There doesn't seem to be a single road at the moment without a rough tractor on it. The tires almost reach the size of a car. The little bulldogs that farmers used to chug to their fields seem to have disappeared. A visible sign of change in the agricultural industry: while some farmers are constantly growing and expanding their fleets, more and more farms are standing empty and the number of full-time farmers is decreasing. Hermann greif from pinzberg, district chairman of the bavarian farmers' association (BBV), puts it in a nutshell: "the medium-sized and small farms are listening." frustration with bureaucracy and the change of generations, he sees as reasons for the abandonment of more and more farms.
Example of pig farming: "decades ago, there were still pigs on every farm. Now there are only a few farms and some lovers", greif describes the situation in the district of forchheim. At this auberen picture also the end consumer can recognize the change. And at the landscape that will eventually be created by agriculture.
A look back
Hermann Greif still remembers well the fodder and sugar pits that used to be grown to feed the cattle. These fodder pits were very productive, but had to be stored in the cellar. "The silage technique was unknown at the time", explains greif, who is also the district president of the BBV in upper franconia. Grass and corn replace the forage pit, which on top of that was very labor-intensive as a root crop.
The landscape is increasingly dominated by corn. Since 2008, its acreage has increased from 2322 to 3277 hectares in the county (see graph). The corn thus replaced the winter wheat as the dominant crop. However, the county chairman warns against demonizing corn. The optics finally change. "The corn stands out because it is becoming very coarse. But only about 20 percent of the acreage is corn", explains greif. Corn was already cultivated in the past, when dairy farmers used this silage corn as fodder. Because there are fewer cattle and fewer dairy cows, this acreage is compensated by corn for the biogas plants. The plant has increased the cultivation of corn by only a few percent.
Heinz Marquart is concerned
But especially the biogas plant and the change in agriculture are not uncontroversial. "I see the development as worrying", says heinz marquart. The CSU environmental politician questions the farmers' working techniques in particular: "if you drive through the meadow with a beam mower, deer and hares can still survive." but when rotary mowers with a width of 16 meters are used, no animal has a chance to survive any longer.
He is therefore giving serious thought to the possibility of managing the meadows in a more animal-friendly way. Not just because the meadow can become a death trap for animals. The dead parts of the corpses also entered the biogas plants. Botulinum toxin, one of the most potent poisons known to man, can be released in this way. "1.5 grams can kill 10 million people", says marquart. Groundwater and surface water are also threatened by it. He also criticizes that the biogas plants are often not operated properly and that there is no tuv like in cars. In the end, the operators of the lines relied only on the farmers.
Counteracting with greening
Preserving tillage and thus maintaining biodiversity is the highest good, which is why he seeks dialogue with farmers. Marquart points to a decline of over 50 percent in all bird species over the past 20 years. "It's not all down to agriculture", stresses the environmental activist. He also mentions traffic or wind turbines as reasons. With "greening they are now trying to counteract this, says marquart.
Greening – the idea of returning agriculturally used land to nature – but again calls for bureaucracy and also contributes to a change in field cultivation. Strengthened by this agricultural policy, protein crops such as soybeans, field beans, peas and, above all, alfalfa were now added to the range. Rapeseed, which was often grown a few years ago, is more likely to decline. Stagnating prices and the taxation of biodiesel are probably the reasons for this.
Invest or give up?
Rapeseed is simply the protein feed for the animals and replaces the soybean meal from brazil, explains greif. The striking changes make one or the other scion of a farm think whether to invest or simply give up. In addition to abandoned villages, change is also creating frustration – on the part of farmers and on the part of nature and animal conservationists.