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The Ehrensberg farm

At the remote Ehrensberg, HiPP tries out environmental measures for improving biodiversity.

The aim is to work this organic farm in a sustainable and effective way until 2015 as a model business. In the future it is intended as a model for HiPP producers.

We want to show how sustainability and protection of biodiversity can be incorporated into a farm’s daily routine.

The aim is to work this model business in a sustainable and effective way.

In the future it is intended as a model for HiPP producers.

Old breeds, such as Original Braunvieh cattle (only 500 left in Bavaria), provide genetic diversity

Organic straw, rock flour, solid manure fertilizer and other natural methods improve the soil’s fertility

New habitats are created with woodland pastures, rows of trees, hedges for protection of wild animals (e.g. for the endangered red-backed shrike), deadwood hedges, rootstocks and flowering strips at the edges of fields and in meadows

Cultivated land plan and collection of scientific data

The natural determining factors for the location of farms and farmland produce concrete suggestions for the improvement of species diversity and nature conservation. On this project we are working together with Bioland, Munich Technical University and Hanover Technical University, as well as the Bavarian Council for Bird Protection.

Old breeds on the farm

In order to increase species diversity, rare old breeds have found a home on the farm: original Braunvieh cattle, of which there are only 500 animals left in Bavaria, Skudde sheep (currently 1000 animals in Germany) and the old chicken breed Appenzeller Spitzhauben.

Skudde sheep
Appenzeller Spitzhaube chickens
Original Braunvieh cattle
Original Braunvieh cattle

According to the Red List of threatened farm animals, the original Braunvieh cattle are “very endangered”. On the Ehrensberg farm, HiPP’s model project for sustainable farming, this breed is kept appropriate to its species. The original Braunvieh cattle descended from the so-called Torfrind cattle, which were grazing by the lakes on the edge of the Alps well over 2,000 years ago.

Yellow-bellied toad
Yellow-bellied toad
Yellow-bellied toad
 

Together with the Bavarian Council for Bird Protection (LBV), the Ehrensberg farm has carried out various reintroduction projects to re-settle animals such as pheasants, barn owls, the yellow-bellied toad and the minnow.

The rare red-backed shrike is an important hedgerow bird for an intact ecosystem
The rare red-backed shrike is an important hedgerow bird for an intact ecosystem
The rare red-backed shrike is an important hedgerow bird for an intact ecosystem
 

The red-backed shrike is an important species for an intact ecosystem. Due to intensive farming there are fewer hedges and bushes as a natural habitat for birds. It already belongs on the endangered species list. This rare bird is best known for spearing its victims on thorns. According to popular belief, it always collects nine insects before eating them. HiPP has created new habitats for the red-backed shrike on the Ehrensberg farm and as apprentice initiatives has set up deadwood hedges (branches and twigs) at the edges of fields.

An insect hotel and a sand lizard shelter are designed to compensate for the lack of natural homes for these animals. Nesting boxes were also distributed around the farm, because there is a lack of natural holes for owls, starlings, house martins, sparrows, tits, falcons and bats.

These nesting boxes made out of natural logs should provide kestrels or tawny owls with a breeding place. These days, unfortunately, it is usual to clear deadwood (natural nesting spots for many birds) out of forests. This is why the nesting boxes are offered as an alternative.

Many people could live without honey, but not without bees. The insects not only deliver sweet spread for bread but above all pollinate flowers. In doing so, they secure the existence of plants and ensure good crops for the farmers. Without these animals, the fruit harvest would be in danger. When bees die or are ill, it affects us all. This is why HiPP is also involved in the preservation of natural habitats for bees with biodiversity projects. The Ehrensberg farm is now also home to six bee colonies, established as a reaction to the dramatic collapse of bee populations.

