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
- SUPER-G – Sustainable Permanent GrasslandsDetails
- 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
- 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
- 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)
... can be found here
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
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
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
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
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.
Funded by: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation
Project duration: 2017-2020