Current Research Projects




Coordination in collaborative research projects


  • GreenGrass - Innovative grassland utilization for sustainable agricultural intensification at the landscape scale Details, project coordinator: Johannes Isselstein, Juliane Horn
  • IMPAC³ - Novel genotypes for mixed cropping allow for improved sustainable land use across arable land, grassland and woodland (project website, project coordinator: Johannes Isselstein)
  • LLL - Limpopo Living Landscapes - Understanding the dynamics of ecological and cultural landscapes, in the face of global change, in the northern Limpopo region of South Africa (project website, project coordinator: Johannes Isselstein)
  • GreenGrass - Innovative grassland utilization for sustainable agricultural intensification at the landscape scale Details




Single projects



  • SUPER-G – Sustainable Permanent GrasslandsDetails
  • IMPAC³ - Novel genotypes for mixed cropping allow for improved sustainable land use across arable land, grassland and woodland, Subproject "Plant traits for mixed grassland crops" Details
  • SIGNAL - Sustainable intensification of agriculture through agroforestry - Subproject 4-1: "Grassland tissue and litter production as affected by tree x grass sward interaction and grassland management" Details
  • Inno4Grass - Shared Innovation Space for Sustainable Productivity of Grasslands in Europe Details
  • GreenGrass - Innovative grassland utilization for sustainable agricultural intensification at the landscape scale Details
  • ADAM - Artenvielfalt im intensiv genutzten Dauergrünland: Aufwertungsmaßnahmen im Miteinander von Landwirtschaft und Naturschutz Details
  • biodiversity and dairy production - Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy from 2020: perspectives and recommendations for improved grassland biodiversity by adapted production strategies with reduced concentrate input in dairy farming systems“ Details




Completed projects
... can be found here

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Project Details



SUPER-G – Sustainable Permanent Grasslands

Bettina Tonn (principal investigator), Anja Schmitz

The existence and management of permanent grasslands (PG) is key to the delivery of multiple ecosystem services (ES) across Europe. However, PG maintenance and functions are under threat from sub-optimal management of inputs, cultivation in higher output farming systems and abandonment in remote and marginal areas. The overall objective of the SUPER-G project is to co-develop sustainable PG systems and policies with farmers and policy makers that will be effective in optimising productivity, whilst supporting biodiversity and delivering a number of other ES.
SUPER-G will apply a multi-actor approach, working with farmers; land owners/managers and their advisers; third sector and civil society groups; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and researchers, policy and business communities to achieve:
1) better understanding of the importance and functioning of PG;
2) benchmarking of PG performance across Europe;
3) co-development of integrated approaches for profitable and sustainable PG management4) co-development of tools and policy mechanisms, which are inclusive of stakeholder and citizen priorities, to support the maintenance and sustainable management of PG.
The project will last five years to allow time for the establishment of farm networks for data gathering and analysis; and the development of good grassland practices, innovative techniques and farm-level and policy support tools.
Using a responsible research and innovation (RRI) approach, the project will develop a comprehensive European grassland typology and a shared conceptual model of how PG can deliver in terms of productivity, biodiversity and other ES such as climate regulation, water quality, mediation of water flows and erosion control. The potential of PG to deliver multiple ES will be informed by benchmarking and testing, involving a network of farms and experimental platforms in 14 countries covering the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Continental, Alpine, Pannonian and Boreal regions.

Funding: EU Horizon 2020
Project duration: 2018-2023

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IMPAC³ - Novel genotypes for mixed cropping allow for improved sustainable land use across arable land, grassland and woodland - Subproject "Plant traits for mixed grassland crops"

Isabelle Nölke (PhD student), Manuela Heinze (technician), Bettina Tonn, Johannes Isselstein (principal investigator)

Plant breeding innovations and their utilization in cropping systems is seen as a major pathway to a sustainable intensification of plant production. Increasing crop diversity in mixed cropping systems has the potential to enhance production while maintaining or reducing resource consumption. IMPAC³ aims to combine these two approaches, breeding and diversity. Novel genotypes, provided by recent breeding activities, will be examined for their potential to increase biomass production in mixed cropping systems across three domains of farming practice: arable land, grassland, and woodland. For this initiative, a consortium has brought together scientists from University of Göttingen covering a broad range of disciplines from Plant Breeding to Agronomy, Grassland Science, Forest Sciences, Plant Physiology, Plant Pathology, Ecology and Socio-Economy together with scientists from private breeding companies. The overall hypothesis is that novel genotypes that possess traits advantageous for multi-species systems are more productive and use resources more efficiently than genotypes not possessing such traits.

Funded by: Federal Ministry for Education and Science (BMBF) within the research framework "Innovative Plant Breeding in Cropping Systems" (IPAS)

Project duration: 2015-2019

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SIGNAL - Sustainable intensification of agriculture through agroforestry - Subproject 4-1: "Grassland tissue and litter production as affected by tree x grass sward interaction and grassland management"

Rahel Sutterlütti (PhD student), Andrea Schmiedgen (PhD student), Johannes Isselstein, Manfred Kayser, Martin Komainda, Bettina Tonn (principal investigators)

