Why rhonian orchard trees are so important for biodiversity

If you’re out and about in the old district of bad bruckenau these days, you’ll immediately notice them: apple trees full of red and yellow apples. In between there are occasional powerful pear trees with yellow or green fruits. The trees are scattered – singly or in small groups along roads, in meadows or along fields. "Hence the name "streuobst, as robert hildmann explains. The former manager of the castle nursery at the state spa has been working more intensively on the subject of orchards for the past two years.

"I see my commitment to scattered fruit primarily in the fact that I would like to make a contribution to the preservation of the many old varieties of fruit as a cultural asset, says hildmann. He also wanted to contribute to the preservation of biodiversity through his commitment to scattered fruit. "Every tree that is left standing or replanted pays", he emphasizes.

Fruit trees fall victim to land consolidation or tree removals

In the past, many of the trees had fallen victim to land consolidation, road construction or new building areas. From 1953 to 1974, a premium was even paid for each tree that was felled, reports hildmann. "The trees we still see today are just a remnant of the scattered orchards that were once widespread in the landscape." this had experienced its rough bleeding time from 1800 to 1950.

But the topic of orchards is experiencing a new lease of life: "today, people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of these fruit trees, which dominate the landscape and are particularly valuable for many species of flora and fauna", says hildmann and refers to the bavarian state institute for agriculture, the many horticultural associations and also the nature conservation associations as well as individual actors who deal with the topic of scattered fruit.

"In the rhon, the rhon apple initiative has been founded, which for many years has been pursuing the goal of "demanding the preservation of the fruit of the orchard through high-priced sales and through the development of high-quality culinary offers", continues hildmann, who is himself a member of the apple initiative. Last but not least, since march of this year, fruit trees have been listed as an intangible cultural heritage by unesco.

Food and habitat for animals

The fact that the fallen fruit under the fruit trees is often not collected, but simply left lying around, is less decisive for hildmann. According to his own statement, he is particularly affected by the fact that so many trees in the landscape are not cared for and have only a low vitality.

"Fallen fruit is food for many animals. But when the trees disappear, everything is gone: the hiding place under the bark, the blood in spring and thus the food for many insects, the nesting place for birds, the leaves as food for caterpillars, the leaf lice as food for ladybirds, and so on.", hildmann points out.

He was encouraged by the encounters with other people who care about the trees "and who are just as enthusiastic about the orchard". "I am encouraged by the fact that when I was training to be an orchardist, I met three farm employees from a municipality who had been given time off specifically for the training.", hildmann continues his journey. It was also pleasing to see that many people were interested in the training in fruit tree care organized by the rhon apple initiative.

A network of people interested in scattered orchards

Public attention to the issue of biodiversity has also increased as a result of the successful "save the bees" referendum greatly increased. Hildmann, who in addition to the apple initiative is also involved in the fruit and gardening association and the nature conservation association, would like to set up a network of people interested in scattered fruit. He is available for this as a contact person.

"I will be especially happy about young scattered fruit enthusiasts and gladly support them." so that in the future, people walking in the altlandkreis will still see apple and pear trees with red, yellow and green fruits in the autumn.

100.000 trees – this is the number by which the tree population in the state of bavaria decreases each year, according to the bayerische landesanstalt fur landwirtschaft (lfl), a bavarian state institute for agriculture, with an eye on fruit trees.

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