The department was founded in 1981 and was very influential re the further development and profile sharpening of the Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences.
FÖL researches how to increase productivity in crop production while improving ecosystem services by harnessing biological processes. Research focuses include the optimization of cropping systems (potatoes and legumes), measures to increase soil fertility including composting, root ecology and root-soil interactions, diversification of crop production e.g. through mixed cropping and agroforestry, and integration of biodiversity enhancing measures into cropping systems. In addition, inter- and transdisciplinary topics such as studies on environmental impacts of organic agriculture, especially with regard to water and nature conservation, social agriculture, as well as the assessment of the social impact of research are addressed. Furthermore, the department participates in the Praxisforschungsnetzwerk Hessen.
In teaching, the department represents the ecological arable and plant production incl. conversion to organic farming, water conservation, soil fertility and nutrient cycles, as well as beyond that also operational and inter-farm aspects of organic farming, such as integration of measures for climate and nature conservation. Lectures, seminars, tutorials, exercises, excursions and projects are offered in the various bachelor and master programs at the site.
Members of the department are represented in the self-administration of the department, the university and in various national and international bodies, such as IFOAM, ISOFAR, the Board of Trustees of the Future Foundation for Agriculture, the Supervisory Board of Forschungsring e.V., as well as advisory boards of various long-term experiments on organic farming. In addition, members of the department participate in current agricultural debates such as genetic engineering in agriculture, conventionalization of organic farming, environmental impacts of agriculture, etc.
Human and other resources
The department has three researcher positions, two TA positions and half a secretarial position, as well as a number of externally funded employees, which fluctuates depending on the project. A chemical and a microbiological laboratory as well as an experimental station are operated on the teaching and experimental farm "Hessische Staatsdomäne Frankenhausen" (320 ha mixed farm with a 100-head dairy herd with offspring). The department has the scientific management of the experimental farm and thus the responsibility for one additional scientist and two technician positions. A lectureship for organic vegetable production is affiliated with the department, as is the coordination office for biodynamic agriculture with its own teaching and research activities.