Mallow instead of maize Into the future with “bee power”?

Mallow instead of maize Into the future with “bee power”?

Mallow instead of maize Into the future with “bee power”?

Sometimes Ingo Hiller drives out to a field near his farm near Münsingen after work. Then the farmer takes his time and listens: Nearby, a quail beeps, crickets chirp and wild bees hum. “You just notice that the field is alive,” says Hiller. Where otherwise grassland and corn sprout, this year purple mallows and bright buckwheat blossoms shine, individual sunflowers stretch their heads out of the field on the Swabian Alb.

Hiller is taking part in a pilot project with ten colleagues and is growing various flowering plants instead of monocultures. The farmers create Eldorados for butterflies, hoverflies, bumblebees and small mammals on a total of 14 hectares. “The meadow looks different every 14 days,” says Hiller. On the one hand, he wants to do something about the death of insects. “We farmers are quickly in focus.” On the other hand, he wants to use the mowing for biogas production. However, the flowering wild herbs are likely to produce less biomass than conventional maize plants, for example. The yield of green electricity is therefore lower.

“No farmer can afford to do nature conservation part-time. Support is needed, ”says Achim Nagel, head of the office for the Swabian Alb biospheric area. Together with Stadtwerke Nürtingen, the conservationists have developed a model to help farmers. “The municipal utilities support the farmers with a subsidy,” explains Manfred Albiez, project manager at the municipal utilities. From the proceeds of their “bee electricity”, as the initiators call their green electricity, one cent per kilowatt hour flows into a pot as “flowering aid”, from which the farmers receive compensation for their loss of income.

At first, the project partners had difficulties in winning farmers and plant operators for the idea at all. So many farmers now want to take part that a waiting list has to be kept. In addition, the pioneers received inquiries from all over. “How did you do it?” And “Which seeds do you use?” Are the most common questions, reports Achim Nagel.
There are hardly any studies on insect decline in Germany because a 30-year project for institutes or research centers can hardly be financially supported. Long-term data presented last year by the Entomological Association Krefeld for selected areas, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia, show a decrease in the biomass of flying insects by up to 80 percent over the past three decades. The variety of species also dwindled.

One reason for this is that areas with high biodiversity such as orchards have declined drastically since the 1960s, explains Peter Rosenkranz, head of the State Institute for Apiculture at the University of Hohenheim. Wild bees, for example, which do not fly as far as honey bees, would have a harder time finding enough nectar all year round. “Around 100 years ago we had landscapes with lots of fruit and fallow land in between. At the time, a farmer was growing ten to twelve crops. Today he usually only has one or two left. ”Even on community areas and in private gardens, there is little natural work, says Rosenkranz. “Anyone who mows the garden every two weeks is preventing biodiversity.”

As far as the possible biomass yield of his field is concerned, Hiller is optimistic: “If the plants have plenty of water, then the yield here is comparable to maize.” But this year the drought is also causing problems for the flowering plants. “Two thirds are still missing,” says Hiller and hopes for the next year.
The flowering meadow is to remain for five years for the time being. Then we’ll see further, says the farmer. The seed manufacturer in Lower Franconia is already working on new mixtures in order to achieve an even better yield for bees and farmers.