About 50 percent of Germany’s area is used for agriculture. Fields, meadows and pastures, orchards and vineyards therefore constitute an essential part of our environment. What are the impacts on soil, water, air, climate and biodiversity? What are the ecological and economic outcomes of changes in farming systems? The aim of our research work is to provide comprehensive and spatially differentiated assessment of the consequences associated with the cultivation of crops. Aspects of resource efficiency, protection and conservation of biodiversity as well as ecosystem services are considered alongside the efficiency and practicability of different scenarios or management options.
The key bases for our evaluation of environmental impacts are indicators developed by the Institute to rate environmental tolerance and sustainability of plant protection and farming strategies. Some examples are SYNOPS (Assessment of the risk potential of chemical plant protection products, SYNOPS), the farmland bird indicator, the CO2 footprint and other Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based indicators. We obtain the underlying data from our own experiments (see also Long-term field trials), surveys on farms (reference farms and demonstration farms), regular census of bird species in agricultural landscapes, wildflowers, pests and beneficial organisms. Both the favourable and undesirable effects of agricultural activities are qualitatively and (where possible) quantitatively analyzed.
With the help of cost-benefit analysis or other suitable methods at farm or societal level, we also perform economic assessment of the identified effects.
Particular emphasis is placed on the impact assessments related to plant protection measures. A recent example is the impact assessment carried out in 2015 towards abandoning glyphosate-containing herbicides.