Projects completed since 2015

  • 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
  • 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
  • IMPAC³ - Novel genotypes for mixed cropping allow for improved sustainable land use across arable land, grassland and woodland (project website, project coordinator: Johannes Isselstein)
  • Inno4Grass - Shared Innovation Space for Sustainable Productivity of Grasslands in Europe 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
  • 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
  • NaLaMa-NT: Sustainable Land Management in the North German Plain Details
  • Phytodiversity and vegetation structure of horse pastures - Sustainable grazing management Details
  • Analysis of productivity, N cycling and plant diversity in patches of heterogeneous swards of continuous pastures Details
  • Consequences of grassland renovation for emission of greenhouse gases and N leaching Details
  • Scale-dependent effects of plant and animal functional characteristics on nutrient cycling in pastures 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"

    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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    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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    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

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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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    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"

    Talea Becker, Verena Hammes (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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NaLaMa-NT: Sustainable Land Management in the North German Plain

Markus Eggers, Verena Hammes (PhD students), Johannes Isselstein, Manfred Kayser (principal investigators)

On the background of changing ecological, economic and social conditions, the joint project contributes to the development of an innovative and sustainable land management in the North German Plain. There is a need for detailed and related knowledge as a basis for planning of land use at a regional level. The joint project uses a multi-level approach to analyze the status-quo, developments and interactions in four model regions. The aim is to arrive at inter- and intra-disciplinary adaption strategies and to finally evaluate the effects on trans- sectoral indicators.
The model regions Diepholz, Uelzen, Fläming and Oder-Spree are located on a transect from west to east and represent a natural, structural, economic and demographic gradient. Basic ecological parameters, use of land and of resources, business and regional productivity and risk management are assessed in an trans-disciplinary approach by researchers from meteorology, hydrology, ecology, agriculture, forestry, environmental planning, and socio-economics and are combined in an overall concept for integrative land use.
Partners in regional management guarantee that the results are relevant for the practice and can actually be implemented in the regions. Regional management brings together the main stakeholders and reflects their expertise and opinion back to the researchers. This open discourse between research and practice is supposed to elucidate the manifold interactions among different land use systems, foster the balance of interests, contribute to innovations and generally help to strengthen the sustainability of rural areas.
Institute of Grassland Science conducts surveys to find out about the actual state of grassland farming in the four regions, the attitudes of farmers towards climate change, nature conservation and the prospects of their business in the future. This approach is complemented by field experiments in all four regions; the working group is further actively involved in the development of future land use scenarios and provides data for economic and ecological modelling.

Funding: Federal Ministry for Education and Science (BMBF). NaLaMa-nT is a part of "Modul B - Innovative Systemlösungen für ein nachhaltiges Landmanagement"

Project duration: 2010-2015

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Phytodiversity and vegetation structure of horse pastures - Sustainable grazing management

Anja Schmitz (PhD student), Johannes Isselstein (supervisor)

Ziel des Projektes ist ein verbessertes Verständnis der Vegetationsstruktur von Pferdeweiden sowie deren Dynamik in Abhängigkeit von Parametern des Weidemanagements. Daraus hervorgehend sollen Grundlagen zur Bewertung des ökologischen Potentials von Pferdeweiden sowie Ansätze für eine nachhaltige Bewirtschaftung von Grünland mit Pferden generiert werden.

Einem stratifiziert genesteten Design folgend werden Pferdestand-, Pferdeumtriebs- und Rinderweiden von insgesamt 60 Praxisbetrieben im Bergisches Land hinsichtlich ihrer Vegetation und deren Dynamik in Abhängigkeit vom jeweiligen Management und Standort vergleichend untersucht.

1. Heterogene Strukturen in Vegetationskomposition und Bodennährstoffverfügbarkeit von Pferdeweiden im Vergleich zu Rinderweiden. Relativer Einfluss von Nutzungsregime und Management.
2. Räumliche Ausprägung der Patchstrukturen und Vegetationskomposition von Pferdeweiden und Rinderweiden im Vergleich.
3. Phytodiversität von Pferdeweiden im Vergleich zu Rinderweiden auf verschiedenen räumlichen Skalenebenen.
4. Diasporenbank unter Pferde- und Rinderweiden in Abhängigkeit von Nutzungsintensität und Standortfaktoren. Möglichkeiten zur Steigerung der Phytodiversität oder Risiko der Ausbreitung von Weideunkräutern?

