Nearly half of the territory of Germany, 16.7 million hectares, is farmed. Another 11 million hectares are covered with forests. The diversity of soils ranges from nutrient-poor grassland to the very fertile black earth. Similar diversity is found among the grown crops and their distinctive needs. Farming systems can be classified according to various criteria. The JKI focuses mainly on the criteria of crop production and crop protection. The key word in this context is plant protection, whether in an integrated or in an organic farming system. One of our aims is to enrich rotation systems, for instance, by extending the suitable crop choice. Another approach is to grow quite diverse plant species closely side by side, as done in agro-forestry systems. Other studies are investigating permanent crops, special crops (grapevine and fruit) or the grassland use. The long-term objective is to make optimal use of farmland, to preserve the fertility of our soils in the long run and to enhance biodiversity in agriculture.
Besides the extensively grown and therefore economically significant cereals such as wheat, barley, maize or rape, we are also dealing with many minor crops. These include lupine and other protein crops, millet (sorghum) and China grass (Miscanthus) in arable farming, but also vegetables, fruits, grapevine, medicinal and aromatic plants. The emphasis of JKI research here is very much on plant protection strategies, crop rotation systems and alternative farming systems.
We are also an important stakeholder of the National Action Plan on Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products, abbreviated to NAP (see Knowledge Portals below). The focus of NAP is to reduce to a minimum risks that can emerge through the use of plant protection products. For instance, a range of demonstration farms are putting the latest findings into practice, which helps to demonstrate that reduced application of pesticides is not contradictory to profitable farming. Since 1995, a long-term trial has been running to investigate the effects on weeds and pathogens in crop plants under conditions of constantly keeping the application rate lower than the current standard. More information is available when selecting the topic of Plant Protection.
The JKI investigates the long-term effect of crop rotation, nutrient uptake or fertilization. This approach also encompasses considerations such as water availability, soil aeration and nutrient balance. More information is available when selecting the topics of Soil and Plant Nutrition or Climate Change.
Our focus in key words: