Thunen Institute of Organic Farming

Westerau, Germany

Thunen Institute of Organic Farming

Westerau, Germany
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Koesling M.,NIBIO Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research | Koesling M.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Hansen S.,Norwegian Center for Organic Agriculture | Schueler M.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming
Journal of Cleaner Production | Year: 2017

Due to the limited resources of fossil fuels and the need to mitigate climate change, energy utilisation for all human activity has to be improved. The objective of this study was to analyse the correlation between energy intensity on dairy farms and production mode, to examine the influence of machinery and buildings on energy intensity, and to find production related solutions for conventional and organic dairy farms to reduce energy intensity. Data from ten conventional and ten organic commercial dairy farms in Norway from 2010 to 2012 were used to calculate the amount of embodied energy as the sum of primary energy used for production of inputs from cradle-to-farm gates using a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach. Energy intensities of dairy farms were used to show the amount of embodied energy needed to produce the inputs per metabolizable energy in the output. Energy intensities allow to easily point out the contribution of different inputs. The results showed that organic farms produced milk and meat with lower energy intensities on average than the conventional ones. On conventional farms, the energy intensity on all inputs was 2.6 ± 0.4 (MJ MJ−1) and on organic farms it was significantly lower at 2.1 ± 0.3 (MJ MJ−1). On conventional farms, machinery and buildings contributed 18% ± 4%, on organic farms 29% ± 4% to the overall energy use. The high relative contribution of machinery and buildings to the overall energy consumption underlines the importance of considering them when developing solutions to reduce energy consumption in dairy production. For conventional and organic dairy farms, different strategies are recommend to reduce the energy intensity on all inputs. Conventional farms can reduce energy intensity by reducing the tractor weight and on most of them, it should be possible to reduce the use of nitrogen fertilisers without reducing yields. On organic dairy farms, energy intensity can be reduced by reducing embodied energy in barns and increasing yields. The embodied energy in existing barns can be reduced by a higher milk production per cow and by a longer use of the barns than the estimated lifetime. In the long run, new barns should be built with a lower amount of embodied energy. The high variation of energy intensity on all inputs from 1.6 to 3.3 (MJ MJ−1) (corresponding to the energy use of 4.5–9.3 MJ kg−1 milk) found on the 20 farms shows a potential for producing milk and meat with lower energy intensity on many farms. Based on the results, separate recommendations were provided for conventional and organic farms for reducing energy intensity. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd


Schueler M.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Paulsen H.M.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Berg W.,Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering | Prochnow A.,Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering | Prochnow A.,Humboldt University of Berlin
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2017

Purpose: This study examines the inter-annual variability of production data in an organic dairy farm and its effect on the estimation of product-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) using a detailed material flow model. It is believed that the examination of only one production year may not adequately reflect temporal representativeness and may therefore lead to unreliable results. The current study also provides a method to deal with variability when temporal representativeness cannot be ensured. Methods: All material flows related to milk production from six consecutive milk years in an organic dairy farm in northern Germany were analysed. The milk yield of the 75 to 91 cows varied between 5418 and 7102 kg energy corrected milk (ECM) per cow and year. GHG emissions were estimated using calculation guidelines from the International Dairy Federation (IDF) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Emissions were calculated in the Flow Analysis and Resource Management (FARM) model ensuring mass balances for nitrogen and phosphorous in every subsection of the model. Based on the variability of crop yields, the number of years for representative average data was calculated as well as an uncertainty when only a limited number of years was available. Results and discussion: Estimated GHG emissions varied between 0.88 and 1.09 kg CO2-eq kg−1 ECM−1 (mean, standard deviation of the mean = 0.97 and 0.07 kg CO2-eq kg−1 ECM−1). Emissions from ruminant digestion had the highest contribution (50.9 ± 2.3) percent in relation to overall product-related GHG emissions. Direct emissions from soil showed the highest coefficient of variation (36%) due to simultaneous changes in fertilization amount, crop yield and milk yield which showed no significant direct relationship. The number of years needed to be assessed for representative average yields was between 27 and 215 years for clover grass and maize silage, respectively. When performing a sensitivity analysis based on the variability of crop yields, the assessed farm showed reliable results with average data of at least 4 years. Conclusions: Temporal representativeness should be dealt with explicitly in GHG assessments for dairy farming. If the representativeness of crop yields cannot be ensured, an uncertainty bandwidth of the results based on variability of yields can provide a basis for comparing different farms or farming systems. This approach could also be extended to other variabilities in dairy farming for more reliability of results. © 2017 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg


Koesling M.,NIBIO Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research | Koesling M.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Hansen S.,Norwegian Center for Organic Agriculture | Bleken M.A.,Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Agricultural Systems | Year: 2017

