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Ökologischer Betrieb
© BLE, Bonn/Thomas Stephan
Ökologischer Betrieb
Institute of

BW Farm Economics

Environmental and Climate Protection, Sustainability

In addition to the production of food and agricultural raw materials, agriculture is essential in providing environmental public goods for the benefit of rural areas and society.

The intensive forms of farming that are common in agriculture are often held responsible for the decline in biodiversity and species diversity in agricultural landscapes. The contribution of agriculture to global greenhouse gas emissions and the nutrient pollution it causes also require changes in the management of agricultural land and farm management.

Diverse agricultural landscapes are of great economic relevance for agricultural operations, but are also species-rich habitats and of increasing importance for society. Through the use of agricultural and environmental measures, agricultural landscapes can also represent valuable habitats. Agriculture is both contributing to, and affected by climate change. Many production methods that prevail in Germany are comparatively climate-efficient, but additional reduction measures are necessary to meet national climate targets.

In order to achieve these (sometimes competing) goals, the efficiency of the use of resources and agricultural land has to be improved. This, in turn, places the focus on the question how to foster sustainable land use. How can we achieve this important goal of sustainability in agriculture without losing the competitiveness on the markets? How can the protection of the environment play a greater role in operational decisions of farmers  and value chain actors? And how can agricultural and environmental policies contribute to this?

As part of our research, we examine the questions of policy design and analyze consequences of agri- environmental policy instruments for individual farms and for the profitability of particularly environmental friendly and sustainable farming systems. By using economic modeling we examine the effects on agriculture and the environment in Germany, at European and global level. In order to identify relationships between landscape elements and agricultural management practices, we are working in collaboration with other research institutes and stakeholder groups. In addition, we address the question of how the effects of agri-environmental policy instruments in the agricultural sector could be better evaluated and how their cost-effectiveness could be increased from an agri-environmental policy perspective. We evaluate climate protection and adaption measures with regard to their reduction potential and their economic costs at farm level. In order to strengthen sustainability in agriculture, we are investigating how sustainable, resource-saving production can be determined and which processes and measures can be used.

Organic farming is considered to be particularly sustainable and is a separate area of work at the Thünen Institute.

Organic farming at the Institute of Farm Economics

The topic of organic farming at the Thünen Institute

Thünen Institute for Organic Farming in Trenthorst

Ongoing Projects

Brightspace

The European Green Deal, aims, among others, to increase the contribution of EU agriculture to climate change action, improve the management of natural resources, ensure a fair economic return for farmers, and reinforce the protection of biodiversity. EU agriculture and food practices are currently not on the right track to meet the Green Deal ambitions and objectives. These objectives are interdependent, and while often aligned, they may also compete. Synergies and trade-offs between socio-economic and environmental outcomes are brought together in the concept of a Safe and Just Operating ...

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Brightspace

Copernicus lights green

Land consumption and intensification of use exert high pressure on grassland areas. Recording and assessing the condition and distribution of protected grassland and grassland worthy of protection requires a great deal of effort. In the future, satellite data should support official monitoring with area-wide services.

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Copernicus lights green

Earth observation and artificial intelligence for monitoring of organic farming

By 2030, the share of organic farming in Germany aims to be expanded to 30% of agricultural land. Satellite data can help to show cultivated areas and differences in management practices between organic and conventional farming.

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Earth observation and artificial intelligence for monitoring of organic farming

F.R.A.N.Z. - Future Resources, Agriculture & Nature Conservation

The joint project F.R.A.N.Z. develops and tests practically and economically sustainable measures for more biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. The accompanying research addresses ecological and socio-economic questions.

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F.R.A.N.Z. - Future Resources, Agriculture & Nature Conservation

F.R.A.N.Z. - Future-oriented resource use, agronomy and nature conservation

F.R.A.N.Z. has set itself the target to develop and test measures to preserve and increase biodiversity in agricultural landscape.

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F.R.A.N.Z. - Future-oriented resource use, agronomy and nature conservation

Facilitating insects in agricultural landscapes through renewable resources

Intensive agriculture is considered as a major cause of the decline of insect diversity and biomass in Germany. Within the frame of the national action programme for the conservation of insects, FInAL will therefore establish Landscape Laboratories in representative agricultural landscapes of Germany where we will develop, demonstrate and evaluate innovative measures for facilitating insects through integrated cultivation of renewable resources in a landscape context.

