Dhe soil is their greatest asset. Therefore, in view of climate change and population growth, Annette Seifert-Ruwe would like to find a way to deal with flora and fauna as sustainably as possible. After all, the farm should also feed the next generation. Seifert-Ruwe is the managing director of OHR Ackergut in Hungen-Obbornhofen. She runs a 850-hectare community of five farms that grow wheat, canola, and sugar beet, among other things. In order to live up to her claim, she joined the “Nature Positive Agricultural Systems” (NaPA) project last year.
19 farms from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have joined forces to get answers to urgent questions with the help of scientific support. They collect data to find out how different types of cultivation and forms of management affect biodiversity, soil health and climate. There are both conventional and organic farms.
Researchers come by every eight weeks
The data is collected with the help of the small creatures on the field. Special insect traps set up at the edge of various flowering strips are used to investigate which insects and small animals are in the air and on the ground. Eight of these traps, fitted with Plexiglas at the upper end, are located on the grounds of the farm. Project manager Sebastian Funk does not want to use any other attractants so as not to falsify the result. The collected insects are collected in half-litre bottles, which are emptied weekly.
In addition, a scientific team visits every eight weeks to evaluate the results. In addition, the condition of the soil and the nutrient concentration are examined. All results are related to the weather, temperature development, the crops grown and other factors. The project will initially run until 2024. During this time, a unique collection of data should result.
Protection for rodents, birds and small game
Flower strips are part of the sustainable concept that Seifert-Ruwe has issued for their business. On a total of 23,000 square meters, she sowed mixtures of 20 different species, “which bloom differently every year,” as she explains. The special thing about it is that she usually didn’t put the stripes on the edge of the fields, but in the middle of the field. This has various advantages, as she explains: on the one hand, the strips provide food, but also protection for rodents and birds as well as small game such as hares and partridges. Because when the fields are harvested, there is no protection for the animals. It is therefore good if there are places to retreat to in the field that are not disturbed by dogs or walkers.
For Seifert-Ruwe, this project is characterized by the fact that it is scientifically supported and the data is kept far away from ideological trench warfare. Once a month she meets with representatives of the other companies involved for a digital exchange. For the agroecologist and environmental ethicist Franz-Theo Gottwald, who is moderating the project, the campaign is “working from the heart”, as he puts it. You would have to review the results of the investigations year after year. The task is to understand where there is intensive work, what can be done in practice to “pay towards the goal of a nature-positive, sustainable agriculture”, says Gottwald. Well-trodden paths or ideological debates are not required.
The initiator of the project is the agricultural company Syngenta, a supplier of seeds and crop protection products, which says it is financing the multi-year project with a good six-figure sum. Syngenta hopes that the campaign will provide information and data on the subject of biodiversity, among other things. “We need to think broadly to see what role we can play in the future,” says Syngenta’s Peter Hefner. This also includes possibly including biological means or digital technologies in the future.