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09/08/2023 | Campus-Meldung

Real laboratories for the agricultural turnaround

How can practical research advance the agricultural turnaround? Representatives of a Hesse-Brandenburg research initiative discussed this in Berlin. Prof. Dr. Michael Wachendorf, Head of the Department of Grassland Science and Renewable Resources and Vice President of the University of Kassel, is also involved in the initiative.

Image: Blafield.

The Hessian Ministry of Science and the Arts (HMWK), the Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), the University of Kassel, the Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU) and the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences (HGU) invited stakeholders from agriculture, environmental protection and nature conservation to a dialogue event at the Hessian State Representation in Berlin on September 7. The aim of the event was to discuss the opportunities and significance of greater cooperation between research, agricultural businesses, associations, politics and civil society in agricultural reallabs.

Real laboratories offer the potential to quickly establish innovative and sustainable agricultural production methods and thus drive forward the necessary agricultural turnaround. In them, research and practice can jointly develop and test new technologies, cultivation practices and business models under real conditions. Ayse Asar, State Secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Science and the Arts, opened the dialog event yesterday with a welcoming address: "In times of climate change and growing loss of biodiversity, a rethink of agriculture is essential. With a concept for the establishment of an Innovation Center for Agricultural System Transformation (IAT), which is currently in the review phase and can substantially underpin the work in Realloren, we are laying the scientific foundation for the agricultural turnaround in Hesse. Three universities - Giessen, Geisenheim and Kassel -  will cooperate closely with the Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) in Brandenburg. Research is being conducted into how viticulture can be made more sustainable and agriculture more ecological. For the first time in Germany, so-called real laboratories will be used. Here, research is not only theoretical, but is also tested and implemented in the field. There is no greater transfer between science and practice. The topic of reallaboratory research is also the focus of today's theme day. We're talking about the new format together with representatives from research, agricultural associations, and environmental and nature conservation organizations."

Accelerating innovations and conducting long-term research

Representatives from research, agricultural associations, and environmental and nature conservation organizations discussed yesterday in Berlin how reallaboratory research can contribute to more sustainable agriculture. The guests debated what opportunities and benefits this form of collaboration offers, how hurdles can be overcome and how projects can succeed. "The agri-food sector needs to develop recommendations for action to deal with climate change, biodiversity loss and the need for affordable food for a growing global population. With reallab research, relevant findings can be developed and widely implemented together with farms and extension services," said Dr. Ute Williges from the State Office of Agriculture in Hesse during the event.

Real laboratories can help bring new production systems that are more robust to climate change, while protecting the environment, into practice more quickly. Prof. Frank Ewert, Scientific Director of ZALF and Professor of Crop Production, explains their special feature compared to previous research projects: "In reallaboratory research, research can be conducted comprehensively, across individual disciplines, as well as in the long term on new cropping systems. It combines basic research with application." Prof. Michael Wachendorf, head of the Department of Grassland Science and Renewable Resources and vice president of the University of Kassel, emphasizes, "In order to equip agriculture for the effects of climate change that are already being felt, practice and science must work together closely and over the long term." Practitioner Ralf Remmert, managing director of the Priegnitzer Landschwein farm, further urged, "Agricultural transformation is a task for society as a whole - from the producer to the consumer."

Advancing the agricultural turnaround together

The hosts HMWK and ZALF represent a Hessian-Brandenburg research initiative, at its core consisting of universities and research institutions from both states. Already in November 2022, the partner organizations had invited to a parliamentary evening to explore cooperation between research and politics in reallaboratory research with representatives of all parliamentary groups in the Bundestag. Yesterday, the aim was to hear the voices of agricultural practice and environmental associations.