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Facilitating insects in agricultural landscapes through renewable resources

GHG mitigation in cattle farming - how much is possible where?

Cattle farming for meat production is an important global cause of greenhouse gases in agriculture. However, sources, reduction potential and associated costs vary considerably. We compare across countries.

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GHG mitigation in cattle farming - how much is possible where?

Greenhouse gas mitigation on dairy farms - where to start - and how expensive will it be?

Identification and evaluation of suitable GHG mitigation measures for German dairy production. Which measures can sustainably reduce GHG emissions on dairy farms in Germany? How high is their abatement potential in different farm types and what costs are associated with their implementation? What are the barriers to implementation in practice? Answers to these questions should help to reduce greenhouse gases from milk production in a cost-efficient way.

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Greenhouse gas mitigation on dairy farms - where to start - and how expensive will it be?

HotSpots Erosion

Soil erosion by water is the major threat to agricultural soils in Europe and in the long term threatens yields and food security. The risk of soil erosion varies widely within Germany and depends not only on natural factors but also on the farming practices. For better soil protection, we want to identify erosion Hot Spots in Germany by predicting the soil erosion risk using models.

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HotSpots Erosion

Housing and husbandry systems of the future

None of today's widespread systems in use are convincing in all parameters. There are major differences between the systems in terms of animal welfare, re-source efficiency, production costs and profitability. Digitalisation can help to improve existing processes or to develop completely new systems. The project "Stable and housing systems of the future" is an in-house project for the development of innovative, automated and sustainable stable systems in livestock farming.

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Housing and husbandry systems of the future

HumusKlimaNetz

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, which is why agriculture also has a responsibility to become more climate-friendly. One option is to keep soil organic carbon stocks in the soil and increase them if possible. We are investigating the climate impact and economic efficiency of SOC measures on 150 conventional and ecological farms. The HumusKlimaNetz is set up by the German Farmers' Association (DBV) and the Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (BÖLW).

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HumusKlimaNetz

InnoRind

Wie sieht die zukunftsfähige Rinderhaltung in Deutschland unter Berücksichtigung von Tierwohl, Umweltwirkungen und gesellschaftlicher Akzeptanz aus? Welche Änderungen lassen sich in der Aufzucht von Kälbern und auch in der Haltung von Mast- und Milchrindern umsetzen? Antworten auf diese Fragen sollen neun Beispielbetriebe im Rahmen des Projektes InnoRind liefern. 

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InnoRind

LAMASUS - Modellierung von Landnutzung und -management für eine nachhaltige Steuerung

LAMASUS - LAnd use and MAnagement modelling for SUStainable governance

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LAMASUS - Modellierung von Landnutzung und -management für eine nachhaltige Steuerung

Monitoring biological diversity in agricultural landscapes with remote sensing

A long-term monitoring of biological diversity at national level requires a representative data basis about the state and development of agricultural landscape. To achieve this, the project MonViFE develops spatially explicit indicators of landscape structure and land-use intensity.

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Monitoring biological diversity in agricultural landscapes with remote sensing

Monitoring of farmland biodiversity in Germany

Far reaching changes in production systems and in farm management have led to a decline in farmland biodiversity. To counteract this decline, a national database is needed that allows conclusions to be drawn about cause-effect relationships.

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Monitoring of farmland biodiversity in Germany

Pig husbandry of the future

How should pigs be kept in the future? We compare different housing systems in piglet production and pig fattening from different perspectives and aim at identifying housing systems for the future.

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Pig husbandry of the future

QM-Dairy Sustainability Tool

The QM-Dairy Sustainability Tool 2.0. is used to collect data on the sustainability of milk production throughout Germany. About 30 dairies are participating.

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QM-Dairy Sustainability Tool

Remote sensing for improved climate reporting (KlimaFern)

Land use and agricultural measures are essential domains for achieving climate protection targets. Satellite data will be used to monitor agricultural land use over a wide area and to improve the data basis for reporting.