Reduced N-surpluses in dairy farming is a strategy to reduce the environmental pollution from this production. This study was designed to analyse the important variables influencing nitrogen (N) surplus per hectare and per unit of N in produce for dairy farms and dairy systems across 10 certified organic and 10 conventional commercial dairy farms in Møre og Romsdal County, Norway, between 2010 and 2012. The N-surplus per hectare was calculated as N-input (net N-purchase and inputs from biological N-fixation, atmospheric deposition and free rangeland) minus N in produce (sold milk and meat gain), and the N-surplus per unit of N-produce as net N-input divided by N in produce. On average, the organic farms produced milk and meat with lower N-surplus per hectare (88 ± 25 kg N·ha− 1) than did conventional farms (220 ± 56 kg N·ha− 1). Also, the N-surplus per unit of N-produce was on average lower on organic than on conventional farms, 4.2 ± 1.2 kg N·kg N− 1 and 6.3 ± 0.9 kg N·kg N− 1, respectively. All farms included both fully-cultivated land and native grassland. N-surplus was found to be higher on the fully cultivated land than on native grassland. N-fertilizers (43%) and concentrates (30%) accounted for most of the N input on conventional farms. On organic farms, biological N-fixation and concentrates contributed to 32% and 36% of the N-input (43 ± 18 N·kg N− 1 and 48 ± 11 N·kg N− 1), respectively. An increase in N-input per hectare increased the amount of N-produce in milk and meat per hectare, but, on average for all farms, only 11% of the N-input was utilised as N-output; however, the N-surplus per unit of N in produce (delivered milk and meat gain) was not correlated to total N-input. This surplus was calculated for the dairy system, which also included the N-surplus on the off-farm area. Only 16% and 18% of this surplus on conventional and organic farms, respectively, was attributed to surplus derived from off-farm production of purchased feed and animals. Since the dairy farm area of conventional and organic farms comprised 52% and 60% of the dairy system area, respectively, it is crucial to relate production not only to dairy farm area but also to the dairy system area. On conventional dairy farms, the N-surplus per unit of N in produce decreased with increasing milk yield per cow. Organic farms tended to have lower N-surpluses than conventional farms with no correlation between the milk yield and the N-surplus. For both dairy farm and dairy system area, N-surpluses increased with increasing use of fertilizer N per hectare, biological N-fixation, imported concentrates and roughages and decreased with higher production per area. This highlights the importance of good agronomy that well utilize available nitrogen. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd


Ohm M.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Paulsen H.M.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Moos J.H.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Eichler-Lobermann B.,University of Rostock
Agronomy for Sustainable Development | Year: 2017

In organic farming, phosphorus (P) can be imported in mineral form with rock phosphate, feedstuff for livestock or suitable organic fertilizers. Many organic farmers, however, rely on biological activation of soil P reserves and tolerate P deficits, not knowing when soil reserves will be depleted. We hypothesized that under conditions of a long-term negative P budget in organic farming, the decline in readily available soil P pools would be less pronounced in dairy systems (arable land and grassland) than in stockless systems (arable land), due to higher shares of forage legumes in crop rotations, longer plant soil coverage, and manure backflow. From 2001 to 2013, we analyzed those systems on one site in North Germany. We assessed topsoil for plant-available soil P concentration [P(CAL)], mineral soil P fractions (Hedley), organic P, acid and alkaline phosphatase, and microbial activity (dehydrogenase). We measured P(CAL) each year on all fields of the crop rotations and grassland. The other soil characteristics were determined only in selected fields in 2001, 2009, and 2013. We observed that in grassland, all mineral P fractions, organic P contents, and microbial activity were considerably higher than in arable fields. On average, soil P(CAL) content decreased significantly in all systems (stockless arable −1.71, dairy arable −1.41, grassland −3.18 mg P kg−1 year−1), but the soil threshold value deemed to be sufficient for P supply (>44 mg kg−1) was preserved. The readily available inorganic P fractions (H2O-P, NaHCO3-P) were also lower in 2013 than in 2001. Our data does not support a different development in either arable system. We could show that higher shares of forage legumes and manure recycling in an organic mixed arable dairy crop rotation and grassland do not necessarily mitigate decreases of plant-available P contents in soil as compared to a stockless system. © 2017, INRA and Springer-Verlag France.


