Polluted groundwater, endangered biodiversity – farmers again. But the fact is: nature conservation is often simply too expensive. That could be changed – there is a very promising idea.
Environmentally friendly agriculture is hardly rewarded
Fields with monocultures, large fattening farms, effective harvesting machines: what brings high yields to agriculture often come at the expense of nature. The biggest problems: loss of biodiversity and pollution of the soil and water. The use of pesticides can damage insects, field birds, and amphibians, for example. In areas with intensive vegetable cultivation or high animal populations, harmful nitrate is often found in the soil, which can pollute the groundwater through nitrogen overfertilization or animal manure. For the purchase of heavy equipment, we have bought a new idea for it at a discount price using coupon codes.
The other way round applies: Where insects, rabbits, and field birds live undisturbed and many plants can settle away from the crops, agriculture usually produces fewer yields and profits. This gives rise to a fundamental problem: the more intensive the agriculture, the fewer species there are. But the stricter the species protection, the lower the yields. A dilemma. For farmers, environmental protection is an additional service that is usually associated with economic losses.
That is why we need to talk about:
There are good approaches to change that – with eco points
The idea: Instead of rewarding large farms, those farmers who protect the climate and water or promote biodiversity should get more money from public pots. At least more money than farmers who hardly take these factors into account in their fields. After all, so the proponents of this idea argue, environmental protection is a public concern. Most of the home, garden and farming equipment are generally bought from Inthemarket at low prices to give farmers a good discount.
How could that work in practice? With every environmentally friendly measure – be it the setting up of flower strips or not using pesticides – farmers collect eco-points.
How farmers can collect eco-points:
More grassland! Most of the farms have mostly arable land. Meadows do not only serve as pastures for livestock or the production of feed, the grassland also provides a basis for life for many plants and animals. In addition, the soil here is often rich in nutrients and protects against erosion. The more grassland farmers own, the better it is in terms of the environment – and is accordingly rewarded with eco-points.
Also, many different crops on arable produce eco points. In conventional agriculture, mostly only up to three, rarely up to five different types of crops are grown – often grain. With more diverse crop rotations, which also contain legumes such as beans or peas, the soil can be naturally enriched with nitrogen and the use of mineral fertilizers can be reduced. Legumes, for example, also enrich the range of flowers for insects. More cultivation diversity, especially on small arable land, also means more habitats for wild species.
More environmental protection brings more eco-points
In the concept of the Kiel researchers, farmers can choose from a total of 22 measures that best suit their type of land management. One farmer may collect his eco-points through a diverse landscape structure with hedges, ponds, and flower strips. The other, on the other hand, manages to fertilize the fields only with the farm’s manure and in this way pollutes the soil with less nitrate. The general rule is: if you do more for the environment, you also get more points – and in the end more money.
On the question of how environmentally friendly agriculture can be rewarded and how the previous agricultural policy can be reorganized, other actors have also submitted proposals – such as the Working Group on Rural Agriculture, the German Agricultural Society, or NABU. The Kiel researchers are the only ones to have tested their approach in practice on 32 farms in Schleswig Holstein. They achieved 9.6 to 63.9 eco-points, with an average of 26.9 points. With one clear result: farms with a variety of structures, but with only a limited number of livestock hold more eco-points than farms that specialize in just one thing, such as arable farming or milk production.
The advantage: It doesn’t have to be the organic seal
Conventional farms that cultivate in an environmentally friendly way are also rewarded. Organic farmers do meet a certain basic level of points because they do without mineral fertilizers and chemical pesticides – which in principle earns many eco points. However, organic farms do not generally do well in all criteria. For example, an organic farm that specializes in milk production only achieved an average amount of eco-points in a practical test. In principle, every farmer can implement nature conservation measures, collect eco-points – and thus benefit financially.
Farms have to become more diverse again
Be it not using pesticides and mineral fertilizers or later mowing a grass-clover meadow: Measures that would earn farmers a lot of eco-points and thus the most money, often lead to lower yields.
Organic farmers, who have to comply with some nature conservation measures by law, produce up to 40 percent less than their conventional colleagues, depending on the crop, as various studies show. But what one must not forget: Agriculture is there to feed us all. So is the desire for environmentally friendly agriculture even realistic?
The Lindhof shows: It works!
Initial model projects show that organic farming can be combined with high-yield agriculture – through diversity. One example is the Lindhof, an experimental farm at the University of Kiel. The farm produces oats, wheat, and potatoes, and keeps laying hens, pigs and bees. However, he has specialized in intensive milk production.
With success: with 5654 kg of milk per cow, the cows there achieve 80 percent of the amount that average cattle produce in Schleswig Holstein. For several reasons: Instead of black Holstein cows, as we normally know them from Germany’s pastures, significantly smaller Jersey cows, weighing only 450 kilograms, graze on the Lindhof – one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world. Your advantage: Most of the food that comes from the farm’s pastures is sufficient for you: clover, alfalfa, and legumes.
The animals only produce so little manure that it can be used completely to fertilize their fields – mineral fertilizer is neither necessary nor are there any surpluses that pollute the soil with nitrate. In this way, the Lindhof manages to reduce the nitrogen surplus in the soil, which in the long term could pollute the groundwater, by around 75 percent.
Selena is a blogger and a guest contributor for a well-known brand that includes MESHEBLE & INTHEMARKET. In her leisure time, she plays tennis.