Why is soybean (Glycine max) cultivation a success story in south-west Germany?
Soybean is a very important crop because of its high quantity and quality of proteins. These characteristics result in a strong increase in global demand of soybeans for feed and food. Moreover, soybeans can fix nitrogen in symbiosis with Rhizobia which makes N fertilization obsolete. The integration of soybean in our crop rotation also diversifies local cropping systems. In Germany, because of local consumer preferences, GM-free feed and organic soybean for human consumption are in high demand. Since cultivating GM-soybeans is not permitted in Europe, domestic production is a safe solution to guarantee the supply of GM-free feed and food because of a lower risk of contamination.
Soybean sector in Germany
Germany is dependent on the import of soybeans, especially from South America, for feed. The self-sufficiency rate of soybean protein in Europe is only 4 %.1 To increase the self-sufficiency rate of protein crops the German Federal Government started the Protein Plant Strategy (Eiweißpflanzenstrategie) in 2013 and supports research and development activities for soybeans. These activities focus on improved soybean varieties adapted to cooler climates, the set-up of regional supply chains, on-farm trials, and extension services and knowledge transfer. The area cultivated with soybean is increasing and was about 16,000 ha in 2016. Most soybean is grown in the South of Germany due to climatic conditions. Due to the Greening requirements of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union, soy production experienced an additional boost in the last few years.
Objectives and Methods of the Case Study
The overall objective of the case study is to reveal and to identify agronomic factors for successful soybean cultivation which help to stabilize, optimize and expand soybean cultivation in Europe.
The following methods were used:
- Questionnaires conducted with farmers to obtain agronomic data of selected soybean fields
- Semi-structured expert interviews with farmers which focused on personal motivation and obstacles during their decision-making process to start soybean growing, the present cultivation and about future developments.
We visited 18 farmers and conducted questionnaires and interviews with them. Eight of the farms were certified organic and ten were conventional farms. The purpose of soybean production (feed or food; on-farm use or for sale) and the experiences of the farmers are very diverse. Some farmers were pioneers and started soybean cultivation in the 1980s, while others are newcomers. Furthermore, management of organic and conventional soybeans is quite different, because organic farmers have to refrain from using herbicides. Currently, we are compiling and analyzing the data and are looking forward to new findings that help to explain the success story of soybean cultivation in Germany.
>>> TRUE Case Study 14:
Sabine Zikeli, Sabine Gruber, Ann-Marleen Rieps
1Bernet, T.; Recknagel, J.; Asam, L.; Messmer, M.: Biosoja aus Europa. Empfehlungen für den Anbau und den Handel von biologischerSoja in Europa. 1st ed. Edited by Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau (FiBL). Frick