Witten S.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Bohm H.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Aulrich K.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming
Landbauforschung Volkenrode | Year: 2015

The composition of organically produced field peas and field beans as a source of valuable protein is of special interest for the planned 100 % organic feeding regulations in organic farming. For this reason, the influence of environment and variety on the contents of crude nutrients and the amino acids lysine, methionine, and cysteine were examined over three years. Laboratory analyses were conducted using NIRS. Peas contained on average 21.9 g crude protein 100 g1 dry matter with 8.0 g lysine 100 g-1, 1.0 g methionine 100 g", and 1.4 g cysteine 100 g-1. In field beans 29.6 g crude protein 100 g-1 dry matter with 6.4 g lysine 100 g-1,0.7 g methionine 100 g1, and 1.1 g cysteine 100 g1 were found. Significant differences between varieties were found for crude protein and ether extract in field peas, as well as for all components in field beans. Environmental factors and interactions also had influences on the composition of both legume species. Further-more, significantly negative correlations were found between the content of crude protein and starch (r = -0.69), sugar (r = -0.47), lysine (r = 0.76), and methionine (r = -0.51) in field beans, as well as of crude protein and starch (r = -0.79), sugar (r = -0.55), lysine (r = -0.78), methionine (r = -0.61), and cysteine (r = -0.55) in field peas. The shifts in composition were often undirected and for that reason not predictable. Hence, it is recommended to analyze every batch before formulating a diet.


Meier-Dinkel L.,University of Gottingen | Strack M.,University of Gottingen | Strack M.,isi GmbH & Co. KG | Hoinghaus K.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | And 2 more authors.
Meat Science | Year: 2016

This study investigated the acceptance of pork with varying levels boar-taint related off-flavours both, within a meat-alone (pure) and a meal context. In total, backfat samples of n = 24 animals were evaluated by a trained panel. The fat score was then related to the consumer liking of the pork chops. Repeated ANOVA of chop liking with consumer as a random factor (n = 37) and fat score as an interval predictor shows neither a main effect of context (dwithin = 0.015) nor the interactions of context with linear and quadratic coefficient of the fat score. The linear (b = − 0.20) and quadratic (b = − 0.24) coefficients of the fat score main effect demonstrate the necessity and effectiveness of sensory quality control at slaughter. The quadratic coefficient showed a distinct penalty for higher fat scores. Sensory defects detected by trained panellists may not be noticed by usually less sensitive consumers. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd


Gronle A.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Hess J.,University of Kassel | Bohm H.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming
Field Crops Research | Year: 2015

Winter peas (Pisum sativum L.) are a promising alternative to spring peas in organic farming. Intercropping winter peas and cereals may be a beneficial way to improve lodging resistance in normal-leafed and weed suppression in semi-leafless winter peas. At the same time, there is an increasing interest in a reduction in tillage intensity, e.g. shallow ploughing. A normal-leafed, coloured-flowered (cv. E.F.B. 33) and a semi-leafless, white-flowered winter pea (cv. James) were cultivated as sole crops or in intercrops with triticale (Triticosecale Wittmarck) on a loam soil under Northern German conditions during two seasons (2009/2010, 2010/2011) and compared for winter survival, lodging resistance, yield performance, grain quality and succeeding winter wheat yield. The two ploughing depths were short-term shallow ploughing to 10-12cm and continuous deep ploughing to 25-27cm. Intercropping did not improve winter survival, which depended on pre-winter development. Owing to the low lodging resistance of normal-leafed winter pea E.F.B. 33, sole cropping is not advisable. Intercropping normal-leafed winter pea E.F.B. 33 and triticale resulted in a better yield performance (2.54-3.39 td.m.ha-1) than the semi-leafless winter pea James sole (0.97-1.79 td.m.ha-1) or intercrops (2.05-2.86 td.m.ha-1). E.F.B. 33 had significantly higher grain crude protein, crude fibre and macronutrient contents, whereas the crude fat, starch and sugar content as well as the energetic feed value were higher in James. Wheat yields after E.F.B. 33 sole and intercrops were higher than after the corresponding James sole or intercrops. The biomass production, yield performance and the energetic feed value of winter pea sole and intercrops were comparable between ploughing depths or higher after shallow ploughing. Thus, E.F.B. 33-triticale intercrops provided better results than James sole or intercrops, except for the energetic feed value, and shallow ploughing was a good alternative to deep ploughing for the cultivation of winter peas. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.


