Current Research Projects




Coordination in collaborative research projects

  • IMPAC³ - Novel genotypes for mixed cropping allow for improved sustainable land use across arable land, grassland and woodland (project website, project coordinator: Johannes Isselstein)
  • SAM - System analysis milk production: pasture based vs. indoor (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)




Single projects

  • SAM - System analysis milk production: pasture based vs. indoor, Subproject "Improving grazing management with dairy cows - forage production and plant nutrient management of grazed grasslands" Details
  • Conservation of open landscapes by targeted land and wildlife management - Integration of wild populations of red deer into the management of open habitats Details
  • 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




SAM - System analysis milk production: pasture based vs. indoor - Subproject "Improving grazing management with dairy cows - forage production and plant nutrient management of grazed grasslands"

Verena Hammes, Max Seelen (PhD students), Johannes Isselstein, Manfred Kayser (principal investigators)

Dairy farming and milk production are an important part of the agricultural business in Lower Saxony. In the grassland regions in northern Germany farm income is mainly based on cattle farming. Dairy farming enjoys a comparatively good reputation which is partly due to positive emotions and attitudes which consumers associate with grazing. However, the number of farms that put their cows to grazing has been decreasing for some time. Less than 40% of all dairy cows are grazing full-time. Among the farming community, public and researchers the consequences of this trend from a grazing- based to a stable-based system of milk production are a point of discussion. Moreover, there is to date not enough knowledge for a proper scientific evaluation.
The aim of the joint project System Analysis Milk (SAM) is to assess the conditions and the productivity of different grazing-based and stable based systems of milk production. The evaluation includes cow health and cow comfort; the status of parasitic diseases; animal nutrition and fermentation; the role of grassland in providing sufficient amount and quality of forage and the use of manures on grassland; the effects of different dairy systems on environment, climate and the related resource efficiency; and the overall economic evaluation including the perception and preferences of consumers.
Research is based on comprehensive farm analysis of more than 60 farms that differ in time of grazing from stable-based to full-time grazing. These survey-based analyses are completed by experiments on forage uptake, cow behavior and by field experiments with grass varieties and quantification of N leaching and gaseous losses. Extensive modelling of environmental and economic effects combines the findings in an overall view.
The institute of Grassland Science (TP 5 Forage production and nutrient management on grassland) takes part in the farm analyses that are concerned with farm and grassland management, nutrient cycling and attitudes of farmers toward grazing. A second focus is on field experiments with different grass mixtures and on the assessment of N losses (gaseous losses and N leaching) that are related to the return of manures (slurry, urine) to cut and grazed fields.

Funding: Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony

Project duration: 2013-2018

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Conservation of open landscapes by targeted land and wildlife management - Integration of wild populations of red deer into the management of open habitats



Friederike Riesch (PhD student), Johannes Isselstein, Bettina Tonn (principal investigators)

Offene und halboffene Landschaften unterschiedlicher Größe und Ausprägung sind ein wichtiges Merkmal der mitteleuropäischen Kulturlandschaft. Das vorhandene Spektrum an ökologisch wichtigen Lebensräumen und Lebensgemeinschaften wurde maßgeblich von historisch gewachsenen, extensiven landwirtschaftlichen Nutzungssystemen geprägt. Die über lange Zeit konstante Nutzung und Gestaltung durch den Menschen ist eine wichtige Basis der heute in der Kulturlandschaft vorhandenen biologischen Vielfalt.
Aufgrund gravierender Veränderungen in der Landnutzung hat der Erhalt extensiv genutzter Offenlandlebensräume in den letzten Jahrzehnten massiv an Bedeutung gewonnen. Sie beinhalten zahlreiche seltene, streng geschützte Lebensraumtypen und sind Rückzugsräume für viele gefährdete Arten. Um die betreffenden Pflanzengesellschaften und den offenen Charakter der Flächen zu erhalten, ist ein laufender Entzug von Biomasse durch deren Nutzung oder regelmäßige Pflegeeingriffe erforderlich. Großflächige Schutz- und Managementkonzepte sind daher vergleichsweise aufwändig und kostenintensiv. Als ein in ökologischer Hinsicht zielführendes Instrument hat sich die extensive Beweidung mit robusten Rassen verschiedener Nutztierarten etabliert. Das System ist jedoch auch mit einigen Nachteilen behaftet und nicht auf allen Flächen realisierbar. Das gestalterische Potential wildlebender heimischer Huftiere wurde bisher kaum berücksichtigt.
Im Rahmen dieses Vorhabens soll daher untersucht werden, welchen Beitrag autochthone, freilebende Rothirschvorkommen zur Pflege von Offenlandbiotopen leisten können. Ziel des Projektes ist es den Zielerreichungsgrad und die Anwendbarkeit des Systems „Rothirschbeweidung“ zu klären und die für eine Umsetzung relevanten Wissensdefizite zu beseitigen. Als Projektgebiet wurde der von der US-Armee genutzte Truppenübungsplatz Grafenwöhr / Bayern ausgewählt. Der dort vorhandene Rothirschbestand nutzt aufgrund eines zielgerichteten Wildtiermanagements intensiv die offenen Teile des Lebensraumes. Über einen Zeitraum von insgesamt 5 Jahren sollen die Vegetationsentwicklung, das Raum-Zeit-Verhalten sowie die diesbezüglichen Wechselbeziehungen in zwei Teillebensräumen untersucht werden. Hierzu werden zwei feste Bezugsflächen mit unterschiedlichen standörtlichen Voraussetzungen und Vegetationstypen ausgewählt. In jeder der beiden Flächen werden bis zu 15 Rothirsche beider Geschlechter mit GPS-Sendern versehen und die vorhandenen Vegetationsgesellschaften sowie ihre Veränderung erfasst. Darüber hinaus werden auf Testflächen in beiden Lebensräume detailliert die Fraßeinwirkung auf die Vegetation ermittelt und Wechselwirkungen zusätzlicher gezielter Pflegemaßnahmen (Feuer, Mahd) mit der Beweidung durch Rothirsche untersucht.
Das Vorgehen liefert eine umfangreiche Datengrundlage zu Habitatnutzung und Habitatgestaltung von Rothirschen im Offenland und erlaubt so eine umfassende Erprobung, Analyse und Bewertung des Beweidungssystems sowie ergänzender Steuerungsinstrumente. Abschließend sollen konkrete Handlungsempfehlungen erarbeitet und bei entsprechender Ergebnislage ein konzeptioneller Rahmen für die praktische Umsetzung in anderen Lebensräumen entwickelt werden.

Funding: Landwirtschaftliche Rentenbank

Project duration: 2015-2019

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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"

Sara Heshmati (PhD student), Isabelle Nölke (PhD student), Dirk Koops (technician), 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, 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: 2017-2018

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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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