Agricultural and horticultural production is dependent on environmental factors, such as soil characteristics, weather conditions or the occurrence of pests and diseases, and thereby exposed to various risks. Environmental conditions or field characteristics (e.g. high density of surface waters, extreme weather events, soil and landscape characteristics) can - at specific times or in specific areas (hot spots) - result in increased environmental and production risks.
The "Model for synoptic evaluation of the risk potential of chemical plant protection products" (SYNOPS) developed at our Institute estimates environmental risk from the use of plant protection products. Taking into account site-specific conditions, risks for aquatic organisms in surface waters and for terrestrial organisms in soil and edge-of-field biotopes are calculated. The model is used in the framework of the National Action Plan on Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products (NAP) as an indicator to monitor the development of the potential risk to the natural environment in Germany. It can also be used to identify areas of high environmental risk (hot spots). This is essential in order to develop and implement targeted risk mitigation measures. The effectiveness of the establishment of riparian zones, changes in crop rotation, use of special production methods and techniques or alternate choice of plant protection product can be analysed and reviewed with SYNOPS.
Risks due to climate change, particularly the expected increase in extreme weather events such as heavy rain, hail, high temperatures and drought are other areas of focus of our research. We analyse meteorological data in relation to crop-specific thresholds and information on damage to estimate the risk to agriculture from regional to local level.