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The 'Land.Technik für Profis' digital conference

While the anniversary edition of the 'Land.Technik für Profis' conference, which was attended by around 170 participants, certainly addressed a central arable farming issue with its topic of 'Cultivation', it proved not to be quite as attractive as the two previous events focussing on 'Tractors' and 'Crop protection', which both achieved far in excess of 300 registrations. Besides the presentations per se, the conference has proved to be a major industry meeting point for the past 20 years, and thrives on being conducted on site at a manufacturer. However, this did not detract from the tightly-packed online presentation programme.

Even in their introductory and welcoming statements, conference organiser Dr Hartmut Matthes and Dr Markus Demmel, in his role of Chairman of the VDI Technical Division 'Max Eyth Society for Agricultural Engineering' (VDI-MEG) for the first time, addressed the first few aspects that will extensively influence cultivation in the 21st century, namely that a systemic, holistic overview is also very important above and beyond mechanisation or even digitalisation. In his opening address, DLG President Hubertus Paetow highlighted the sustainable intensification of agriculture called for by the WHO and clearly pointed out the importance of sowing and cultivation to biodiversity.

In his introductory presentation, DLG Vice President and DLG Test Center Chairman Prof. Till Meinel of Cologne University of Applied Sciences provided an overview of the current state of the art as well as ongoing research work and development strategies. He also outlined which tests are currently being conducted at the DLG Test Center or were recently completed and which test topics the DLG Test Center has been focussing on using the example of hoeing and harrowing.

In the 'Challenges in cultivation technology' theme block, he was followed by Prof. Bernhard Bauer of the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences, who provided an expert-level summary of the fundamentals of tillage and sowing. In this, he addressed the special requirements of the present day and age and raised the question of whether we are classifying the necessary measures and results correctly in the light of our technical focus or are living in a 'bubble' – up to and including the correct prioritisation of our requirements and measures in communication. Dr Daniela Scheuermann of KWS dealt with the genetic improvement of abiotic and biotic characteristics by means of modern breeding methods. She provided an overview of how complex plant breeding has become today at the molecular level and which masses of data modern, technical phenotyping methods supply.

In their presentations during the second session entitled 'Changing Requirements', Wulf-Hinrich Hagge from Warnkenhagen, Thorben Holsteiner from Lehe and Siv Biada of the Internationales DLG-Pflanzenbauzentrum (DLG International Crop Production Center) in Bernburg offered an overview of various practical aspects of crop production. Hagge reported on his 1,000-ha cash crop farm, which is run according to the requirements of the 'Fostering diverse crops in arable farming' agri-environmental measure implemented by the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. He also incorporated the experience he has acquired as an agricultural advisor to other farms. Above all, he expressed a desire for optimum but simple and affordable technical crop production solutions in terms of agricultural machinery. Conversely, Holsteiner farms using intensive biogas crop rotation on what are called 'minute soils' in the Dithmarschen region of Schleswig-Holstein. His main problem, due particularly to the often water-saturated marsh soils, is the issue of efficiency to allow him to make optimum use of the short tillage windows. Biada reported on DLG's long-term trial, in which mulch seeding and direct sowing are being compared in strip-till cultivation. She motivated the audience to try out new cultivation methods on their own farms.

The second day was initially focussed on resource-efficient cultivation methods. Dr Max Bouten of Kubota in Nieuw-Vennep (the Netherlands) presented the potentials of precision starter fertilisation in row crops. Dr Eberhard Nacke of Claas subsequently reported on the results of the joint EKoTech project, in which the involved partners from the fields of science and industry have identified potentials for saving fuel and thus reducing CO2 emissions in agricultural machinery and agricultural machinery process chains. The project clearly showed that the real efficiency potential lies in the holistic, i.e. joint, optimisation of the tractor and implement. Finally, Thinus Glitz of Rotek GmbH, Bad Driburg, and Prof. Dariusz Jaskulski of the University of Bydgoszcz (Poland) talked about particularly water-efficient cultivation methods.

In the 'Innovations for the future' theme block, representatives from Amazone, Horsch, Lemken and AGCO as well as Prof. Cornelia Weltzien of the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy in Potsdam dared to take a look into their crystal ball. In doing so, they joined up the dots from current developments from their companies for the world's various agricultural regions and technical control solutions on the machines up to and including the use of digital technology and tools as decision-making aids for tillage and cultivation.

Farmers Max Stürzer from the Lake Starnberg area and Georg Scheuerle from Landsberg near Halle (Saale) discussed the implementation of these visionary ideas in farming practice with the company representatives Rolf Schneider (Kuhn), Mario Wessels (Amazone), Philipp Horsch (Horsch) and Lars Heier (Lemken) in a subsequent panel discussion headed by Roland Hörner, head of the agricultural machinery unit at the DLG Competence Center Agriculture. Focus here was on diversity and flexibilisation because, in practice, crop production is increasingly developing into an area for specialists who want and are able to derive the optimum from their crops in their locations subject to the unique requirements determined by their crop rotation and cultivation methods.

Ultimately, Prof. Weltzien's statement stands as a summary concerning the future of cultivation: "Farmers will have to determine what is reasonable on their farms, and that has to be reflected by the technical systems!"