Zipp K.A.,University of Kassel | Barth K.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Knierim U.,University of Kassel
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2016

In systems where dairy cows are milked and additionally suckle their calves during the first months of lactation, problems with alveolar milk ejection during machine-milking occur. As olfaction is a key sense for kin recognition and acceptance at the udder, olfactory stimulation might alleviate this challenge. In this pilot study, we investigated whether cows behaviourally respond to calf hair presented in the parlour, and whether this is affected by suckling the own calf or not. Discrimination between hair of the own calf in a thin cloth bag ('own'), hair of an alien calf ('alien') and a control cloth bag without calf hair ('no') was tested among 17 multiparous and 6 primiparous cows with free calf-contact ('contact') and 13 multiparous and 4 primiparous cows separated within 12 h after parturition from their calves ('control'). Both groups were milked twice daily in a tandem milking parlour, where they were individually tested in six consecutive milkings (trials) starting between the 12th and 20th day of lactation. Two of three olfactory stimuli were simultaneously presented. Sniffing or licking of the stimuli during the first minutes of milking (response duration in % of total observation time) and number of trials with any response (frequency of responses) were recorded. Calf hair ('own' or 'alien') elicited responses in 60% of the animals at least once, but altogether there were only overt responses in 23% of trials. Significant differences in responsiveness towards the different stimuli were found in terms of frequency of responses for all cows (n = 28 without missing data, p = 0.003). Response duration differed significantly for all responsive multiparous cows (n = 12, p = 0.049) and in tendency for all responsive heifers (n = 8, p = 0.061) and for responsive 'contact' cows and heifers (n = 11, p = 0.034). In all these cases, responses were highest for 'own', intermediate for 'alien' and lowest for 'no'. In the post hoc tests, no significant differences between 'own' and 'alien' could be detected. Despite low response rates to the presented olfactory stimuli in general, we conclude that the responsive multiparous cows and 'contact' heifers were able to perceive the presented calf odour and preferred to sniff/lick those stimuli compared to a stimulus with 'no' odour. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.


Moos J.H.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Schrader S.,Thunen Institute of Biodiversity | Paulsen H.M.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming | Rahmann G.,Thunen Institute of Organic Farming
Applied Soil Ecology | Year: 2016

Reduced tillage has several advantages over conventional tillage (CT), including the promotion of earthworm communities and the reduction of input of energy and labour. However, its application in organic farming is mainly hindered through increasing weed pressure. One way to counteract this drawback might be to introduce occasional reduced tillage (ORT), which means applying methods of reduced tillage only in combination with selected crops. Against this background we hypothesized that (i) ORT rapidly promotes biomass, abundance and species richness of earthworm communities and that (ii) ORT generates a financial surplus for farmers. Therefore, a field experiment was established for triticale (x Triticosecale) cultivation on loamy soils in Northern Germany. The influence of tillage regimes on earthworms was investigated in a non-randomized design with n = 3 fields for the ORT and CT treatment. Earthworm biomass, abundance and species richness were investigated in October 2012 and in April and October 2013. Yields were determined for the three fields under each tillage system, each field with four non-randomized replicates, before harvest in 2013. The ORT treatment consisted of two to three tillage operations prior to seeding with a maximal cultivation depth of 15 cm and without ploughing, whereas the CT treatment consisted of a ploughing depth of 25-30 cm and one to four other steps for seedbed preparation prior to seeding. In total, seven earthworm species were identified. Our data revealed that earthworm biomass was significantly reduced under CT, both four weeks and about seven months after tillage. This effect holds true for the number of earthworm individuals in autumn (four weeks after ploughing), but not for the number of earthworm individuals in spring (seven months after ploughing). Results of contribution margin analysis showed no consistent trend referring to tillage measures. Two fields, which performed well under CT, showed a financial surplus (+24% and +13%) when managed with ORT. At the same time one field, performing poorly under CT, generated financial deficits (-10%) under ORT. Overall ORT had immediate positive effects on earthworm populations. Furthermore, this management scheme might have positive effects on the economic outcomes of organic crop rotations if overall growing conditions are sufficient. Along with methods usually applied to investigate earthworm performance, we checked whether the number of surface casts could help estimate earthworm performance. It became apparent that the number of surface casts cannot be used as a general predictor of earthworm performance. The number of individuals of Lumbricus terrestris, the number of anecic individuals and the total earthworm biomass can be estimated the most reliable by counting surface casts. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.


PubMed | Thunen Institute of Organic Farming and University of Gottingen
Type: | Journal: Meat science | Year: 2016

This study investigated the acceptance of pork with varying levels boar-taint related off-flavours both, within a meat-alone (pure) and a meal context. In total, backfat samples of n=24 animals were evaluated by a trained panel. The fat score was then related to the consumer liking of the pork chops. Repeated ANOVA of chop liking with consumer as a random factor (n=37) and fat score as an interval predictor shows neither a main effect of context (dwithin=0.015) nor the interactions of context with linear and quadratic coefficient of the fat score. The linear (b=-0.20) and quadratic (b=-0.24) coefficients of the fat score main effect demonstrate the necessity and effectiveness of sensory quality control at slaughter. The quadratic coefficient showed a distinct penalty for higher fat scores. Sensory defects detected by trained panellists may not be noticed by usually less sensitive consumers.

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