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Remote sensing for improved climate reporting (KlimaFern)

Renewable resources - economically analyzed

Politics are supporting renewable resources for the provision of bioenergy or for the material use. However, the question arises whether this is the right way: consumers complain about increasing electricity prices, environmentalists about the ploughing of grassland and farmers about increasing land rents. Therefore, we analyze how the political support of renewable resources can be optimized.

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Renewable resources - economically analyzed

Roadmap for the rewetting of organic soils in Germany

How can the agreed German climate mitigation goals concerning peatland protection be achieved? Which options for using organic soils are economically viable for landowners and farmers in the long term? These are just two examples of the questions that are being addressed by four Thünen Institutes in the interdisciplinary project RoVer.

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Roadmap for the rewetting of organic soils in Germany

ToPGa - Entwicklung und Bewertung von torfreduzierten Produktionssystemen im Gartenbau

Die Sparten des Gartenbaus benötigen Lösungen, um den ökologisch notwendigen Umstieg auf torfreduzierte Substrate zu meistern. Im Fokus des ToPGa-Projektes steht das Ziel, die Wirkungen des Einsatzes torfreduzierter Substrate möglichst ganzheitlich zu untersuchen und zu bewerten.

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ToPGa - Entwicklung und Bewertung von torfreduzierten Produktionssystemen im Gartenbau

Finished Projects

ALL-Ready - The European Agroecology Living Lab and Research Infrastructure Network: Preparation phase

Paving the way for agroecology in Europe

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ALL-Ready - The European Agroecology Living Lab and Research Infrastructure Network: Preparation phase

Can sustainable production of beef, palm oil and soy bean be profitable?

The production of beef, palmoil and soybean competes on land which has been covered by rainforest and other natural vegetation.

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Can sustainable production of beef, palm oil and soy bean be profitable?

Common Agricultural Policy from the rural point of view: the CAPRI-RD model

Policy measures to promote rural areas like village renewal or promotion of young farmers do not only impact agricultural holdings but also other economic sectors, e.g. tourism, food processing or education. For responsible handling of tax payers’ money, it is important to know if the policy measure is adequately targeted. It is especially challenging to consider the interactions between the different economic sectors, merely because of the great number of different funding programs. The aim of this project is to solve this task and to quantify the impacts of promoting the rural areas.

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Common Agricultural Policy from the rural point of view: the CAPRI-RD model

Costs and benefits of improved nutrient management strategies in organic vegetable production

Sustainable nutrient management is a challenge also in organic agriculture. Scarcity of resources and increasingly restrictive legislation concerning the use of nutrients in agriculture are challenges for both conventional and organic vegetable production.

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Costs and benefits of improved nutrient management strategies in organic vegetable production

Costs of mitigating greenhouse gas emssiones in in crop and beef production

Crop and cattle production contribute to the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. What are the economic impacts of GHG-mitigation in agricultural farms?

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Costs of mitigating greenhouse gas emssiones in in crop and beef production

Digital organic control - Does it work?

Organic products are strictly controlled. That is why cases of fraud become public again and again. Nevertheless, there are weak points. Are digital processes a soluation?

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Digital organic control - Does it work?

Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems

The transformation of tropical rainforest to rubber and oil palm plantations has extensive impact on nature and living conditions. Remote sensing helps us to understand the spatial-temporal patterns and drivers of those processes.

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Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems

Economic assessment of nitrogene fertilization strategies in open field vegetable production

Economic assessment of nitrogene fertilization strategies in open field vegetable production

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Economic assessment of nitrogene fertilization strategies in open field vegetable production

Environmental and animal protection - too expensive for producers?

To which extent are EU and non-EU producers affected by legal regulations and how does this impact on their competitiveness?

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Environmental and animal protection  - too expensive for producers?

Evaluation of the EU Organic Regulation

The EU regulation on organic farming defines the legal framework of organic farming in Europe and aims to contribute to a sustainable development of the sector. How effective and relevant are the current rules and where is a need for a change?

