Overview: Subprojects

Agricultural economics

Organic and conventional farming in comparison - productivity, technical progress and risk

(01.07.2007 - 30.06.2011) 

Scientific coordination: Prof. Dr. Uwe Latacz-Lohmann

Conversion to organic farming has proved economically viable for many farms. However, for many conventional managers who are willing to change, there is uncertainty as to whether this step will prove profitable. For this reason, the research project presented here is intended to help clarify the question for which farms a change in management would be recommended. To this end, the productivity increase potential that can be achieved by changing the production method is determined. In addition, two other important aspects are analysed which have to be taken into account in the conversion recommendations. On the one hand, the risk of organic farms compared to conventional farms is examined more closely. On the other hand, it is to be clarified how productivity and technical progress have developed in the two farming methods in recent years in order to be able to better assess the future competitiveness of organic farming. The results of this work will be of great interest both to farmers and to agricultural advisors in order to better assess the opportunities and risks of conversion to organic production. In addition, valuable information will be made available to policy-makers to enable targeted support for conversion.



Recording of amphibian populations in their spawning and land habitats

(01.04.2002 - 30.06.2039) 

 Scientific coordination: Prof. Dr. Tim Diekötter

The effects of organic farming on amphibians and their habitats will be investigated in the subproject. In addition, the effects of the remediation of amphibian spawning waters will be considered. For this purpose, the reproductive animals as well as spawn, larvae and juveniles at the spawning grounds of the farm are recorded semi-quantitatively every two years. The amphibian catches from the ground traps of the current ground beetle study will be evaluated in order to obtain information on the use of the land habitats. The arable land and its margins are included in the analysis.


Soil Science

Characteristics and development of the soil landscape

(01.03.2001 - 31.08.2006)

Scientific Coordination: Prof. Dr. Hans-Rudolf Bork

Excavations and drillings are used to investigate the distribution, properties and formation of the soil at the Ritzerau farm. Already in the Neolithic Age, people on the slopes west of the floodplain of the Duvenseebach began to clear forests that had developed in the early post-glacial period and to use them for agriculture. In the course of the Bronze and Iron Ages, the use was extended and intensified. Prehistoric soil erosion and sedimentation strongly changed the soils. Forests reconquered the areas during the Migration Period. Renewed deforestation and subsequent agriculture shaped the early and high Middle Ages. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, arable farming was intensified: very strong soil rearrangements took place on the slopes used for arable farming, the arable terraces developed on the edges of the floodplain of the Duveneebach. With the conversion to organic farming, a phase of soil-friendly use has begun.


Breeding birds

Breeding birds on arable land and use of resources

(01.04.2001 - 31.12.2039)

Scientific Coordination:: Prof. Dr. Tim Diekötter

In this subproject the change of the breeding bird community in dependence of the management form is investigated. Numerous studies show a continuing decline of many formerly typical bird species of the agricultural landscape in conventional cultivation, which is intensified in the course of further intensifications (e.g. energy crop cultivation). Since 2001, the breeding bird populations of the arable land have been mapped annually using standardised settlement density surveys. First results indicate a connection between the population density and the vegetation structure. Skylarks in particular benefit from the lower stalk density in cereals, which probably results in a drier microclimate. The wagtail benefits from a greater supply of insects as a food source. As more demanding bird species of a species-rich agricultural landscape, quail, partridge and grey bunting appear in increasing continuity, for birds of prey of the surroundings the area is better usable as food area due to different and also low vegetation heights. In future studies, breeding success and possible long-term effects will be assessed.


Floristic Diversity

Floristic diversity of arable sites

(01.03.2001 - 31.12.2039)

Scientific Coordination: Prof. Dr. Tim Diekötter

In order to record the current and potential floristic diversity of the arable sites, the first step is to record the Segetal and Ruderal flora on and around the farmed areas. The dynamics of the stands as well as changes resulting from changing crops are recorded by regular sampling of selected areas. Additional seed bank analyses are used to assess the potential vegetation. These provide information on the species resting in the soil which can be made to appear in the current vegetation by certain measures.

In addition, sowing experiments were conducted to test which additional settlement latitudes are available for species typical of the natural environment and whether these can be integrated into the accompanying vegetation in the longer term.



Spatial and temporal distribution of ground beetles and short wing beetles on the agricultural areas of Hof Ritzerau

(01.05.2001 - 31.12.2039)

Scientific Coordination: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Irmler

The aim of the study is to take stock of ground beetles (Carabidae) and short wing beetles (Staphylinidae) on the areas of Hof Ritzerau under the change of use from conventional to organic agriculture. The two beetle families were selected as representative of the species diversity of the insects. 168 ground traps were used in the study area. 140 of these were used in the grid in the fields and 28 in hedges, ponds or brownfields. Sampling began in May 2001, interrupted only by harvest dates and tillage. The following questions have been answered so far: - What was the spatial distribution of the species found? - Which species benefited from the conversion to organic farming? - What effect do the crop, distance from the edge of the field or the adjacent biotopes have on the number and abundance of species?


Landscape Ecology

Structural and functional analysis of abiotic landscape elements

(01.03.2001 - 31.12.2039)

Scientific Coordination: Prof. Dr. Tim Diekötter

With the aid of the DILAMO (Digital Landscape Modelling) method package, the consequences of changes in use are estimated on a regional scale. The simulation program WASMOD is used for the balancing of water and material flows in high temporal and spatial resolution. The agricultural area information system (AIS) will be developed to map important stock sizes and processes of the water, carbon and nutrient balance for catchment areas, sub catchments or farms, loft and partial loft with daily updates. Due to the long project duration and the large number of employees, a method for long-term data backup with integrated metadata management is being developed. A large part of the geodata available within the project will be made available to the employees via a map server.