New ecosystems such as rows of trees, protective hedgerows (e.g. for the red-backed shrike), deadwood hedges, rootstocks and flowering strips at the edges of fields and in the meadows were created to offer habitats to reptiles, birds, small mammals and insects. The principle of deadwood hedges is not to create new hedges by planting them, but to let them be created by wind and seed flight. Branches, twigs and sticks are piled up as a loose wall, which also provides protection for growing plants. The advantages of such constructions are, one the one hand, the low construction costs and, on the other hand, the loosely piled deadwood offers a home to numerous rare species.

In conventional farming, the fields and meadows are planted right up to the edge of the forests, for more yield. To support biodiversity and sustainability, we plant wild hedgerows with deadwood and native wild flowers. These provide the animals with a place to live, offer the cattle protection from the wind and reduce soil erosion.

Three elements of sustainable farming on the Ehrensberg farm:

an ancient breed on the pasture, the edge of the field planted with deadwood and a natural shelter for the animals in a European beech forest.

Concerning the improvement of soil fertility, different methods have been tried out in the model project, for example using rock flour to bind ammonia, solid manure fertilization and other natural methods. Also, measures to support animal health, such as using effective micro-organisms or organic straw as litter, are used.

Many impacts affect the soil quality, especially in farming.

  1. Overdevelopment
  2. Chemical stress from industry and farming with long-term consequences on the health and performance capability of the soil.
  3. Physical stress from improper treatment (heavy machinery and tillage implements which destroy the sensitive soil complexes, leading to chemicals being needed to maintain yield).
  4. Working at wrong times.
  5. Loss of organic substance and thus of performance capability through the use of the wrong fertilisers, wrong crop rotation and wrong soil treatment.
  6. Impairment of groundwater through the wrong use of land.

The principle:
“Healthy soil – healthy plant – healthy person and healthy animal” is the motto, just as much as the principle of sustainability which is important for the preservation of healthy soil; sustainability in the balance of energy is key.

Good to know

  • Good organic soil can absorb and store 150l of water a day.
  • 56% of soil in the EU is lifeless.
  • Good organic soil can store 575-700 kg of CO2 per year and ha.
  • Earthworms are very important for the soil, they loosen it and fertilise it with organic substance (humus) which they excrete. In organic farmland, there are 200 – 500 earthworms per m², in conventional farmland 16 – 18 earthworms per m².
  • In soil with 230 earthworms per m², that means 2.5t earthworms per ha.
  • Soil with 600 earthworms per m² can produce 80t of humus a year and ha (best case).
  • Earthworm tunnels go down 2m deep in the soil. A worm lives approx. 10 years in a tunnel, if it is left in peace, and the tunnels remain another 10 years and are used by other insects and roots.

Further HiPP businesses for biodiversity

The “model business for biodiversity” pays special attention to farming and the possibilities of improving biodiversity within this framework. HiPP employees already have first experience of this project, as do school children, students and other interested groups, as HiPP offers regular tours of the farm to make the subject quite literally ‘tangible’.

Support of the German Federal Foundation for Environment (DBU)

Due to the good results and positive experiences with this project, we have decided to expand the experiment to vegetable and grain cultivation. Together with other companies from the Association of Ecological Food Manufacturers (AöL), HiPP will examine methods for the preservation of biodiversity in farming on more farms until 2016.

Approach and objective

The task at hand is to develop a system for the recording and assessment of biodiversity, and to work with the results in such a way that these can be credibly and transparently passed on through food businesses. While the functions of the species and populations that are important for farm production should be taken into account (“management based biodiversity”), attention should be paid to the preservation of species and biotope diversity which is important for nature protection (“nature protection biodiversity”).

Together with AöL, Munich Technical University, Leibniz University of Hannover, and the partner businesses, we are investigating the effects of farming on biodiversity within the value chain of ecological foodstuffs. Practical steps will be worked out on how improvements can be made. In the long term, we can provide pragmatic tips to HiPP producers for cost-effective measures for the preservation of biodiversity and thus increase the number of especially biodiversity-friendly producers.

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