Dirk Röse

Cli­ma­te-friend­ly crop cultivation

Rese­arch pro­ject on clo­sed crop pro­duc­tion systems

Klasmann-Deilmann is car­ry­ing out a pro­ject on more sus­tainab­le plant pro­duc­tion. The goal is to iden­ti­fy, by 2021, green­house sys­tems by which emis­si­ons of heat-trap­ping gases deri­ved from plant pro­duc­tion can be lowe­red fur­ther, and use of water and fer­ti­li­ser reduced.

This col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve pro­ject is offi­cial­ly tit­led ‘Tech­ni­cal pro­ce­du­res for clo­sed crop pro­duc­tion sys­tems to redu­ce green­house gas emis­si­ons and cli­ma­te chan­ge-indu­ced abio­tic stress’, or Min­THG for short. The pro­ject is sup­por­ted by funds of the Federal Minis­try of Food and Agri­cul­tu­re (BMEL) based on a decisi­on of the Par­lia­ment of the Federal Repu­blic of Ger­ma­ny via the Federal Office for Agri­cul­tu­re and Food (BLE) under the inno­va­ti­on sup­port programme.

Dr Ste­fa­nie Gra­de, Direc­tor Rese­arch & Deve­lo­p­ment, is in char­ge of Klasmann-Deilmann’s part of the project.

Ques­ti­on: Ste­fa­nie, what exact­ly is the Min­THG pro­ject about?

Ste­fa­nie Gra­de: The pro­ject is aimed at redu­cing green­house gas (GHG) emis­si­ons in under-glass cul­ti­va­ti­on. The focus is on toma­to and straw­ber­ry pro­duc­tion. And not one but three stra­te­gi­cal­ly important issu­es are being addres­sed here:

  • The future of com­mer­cial hor­ti­cul­tu­re, which of cour­se inclu­des the future of Klasmann-Deilmann and of our customers;
  • Our com­pe­ten­ci­es in the food sec­tor, which repres­ents a cru­cial sales seg­ment for us (and this inclu­des sus­taina­bi­li­ty aspects); and
  • Our efforts to make an appre­cia­ble con­tri­bu­ti­on to redu­cing emis­si­ons from crop pro­duc­tion, espe­cial­ly, of cour­se, with our own products.

Ques­ti­on: The Min­THG pro­ject is a col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve one. So who else is involved?

Ste­fa­nie Gra­de: Klasmann-Deilmann joint­ly con­cei­ved and laun­ched the pro­ject with several other play­ers: the Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty of Ber­lin (HU Ber­lin), mea­su­re­ment- and con­trol-engi­nee­ring firm RAM GmbH Mess- und Regel­tech­nik, and ligh­t­ing com­pa­ny DH Licht GmbH. This pro­ject was a joint pro­po­sal made to Germany’s Federal Office for Agri­cul­tu­re and Food (BLE) – which green-ligh­ted it!

Ques­ti­on: What is meant by ‘abio­tic stress’ and to what extent is it exa­cer­ba­ted by cli­ma­te change?

Ste­fa­nie Gra­de: Crops expo­sed to stress fac­tors in the green­house during cul­ti­va­ti­on do not deve­lop opti­mal­ly. In plant pro­duc­tion, stress may be cau­sed by envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors inclu­ding light, water, tem­pe­ra­tu­re and air humi­di­ty. In substrates, high levels of salts or incor­rect pH may cau­se stress. Glo­bal war­ming, which is acce­le­ra­ted by GHG emis­si­ons, will influ­ence all envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors. Under-glass cul­ti­va­ti­on prac­ti­ces must be modi­fied in respon­se to the­se chan­ges. If GHG emis­si­ons could be redu­ced as well, this would be ideal.

Ques­ti­on: Which approa­ches will the Min­THG pro­ject pur­sue to lower GHG emissions?

Ste­fa­nie Gra­de: HU Ber­lin has spent years explo­ring how to mini­mi­se ener­gy con­sump­ti­on in under-glass cul­ti­va­ti­on. Most green­houses are hea­ted using fos­sil ener­gy sources, which of cour­se result in CO2 emis­si­ons. Loss of heat through the green­house sur­face can be appre­cia­b­ly redu­ced by means of modern gla­zing and ener­gy scree­ning. One pro­blem is air humi­di­ty. This is gene­ral­ly redu­ced by ope­ning the ven­ti­la­ti­on, but much heat is lost this way. At HU Ber­lin, a novel approach is now being tes­ted by which a water curtain redu­ces humi­di­ty. RAM is an expert in opti­mi­sing cli­ma­te con­trol – our green­house in Gees­te has a RAM-cli­ma­te com­pu­ter. And DH Licht will opti­mi­se illu­mi­na­ti­on. High­ly ener­gy-effi­ci­ent water-coo­led LEDs are to be used.

Ques­ti­on: What is Klasmann-Deilmann’s role in this project?

Ste­fa­nie Gra­de: Our part of the pro­ject has to do with the sub­stra­te. Hydro­po­nic cul­ti­va­ti­on of toma­to crops requi­res about 150 m³ of rock­wool per hec­ta­re, per annum. Pro­duc­tion of 1 m³ of rock­wool cau­ses 167 kg of CO2 emis­si­ons. We’ll be sub­sti­tu­ting rock­wool with rene­wa­ble resour­ces: we shall, for expe­ri­men­tal pur­po­ses, be pro­du­cing grow­bags with GreenFibre, hemp or Spha­gnum moss, in which the tomatoes can be cul­ti­va­ted. Later on in the pro­ject, we want to look at straw­ber­ry crops. We will use substrates con­sis­ting ent­i­re­ly of alter­na­ti­ve con­sti­tu­ents in an area we have not pre­vious­ly been invol­ved in. This ties in nice­ly with our stra­te­gic goal of incre­a­sing the pro­por­ti­on of alter­na­ti­ve con­sti­tu­ents to 15% of total pro­duc­tion by 2020.

Ques­ti­on: Thank you, Ste­fa­nie! We wish you and your team all the best with imple­men­ting the project.

Even befo­re its launch, the col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve pro­ject also attrac­ted atten­ti­on from the world of poli­tics. Germany’s federal minis­ter for food and agri­cul­tu­re, Julia Klöck­ner, infor­med local MP Albert Ste­ge­mann of this suc­cess in in a per­so­nal let­ter. “The Klasmann-Deilmann Group is a glo­bal inno­va­ti­on dri­ver in the gro­wing-media and pot­ting soil sec­tor,” said CDU mem­ber Ste­ge­mann, stres­sing that it is, the­re­fo­re, only logi­cal to invol­ve the Gees­te-based com­pa­ny in the Min­THG col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve pro­ject. “We poli­ti­ci­ans see our­sel­ves as part­ners to the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty. Tog­e­ther we are working towards grea­ter pro­tec­tion for the envi­ron­ment and cli­ma­te, and making ani­mal hus­bandry more pro­gres­si­ve. So we are spe­ci­fi­cal­ly encou­ra­ging pro­jects in the­se are­as and sup­por­ting inno­va­ti­ve approa­ches in rural regi­ons and in digi­ti­sa­ti­on. We want our local com­pa­nies to remain com­pe­ti­ti­ve into the future while also pro­du­cing on a sus­tainab­le basis,” Ste­ge­mann added.

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