Get to grips with nutrient surpluses, loss of biodiversity, climate change and animal welfare.
Innovations that will make production systems sustainable are necessary to achieve this.
Agriculture based on knowledge and innovation has led to remarkable increases in productivity. At a few points, however, the path to modernization crosses the limits of sustainability and jeopardizes the resilience of the systems.
Some developments in agriculture are being questioned particularly critically in debates with society. These include on the one hand the excessively high nutrient surpluses in the (so-called) hotspots of animal husbandry, and on the other hand the loss of biodiversity on intensively farmed land.
Agriculture must apply more effort here than in the past. Good animal husbandry and land management have to be central to the operation of farming businesses. Resistance to some plant protection products is increasing as a consequence of excessively intensive land and crop production methods. That is why minimum requirements for crop rotation must be formulated and followed.
Substantial progress has been achieved in animal husbandry. For example, the lifetime daily yield of dairy cows has been increased substantially, and the use of antibiotics in livestock husbandry has been reduced significantly. At the same time, however, the findings of carcase examinations repeatedly give rise to criticism of animal husbandry in general, and animal welfare in particular.
Despite this, agriculture shows a readiness to learn at a high level, and is able to improve its production processes. For example, the strong reduction in groundwater contamination with pesticides and the equally strong reduction of pesticide residues in foods during the past decade have shown considerable progress in environmental conservation and consumer protection. This is particularly remarkable because in the same periods productivity grew strongly.
During the past decades, German agriculture has considerably increased its productivity. Improved basic and further training, consultancy and advisory efforts, technical and biological innovations, and monitoring and regulatory frameworks have interacted very well together. With similar combinations of measures, and great commitment, agriculture can manage current and future challenges.