study, farmers as potential users were surveyed with regard to their attitudes and demands in relation to such a system. The study examined potential benefits for farmers as well as possible obstacles. Results show that the documentation of environmental achievements can be of interest for farmers under certain conditions. While the use of advisory services is actually rather low, most farmers remain open to using such software. It is seen that most benefits are obtained by documentation that provides functions for the presentation of environmental achievements but also supports the farmer in meeting reporting requirements related to direct payments and cross compliance. The most sought-after functionalities include the consideration of standards of good farming practice and cross compliance, information on funding, cartographic visualization, options for the assessment of nature conservation measures and an automated report generation. Thus, the following advantages should be generated for the farmers: safeguarding or increasing sales, improved external communication and presentation of environmental achievements and improved preparation for, or even reduction of, official inspections.

Societal Perception of the Term “Mass Animal Husbandry”

By Maike Kayser, Katharina Schlieker, Achim Spiller, Göttingen

The German meat industry is increasingly the subject of public discourse., In view of this discourse, the industry faces the challenge of reconciling social ethics with market requirements. The main focus of the criticism is focused on the term “mass animal husbandry”. The term has to date been subject to very little scientific analysis. In this article, the societal perceptions of the term “mass animal husbandry” are explored via a consumer survey. The results show that “mass animal husbandry” is not supported by German society. The main problem seen by consumers concerns animal welfare considerations that arise due to the limited space available to animals. Poultry and pig production are criticised far more heavily than beef production. Expert discussions about the use of antibiotics in animal production etc. are barely picked up on by society.

Power as a coordination tool: Ideas for the agri-food industry using the example of wine cooperatives

By Jon Henrich Hanf, Vera Belaya and Dr. Erik Schweickert, Geisenheim

As the German agrifood industry is characterized by high competitiveness, the importance of customer orientation has been increasing for many years. As a result, firms work hard to differentiate their products and services. As an example, German retailers are increasing their company profile by establishing retail brands and specialized assortments. Wine is often used in this context. The retailer is responsible for the quality of the wine that is sold under the retailer's brand. The retailer must therefore ensure that the quality requirements are complied with to a sufficient degree throughout the chain - from grape production to the retail shelf. For example, wine growing and production requires special knowledge, hence today the importance of vertical coordination between retailer, processor and grape producers is increasing. Such forms of coordination are also called “supply-chain networks”. Due to the characteristics of wine, the networks in this sector are generally strategic networks. Such networks can be characterized as pyramidal-hierarchic collaborations which possess a focal firm (chain captain) that coordinates the network in a hierarchical style. This means in the wine sector that the focal company faces the challenge of managing and integrating many (small) wine growers. Cooperatives, as the traditional form of horizontal cooperation, play a key role in this regard.

Advantages and disadvantages of grazing for high-yielding dairy cows

By Wilfried Brade, Hannover/Dummerstorf

Economic benefits of grazing result primarily from the reduction in feed costs. In order to exploit these benefits fully, it is indispensable to have a forward-looking pasture management system in order to have a practically continuous supply of high quality pasture forage.
For high-yielding cows, grazing is recommended as daily time-limited grazing (= with supplementary feeding in the barn). The combination of loose housing / time-limited grazing makes it possible to utilize the positive effects of pasturage on animal health without affecting the performance of the cows.

The consumer prefers grazing to the year-round breeding of dairy cows in the barn. The prevention of a further decline in grazing requires targeted support measures and excellent marketing concepts.

Evaluating amended water policies using whole-farm irrigation management in the context of risk

By Matthias Buchholz and Oliver Musshoff, Göttingen

The European Water Frame Work Directive has established a legal framework to protect aquatic ecosystems. Against this background, the paper discusses a stricter regulation of water use for irrigation purposes. By means of an extended risk-programming approach, we examine the economic implications resulting from a reduction in water withdrawal permits and an increased charge for water withdrawals, using the example of a typical arable farm in the north-east of Lower Saxony. Based on irrigation field trials provided by the Chamber of Agriculture in Lower Saxony, we define production activities with regard to varying irrigation intensity. In contrast to increased charges for water withdrawals, a restriction of water withdrawal permits involves higher water savings but lower economic disadvantages for farmers. By using an adjusted cropping strategy and efficient irrigation management, the economic disadvantages, in particular for a moderate reduction of water withdrawal permits, can be partially mitigated.

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