In grassland systems the turnover of matter and nutrients is controlled by a range of processes, which directly affect nutrient use efficiency and nutrient losses. In silvo-pastoral systems the nutrient turnover in grassland is further modified by the trees. Immediate sources for C and N in grasslands are excreta of grazing animals, microbial biomass and plant litter, i.e. the herbage that remains unused and contributes to the soil organic matter via senescence and decomposition. Litter makes up 50% or more of the total herbage production, even in intensively managed grasslands. The amount of litter is controlled by a range of factors such as the frequency and type of defoliation and the availability of nutrients, water and light. Litter formation in a grassland sward is also closely related to the phyllochron, which is the rate of appearance of leaves on a shoot, and the leaf life span
Our objective is to study the combined effects of competition between trees and grass sward and of grassland management on the herbage growth and tissue turnover in the grass part. We want to find out about processes that determine the sward development and productivity of grassland in agroforestry systems. Besides, leaf development and senescence form a direct link of N and C cycling between plant and soil.
At two sites we will apply the rising plate meter technique to study matter production and turnover in established plots and along transects. At one site we will additionally focus on leaf development and senescence and how these processes depend on environmental factors, leaf life span and sward composition. To do so we consider three scales of observation from the single plant to the species and sward scale.
Our research contributes to the elucidation of fundamental principles of yield and quality development of grassland in agroforestry in temperate climates. This knowledge is necessary to properly control and manage these systems.

Funded by: Federal Ministry for Education and Science (BMBF) within the research framework “Soil as a Sustainable Resource for the Bioeconomy” (BonaRes)

Project duration: 2015-2021

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Inno4Grass - Shared Innovation Space for Sustainable Productivity of Grasslands in Europe

Nora Schiebenhöfer, Martin Komainda, Johannes Isselstein

Inno4Grass is an international and multi-actor project gathering prominent farmers‘ organizations, extension services, education and research institutions from eight EU countries - Germany, Belgium, France, Irleand, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden, in which grasslands have a considerable share in the agricultural area and where production of dairy, beef and sheep is of major economic imprortance.
Background: The collaboration between farmers, advisors and scientists is insufficient in the countries concerned. For this reason the latest results of research are not sufficiently put into the practice and valuable knowledge related to grasslands is discovered by practitioners at a very late stage. In addition information about existing novelties introducing at farm level is not disseminated effectively to the public in all Member States.
Aim: The overall objective of the project is to bridge the gap between practice and science communities to ensure the implementation of innovative systems on productive grasslands. The long-term goal of the project is to increase profitability of European grassland farms and to preserve environmental values.

Funded by: European Union under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme

Project duration: 2017-2019

An online search tool for conference literature in the fields of grassland science named GrassCOPS has been set up within the project Inno4Grass. The tool is meant to improve accessibility to practice-oriented knowledge from national grassland research and thereby to back up discussions on grassland innovations with scientific information. It does not evaluate the quality of research. You find a link below.

  • database of national conference proceedings
  • GrassCOPS

    find Inno4Grass on facebook

    Inno4Grass Facebook

    follow Inno4Grass on twitter

    Inno4Grass twitter

    "YouTube/Facebook/Twitter uses cookies that may be used for advertising. Use of the respective social media site is fully subject to the YouTube/Facebook/Twitter Privacy Policy."

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    GreenGrass - Innovative grassland utilization for sustainable agricultural intensification at the landscape scale

    Juliane Horn, Martin Komainda, Friederike Riesch, Johannes Isselstein

    Conception of a transdisciplinary collaborative research project to develop innovative grazing systems that will secure and enhance the provision of ecosystem services.

    Funded by: Federal Ministry for Education and Science (BMBF)

    Project duration: 2019-2024

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    ADAM - Artenvielfalt im intensiv genutzten Dauergrünland: Aufwertungsmaßnahmen im Miteinander von Landwirtschaft und Naturschutz

    Anja Schmitz, Johannes Isselstein

    Conception of a transdisciplinary collaborative on-farm-research project to test and develop measures that will enhance biodiversity in intensively managed grasslands in Northern Germany.

    Funded by: German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU)

    Project duration: 2017-2018

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    biodiversity and dairy production - Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy from 2020: perspectives and recommendations for improved grassland biodiversity by adapted production strategies with reduced concentrate input in dairy farming systems

    Katharina Bettin, Johannes Isselstein

    The target of the present research project is to identify strategies to enhance grassland biodiversity and profitable milk production in German dairy farming systems. Therefore we study milk production systems with reduced concentrate feeding in the diet. The main research hypothesis is: Concentrate reduced dairy farming systems provide a better opportunity for improvement of grassland biodiversity due to viable economic perspectives. The hypothesis is mainly attributed to the knowledge concerning the significant importance of grass for those farms.
    To quantify the consequences of reduced concentrate feeding on the grassland biodiversity, detailed recording of plant species diversity on the respectively farmed permanent grassland is conducted in conjunction with analyses of the production systems and their economic efficiency.
    The approach is based on a socio-economical subproject, which includes interviews and records of economic data of approximately 150 organic and conventional dairy farms in grassland regions of northern, middle and southern Germany. This project part is conducted by the ‘Kasseler Institut für ländliche Entwicklung e.V.’. The selected farms feed less than half of the common amount of concentrates. Furthermore regional workshops including group discussions with the participating farmers will be carried out.
    The second subproject analyses the biodiversity of permanent grasslands on farms feeding less concentrate and on spatially adjacent “control” farms with regional-specific standard concentrate feeding. For this purpose detailed vegetation surveys are conducted on permanent grasslands of 30 pairs of dairy farms, each pair being comprised of one farm with reduced and one with a common amount of concentrate in the diet. This part is carried out by the Institute of Grassland Science, University of Göttingen. Based on the management data from the farm surveys, the contribution of grassland to the milk production of each farm will be evaluated with special regard to the farm level phytodiversity.
    Based on these findings policy relevant recommendations and support strategies will be deduced. These are especially directed at the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2020 but also at the question how grassland based dairy production can be promoted by e.g. marketing incentives or modified consulting tools.

    Project partner
    Kasseler Institut

    Funded by: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation

    Project duration: 2017-2020

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