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Modernised agricultural technology and species conservation: working group meets for the first time

Since December 2021, the IfLS, together with the DLR Project Management Agency, the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy (ATB) and the freelance biologist Ulrich Sander, has been involved in a BfN-funded research and development project on "Species conservation in the light of modernised agricultural technologies".  By means of extensive literature and internet research, current, developing and future technologies on arable land and (potential) impacts on selected species of wild fauna are to be determined. The goal is a catalogue of possible avoidance measures.

On 8 February 2022, the Project Advisory Working Group (PAG) met online for the first time. It is composed of people with expertise in agricultural technology as well as those with knowledge of species. The PAG focused on ATB's research results on the systematisation of agricultural techniques for arable farming (subdivided according to the categories of soil cultivation/seeding; plant protection, fertilisation, irrigation and harvesting). With regard to "modernised arable farming techniques", the result basically shows developments in two directions. On the one hand, there is a trend towards ever larger machines and, on the other hand, a trend towards small robots (swarms). Special cultivation techniques for paludiculture, agroforestry, organic farming and short rotation plantations were also researched. In the discussion, the experts suggested that the framework conditions and drivers for the developments should also be considered.

An external contribution came from Prof. Bellingrath-Kimura from the DigiAgrar project on the opportunities and risks of digitalisation in agriculture. Accordingly, digitalisation has the potential to support an ecological transformation of agriculture. However, while increased yields and savings in inputs play an important role in the use of these technologies, biodiversity protection and wildlife rescue have so far been of little relevance.

Not much is known about the impacts of modernised agricultural techniques on biodiversity and species conservation. The invited experts were therefore asked to pass on further project and literature recommendations to the project team.

Contact persons at IfLS: Heike Nitsch and Jörg Schramek