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Evaluation of the EU Organic Regulation

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Reduction Strategies in Germany: Analyses at Farm Level

What contribution can agriculture make to climate protection and what are the costs for the farms when implementing an adaptation strategy? With a model-based analysis conducted with the farm group model FARMIS, we analyse and evaluate the effects of possible greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation strategies.

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Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Reduction Strategies in Germany: Analyses at Farm Level

Integrated actions for sustainable ecosystems services in the Baltic Sea Region

Integration of social learning processes in the identification of governance configurations for innovative measures that offer multiple ecosystem service benefits in the Baltic Sea Region.

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Integrated actions for sustainable ecosystems services in the Baltic Sea Region

International competitiveness of organic arable farming in Germany

The demand for organically produced cereals, as well as organically produced oilseeds and legumes, has increased steadily in Germany in the past years.

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International competitiveness of organic arable farming in Germany

Monitoring of climate-impacting measures in crop and grassland management with satellite data

With 66.4 million tons of CO2 equivalents, agriculture was responsible for 9 % of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany in 2020. Adaptations in farm management can reduce these emissions. Area-wide data on such adaptation measures will be derived from high-resolution satellite data.

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Monitoring of climate-impacting measures in crop and grassland management with satellite data

Nutri2Cycle - Nurturing the Circular Economy

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Nutri2Cycle - Nurturing the Circular Economy

Public services of organic agriculture for the environment and society

Is organic farming good for the environment and animal welfare? This question is a constant source of controversy. Reason enough to take time for a detailed analysis and to investigate the current state of knowledge.

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Public services of organic agriculture for the environment and society

Reduction of peat use in Germany (MITODE)

Thünen-JKI joint project: Possibilities and effects of reducing the use of peat in horticulture in Germany. Sub-project economic evaluation on farm level.

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Reduction of peat use in Germany (MITODE)

Remuneration for the environmental benefits of organic farming

Lower nitrogen burdens in water courses, reduced resource use, more biodiversity in farmed landscapes – organic farming delivers many benefits for society. But organic farms are not rewarded appropriately for their services. What needs to change?

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Remuneration for the environmental benefits of organic farming

SHERPA - Sustainable Hub to Engage into Rural Policies with Actors

Strengthening the science-society-policy dialogue for the formulation of rural policies and research agendas at European and regional levels.

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SHERPA - Sustainable Hub to Engage into Rural Policies with Actors

Sustainable milk production in Lower Saxony

How sustainable is milk production in Lower Saxony, and what does the term "sustainable" actually mean? Which aspects need to be considered in order to make a statement about sustainability in milk production? And how could a first inventory be conducted so as to make first statements on sustainability aspects in milk production in Lower Saxony, considering a passable effort for all actors?

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Sustainable milk production in Lower Saxony

Targeted schemes for increasing agrobiodiversity

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Targeted schemes for increasing agrobiodiversity

TRUSTEE Task „Validation of the implementation logic of RD-measures and the Baseline in the CAPRI model“

To quantify the impact of policy measures for rural development, the development of the pan European model „Common Agricultural Policy Regionalised Impact - The Rural Development Dimension“ (CAPRI-RD) was the first important step. During the development process it became clear that measures to promote the rural area can only be modelled successfully, if national experts validate them continuously. In the TRUSTEE project, national experts come together to further continue this procedure.

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TRUSTEE Task „Validation of the implementation logic of RD-measures and the Baseline in the CAPRI model“

UNISECO - Understanding and Improving the Sustainability of Agro-ecological Farming Systems in the EU

Strengthen the sustainability of EU farming systems, through co-constructing improved and practice-validated strategies and incentives for the promotion of improved agro-ecological approaches.

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UNISECO - Understanding and Improving the Sustainability of Agro-ecological Farming Systems in the EU

What are the impacts of the EU rural development programmes on the environment? New methods for environmental evaluation

How can the provision of public goods such as biodiversity be effectively supported through the Common Agricultural Policy? This is one of the core questions in political and scientific debates of the future Common Agricultural Policy in the EU. To be able to answer this question requires the establishment of robust causal linkages between support measures and the desired environmental impacts and consistent methodological frameworks to assess environmental impacts across different scales and levels.

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What are the impacts of the EU rural development programmes on the environment? New methods for environmental evaluation

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