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Damianshof in Germany – Generations of Clean Fields

About

  • Date

    09 Juni, 2017

About

Date

09 June, 2017

An arable farm in Germany’s Rhineland; family owned since 1845; clean fields for decades: with integrated weed management practiced at Damianshof farm for generations, herbicide-resistant weeds are practically non-existent.
Bernd Olligs (48) is the sixth generation of farmers to work at Damianshof in the fertile Rhineland. His two sons, Philip (15) and Justus (12), are already very much involved in tending to the farm: “And when one of them takes over, he’ll also get to know my everyday worries as well,” Olligs says with a smile. For example, more frequent extreme weather due to climate change. Over 200 l/m2 of rain fell between 20 May and 20 June 2016, resulting in yield losses of up to 30% in barley and up to 50% in wheat.

Bernd Olligs knows he can’t influence the weather, but he can control weeds. And on his farm there has traditionally been a zero-tolerance attitude to weeds, as Bernd recalls: “When I was a kid, my siblings and I would be out hoeing the sugarbeet fields to get rid of the weeds. Round here there were always folks who’d let you know if your fields weren’t clean!” Such sensitivity about weeds is also based on the bad experiences of earlier generations. After a wet May in 1955, for example, Bernd’s grandfather had to plow in around 30% of the sugar beet acreage and sow clover-grass to save at least some of the harvest. When Bernd switched from mixed farming (pig production and cereals) to arable farming in the early 2000s, he had yet another reason to give integrated weed management a top priority

With its good rootability and high moisture-holding capacity, the farm’s extremely fertile loess-clay soil is the basis for high yields – for example, 11.5 t/ha of wheat in a fivefold crop rotation of sugar beet, winter wheat, potatoes, winter barley and winter oilseed rape. Crop rotation is not only vital in preserving the fertility of the soil, it also proves advantageous in controlling weeds because herbicides from different active substance groups are applied to the respective crops. “The mix is what matters, and crop rotation is at the heart of our battle against weeds,” says Bernd.
The low level of weed infestation at this farm is partly due to the excellent soil, which Bernd sees as “a decisive factor in our battle against resistance”. But he also does a great deal to ensure the silt-rich loess soil maintains its fertility. To preserve a favorable humus balance, cereal straw is left on the fields as post-harvest mulch before being plowed under. And once during the crop rotation cycle Bernd uses mushroom compost as fertilizer to increase the humus content of the soil.

Modest as he is, Bernd emphasizes the favorable role played by his soil. But Hans-Peter Naunheim, product manager for cereal herbicides at Bayer in Germany, knows of another key factor: “Bernd’s know-how plays a vital role in his high yields and very good record in tackling weeds.” The fact that Bernd switches between winter and summer crops and avoids early sowing times has a positive effect. “We need summer and winter sowing to control both weeds and weed resistance. Our 50/50 split between spring and autumn crops automatically brings us effective resistance management because the weeds are different in each crop,” Bernd points out.
Another decisive factor is Bernd’s strict adherence to the principle of using a different mode of action for each crop: “We spotted fat hen resistance in a couple of places and have now switched to a different mode of action to tackle that.” Last but not least, Bernd knows from his own experience how important manual hoeing is as a supplemental tool in removing any residual weeds and starving out the weed seed bank. Nowadays, the family farm also employs seasonal labor for that job. To effectively control weeds in the future Bernd has one specific wish: “We farmers need innovative agrochemical companies that discover new herbicidal active substances so we can continue switching.”

Bernd Olligs’ farm is part of the Bayer ForwardFarming network where state-of-the-art best practices promote biodiversity, water quality management and operator protection. Learn more about how to combine productivity and sustainability: www.bayerforwardfarming.com.

About

Date

09 June, 2017

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