Funding: PhD Scholarship of the German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundestiftung Umwelt, DBU)

Project duration: 2012-2015

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Analysis of productivity, N cycling and plant diversity in patches of heterogeneous swards of continuous pastures

Dorothee Ebeling (PhD student), Johannes Isselstein, Bettina Tonn (supervisors)

Beweidung beeinflusst die Grasnarbe eines Dauergrünlands unter anderem durch eine zeitlich und räumlich ungleichmäßige Futteraufnahme und Exkrementabsetzung. Das sogenannte "Patch grazing" resultiert aus einer Präferenz für junges proteinreiches, jedoch faserarmes Futter. Die Möglichkeit der Futterselektion ist besonders auf extensiven Weiden gegeben und führt zur Bildung von Mosaikstrukturen aus kurzen und langen Bereichen (Patches). Die Beweidungsintensität bestimmt hierbei den Anteil an kurzen und langen Patches. Auf einem langjährigen extensiven Weideversuch soll der Einfluss von verschiedenen Beweidungsintensitäten auf den N-Umsatz, die Produktivität sowie die Phytodiversität in differenzierten Grasnarbenhöhenbereichen untersucht werden.

Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG) within the DFG Research Training Group 1397

Project duration: 2013-2015

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Consequences of grassland renovation for emission of greenhouse gases and N leaching

Johannes Isselstein, Manfred Kayser

Participation in a project by the Thünen Institute (Prof. H. Flessa).

The research cooperation aims at assessing the consequences of grassland renovation and break-up for arable use for agricultural production and the environment.
Current economical and structural changes in agriculture are associated with intensification of grasslands and conversion of grassland to arable land. Following tillage during grassland renewal or conversion, negative environmental impacts (e.g. enhancement of groundwater pollution due to nitrate leaching and increased greenhouse gas emission) might occur.
So far knowledge on site-specific effects of different techniques of grassland renewal and conversion on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) transformations are scarce. However, this knowledge is highly relevant to develop adapted measures that will help to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater pollution.

Project duration: 2013-2015


Scale-dependent effects of plant and animal functional characteristics on nutrient cycling in pastures

Thorsten Scheile (PhD student), Anne Vor (technician), Bettina Tonn (principal investigator)

Both in low-input managed pastures and in natural ecosystems grazed by large herbivores, nutrients excreted in dung and urine of the grazing animals play an important part in the nutrient cycle. These nutrient flows involve spatial concentration and spatial separation of the main mineral nutrients at the scale of the excreta patch. Animal and plant functional characteristics influence the grain size and degree of this spatial heterogeneity, as well as the patch-scale responses of vegetation and grazing animal biomass intake to the nutrient input through excreta. While ecological research has strongly focused on large-scale effects of herbivory in terms of speed and stoichiometry of nutrient cycling, agricultural research has mostly regarded excreta-patch effects on a small scale and detached from the large-scale systems in which they occur. Plant and animal functional characteristics have important effects on nutrient cycling at the excreta-patch scale that have not yet been explicitly addressed in either ecological or agricultural research. The project intends to combine approaches and concepts from both ecological and agricultural research about herbivory effects on nutrient cycling. It will investigate how the effect of animal excreta on above-ground nutrient flows and on plant biomass nutrient stoichiometry is influenced by plant functional groups and grazing animal functional characteristics.
The study system is a long-term unfertilized grazing experiment with two experimental factors: sward type (diverse and grass-dominated) and grazing animal species (cattle and sheep, differing in body size, excreta patch size and grazing selectivity). Data are gathered on three levels: paddock-scale and patch-scale data in the grazed system and patch-scale data under simulated grazing. At the paddock scale, biomass productivity and nutrient concentrations (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), biomass and mineral nutrient ingestion by the grazing animals and nutrient excretion in dung and urine are quantified, and are used to up-scale excreta patch effects to the paddock scale. At the patch scale, dung, urine and unaffected control patches are marked in the grazed pasture to assess plant and herbivory responses to excreta patches. A cutting experiment with simulated dung and urine patches is used to validate these data under controlled conditions and to extend observation period and measured parameters beyond the programme feasible under grazing. Process parameters such as defoliation interval and defoliation severity are chosen to simulate those of the grazed study system.
The project is expected to advance the basic knowledge about large-herbivore effects on nutrient cycling by addressing the small-scale heterogeneity of the quantitatively important nutrient flows through herbivore excreta and the functional characteristics of plants and herbivores that are process-relevant at this scale.

Funding: German Research Council (DFG)

Project duration: 2014-2016