August 25, 2020

The right balance between productive agriculture and the promotion of biodiversity – “Lark's Bread”

August 25, 2020

The proven decline in biodiversity poses a challenge to modern agriculture to create a balance between high productivity and the protection of biodiversity. However, the implementation of appropriate measures is often accompanied by yield losses or high financial expenditure.

BASF supports farmers in protecting natural resources and biodiversity. “Biodiversity and modern agriculture can go hand in hand. However, to achieve this, the protection of biodiversity must also be in harmony with the economic requirements of farmers,” explains Michael Wagner, Vice President, BASF Agricultural Solutions Europe North, and adds: “To this end, we are now taking the next step on the way to productive and sustainable agriculture in close cooperation with farmers.”

In a pilot project with farmers from the Southern Palatinate, Walter Mühle (Böhl- Iggelheim) and the regional bakery Görtz, BASF is showing for the first time how biodiversity measures can become relevant for farmers' business.

The project is concerned with the protection of the skylark, whose population is considered an indicator of biodiversity. To this end, four farmers from the BASF FarmNetwork Sustainability, supported by the digital seed maps from xarvioTM Digital Farming Solutions, have created so-called “larks windows” on a total of 40 hectares of wheat land - at least two per hectare.

The “larks windows” are about 20m² large open spaces in the grain, which skylarks use as "runway" while they brood in the fields and go in search of food. The 40 hectares of winter wheat that are cultivated are ground into flour after harvesting and then processed into “Lark's bread”. This is finally sold with an additional 10 cent, which is passed on to the mill and farmers. The farmers involved receive this markup as compensation for the creation of further biodiversity measures, such as perennial flowering areas and hedges, and the associated loss of yield.

“BASF's goal is to establish biodiversity measures more broadly in agriculture while preserving as much arable land as possible. This is why we have been actively promoting them for years,” says Markus Röser, head of Communications and Sustainability at BASF Agricultural Solutions Europe North, explaining the basic idea behind the project.

“With this Lark's Bread we want to specifically promote biodiversity,” says Peter Görtz, owner of the Görtz Bakery. “But it also shows that there is regional craftsmanship behind all this - the wheat comes from farmers in the region, is ground separately and processed into Lark's Bread in the bakery. And with lark flour from these fields,” explains Peter Görtz. In this project, the regional bakery Görtz is responsible for everything to do with “Lark's Bread”, from naming it to selling it, and ensures direct contact with the consumer.

“Biodiversity is a social issue. It concerns us all. We farmers are already doing a great deal for it. And this project is intended to bring this out. But now we also have to see whether consumers are prepared to spend a little more on it,” says Dominik Bellaire, a farmer from Neupotz, describing his reasons for taking part in the pilot project.

To achieve this, BASF plans not only to create skylark windows in 10,000 hectares of winter wheat from September 2020, but also to market skylark bread throughout Germany next year. Furthermore, intensive work is being carried out with farmers and partners along the entire food value chain on similar projects in other crops such as oats, rye, canola, sugar beet, potatoes, hops and apples.

“The pilot project is only a first step in making species protection economically relevant for farmers,” says Markus Röser. “In the future, such initiatives must become the standard. To this end, we are currently developing a broad catalog of measures together with external experts from nature and environmental protection and with farmers from our BASF FarmNetwork Sustainability”. From 2021, for example, BASF will produce biodiversity honey and oil with canola farmers and thus promote the creation of flowering areas. Further projects are already being planned.

Birgit Hellmann
Global Sustainability Communications
Last Update August 25, 2020