Vegetation science I: Ecohydrology and vegetation of groundwater areas

(01.06.2001 - 31.12.2039)

Scientific Coordination: Prof. Dr. Joachim Schrautzer

The subproject accompanies the land use changes at Hof Ritzerau and the rewetting of the Duvenseebach lowland through hydrological-hydrochemical and vegetation monitoring. The scientific focus of the investigations is on the functional role and the interrelations between surface waters and fens in the nutrient balance of rural lowland catchment areas. In a section of the nutrient-rich lowland river "Duvenseebach" nutrient balances are determined on the basis of daily sampling by automatic measuring stations. They serve the investigation of the retention dynamics, their control variables and processes as well as the derivation of different seasonal and event-related retention coefficients. Hourly resolved measurements of the parameters water level, temperature, pH-value, electrical conductivity and oxygen content provide a comprehensive database for the investigation of diurnal, seasonal and event-related patterns of hydrological, physicochemical and biological processes in streams.


Crop Cultivation

Optimisation of crop rotation systems in organic crop production

(01.10.2001 - 31.12.2039)

Scientific coordination: Prof. Dr. Friedhelm Taube; Dr. Ralf Loges

Nitrogen (N) is of great importance as a nutrient for the yield formation of agricultural crops. Since the organic farming system does not use chemically synthesised N fertilisers, it is particularly difficult to cultivate crops that place higher demands on the N supply. In the subproject crop production of the project "Hof Ritzerau", the following four strategies are examined in order to optimise the efficiency of nitrogen supply in organic arable farming: 1. increasing the efficiency of N rivers in crop rotations of organic farming by varying the proportion of legumes fixing atmospheric nitrogen in crop rotations, 2. optimising green manure and Clover grass management with special consideration of the possibility of winter grazing 3. Optimisation of organic fertilisation to cereals with special consideration of local conditions 4. Development of a ploughless cereal cultivation system for organic farming: bi-cropping of cereals and air nitrogen binding white clover.



Influence of different crop rotation systems on pests in cereals and grain legumes

(01.03.2002 - 31.12.2039)

Scientific Coordination: Prof. Dr. Stefan Vidal

Within the framework of the subproject, the changes in the occurrence of pests in cereals and grain legumes associated with the conversion from conventional to organic farming will be investigated. The scientific focus of the investigations is on the interactions of host plants (winter wheat), cereal aphids (Hemiptera: Aphididae) and their natural counterparts, especially parasitoids in different ecological crop rotations (extensive, intensive). In addition, conventionally managed winter wheat areas are sampled in the immediate vicinity. In grain legumes the yield losses caused by the striped leaf beetle Sitona lineatus (L.) (Coloeptera: Curculionidae) are quantified. In addition to the direct damage to the crop, the larvae of the beetle developing in the root nodules of the plants can contribute to a considerable reduction in their previous crop value and thus to a disturbance in the nitrogen balance of ecological cultivation systems.



Spatial and temporal dynamics of earthworms during conversion to organic agriculture

(01.05.2001 - 31.12.2039)

Scientific Coordination: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Irmler

Earthworms are one of the most important animal groups for the nutrient and water balance of the soil. Since 2001 the earthworms have been recorded monthly on a matrix of 85 sample points from April to June and from September to November. On average 10 species with an average density of 92 Ind./m² and 5 g ash-free biomass per square meter were recorded over the years. The spatial and temporal distribution of density and biomass shows dependencies on climate and cultivation. Lumbricus terrestris increased significantly after the conversion to ecological cultivation, the density of L. rubellus increased with the amount of precipitation. In the dry year 2003 the earthworm density collapsed dramatically, in the wet year 2002 areas threatened by backwater were characterised by low densities, which only regenerated after 2 years. Overall, bioturbation by earthworms on arable land is estimated at 24 to 50 t/ha.



Near-natural forest margins as a habitat for butterflies

(01.05.2003 - 31.12.2039)

Scientific Coordination: Prof. Dr. Hartmut Roweck

The development of forest margins under the influence of and without cattle grazing is investigated at the "Hof Ritzerau" with regard to the butterfly fauna. The spectrum of forest edges ranges from near-natural to strongly impaired by management. In 2008 the grazing of a fenced forest area of 0.7 ha in the southeast of the so-called Peperland was started. In addition, 0.4 ha of grassland were sown with a mixture of legumes and grasses. Since then, three Limousine-cattle each year have been raised in two grazing intervals, for the leaf shoot of the beeches in spring and for the beech fattening in autumn, on a total of 1.1 ha. The comparative investigations necessary for an evaluation of the results were carried out on the not far away forest margins of the Abendrader forest and the Duvenseebach lowland, which are very similar to the southern margin of the Peperland in terms of vegetation structure and exposure. The effect of grazing is assessed by different methods. For example, monitoring of caterpillars of wooded butterfly species as well as of butterflies along the edge of the forest but also inside the forest is carried out along fixed transects. At the same time, two automatic light traps from March to October are used to record the total species spectrum of butterflies in the study area. Finally, the vegetation development is monitored by means of vegetation surveys and browsing maps.


Environmental Education

Holistic learning in organic farming

(01.06.2004 - 31.12.2009)

Scientific Coordination: Prof. Dr. Hartmut Roweck

This subproject informs about the research at Hof Ritzerau and communicates general environmental educational contents. The focus is on a generally understandable and clear presentation of the contents, so that the concerns and intentions of organic farming can be understood even without special previous knowledge. Numerous posters have already been produced on this topic; in a further step, a concept for a theme trail on organic farming is now being developed. Attractive and easy to understand stations and experience points should explain the special features of the farm and its management, arouse interest and understanding for organic farming and contribute to education for sustainable development.

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