Institute Institute Employees Christina von Haaren Research projects
Nature conservation in a farm management system for sustainable agriculture

Nature conservation in a farm management system for sustainable agriculture

Led by:  Prof. Dr. Christina von Haaren, Dipl.-Ing. Roland Hachmann
Team:  Dipl.-Ing. Stefan Blumentrath, Dipl.-Ing. Astrid Lipski, Dipl.-Ing. Katrin Vogel, Dipl.-Forstw. Malte Weller
Year:  2008
Funding:  Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU)
Duration:  February 2005 - May 2008
Is Finished:  yes


Development and testing of a concept and software package for the documentation and management of nature conservation requirements for good professional practice as well as for the documentation and calculation of ecological services on farms.

Project description:

Background and objectives of the research project
The implementation of the guiding principle of sustainability and multifunctionality in European and national agricultural and environmental policy places increased demands on farmers with regard to the environmental compatibility of their production. A number of computer-based systems already exist for recording and evaluating the environmental impacts of agricultural operations. So far, these approaches have not or only insufficiently taken into account the aspects of biodiversity and landscape aesthetics, as well as the site-specific or spatially specific evaluation of management that is necessary in this respect.

Within the framework of the project "Nature Conservation in a Farm Management System for Sustainable Agriculture" (cooperation partner:
Chair of Organic Agriculture and Agronomy of the Technical University of Munich, Prof. Dr. Hülsbergen), funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU), methods and software tools were therefore developed that extend the environmental and farm management system REPRO to include the aspects of biodiversity and landscape aesthetics.

Technical implementation
Because in the field of nature conservation mostly spatial data and analyses are applied, it was necessary to use features of geoinformation systems. Therefore, based on the free geoinformation system OpenJump, in combination with a PostgreSQL database, the "Management System Nature Conservation for Sustainable Agriculture" (MANUELA) was developed as a complement to REPRO. It was designed for use by both farmers and consultants. MANUELA offers users the possibility to use existing data (e.g. digital soil data, biotope mapping or landscape models), to collect new information about the landscape in a systematic and structured way, to relate the data about the landscape to the management data, to evaluate the collected information about the farm in a comparable way using uniform criteria and methods, and to subsequently derive measures for optimizing farm management based on the results obtained.

Result: Tools available
With the combined systems REPRO and MANUELA, it has thus been possible for the first time to integrate the areas of biodiversity and landscape aesthetics into an indicator system for use at the farm level and to use modern tools of a geoinformation system. In particular, the use of GI technology offers further development potential, e.g. through coupling with the precision farming approach.

The new methods and IT tools in MANUELA and REPRO allow:

  • Self-checks by farms regarding compliance with minimum requirements of good farming practice and from cross compliance,
  • Analyses of the farms' performance in the area of biodiversity, based on the stock of species and biotopes, the biotope development potential available on the areas, and the effects of use,
  • evaluations of the management-related biodiversity potential (based on the diversity of use) and special landscape management services as part of a farm-related sustainability certification,
  • the recording and evaluation of the farms' contributions to the aesthetic value of the landscape,
  • the estimation of the erosion risk by water in two differently differentiated approaches as well as
  • the calculation of costs for landscape management measures.

Testing of the tools
The concepts and prototypes of MANUELA (compliance audit, biodiversity, landscape aesthetics, erosion, cost calculation) as well as the newly developed modules of REPRO (compliance audit, erosion, diversity of use and biotope development potential) were tested on six real-life farms in Baden-Württemberg (2), Bavaria, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. The concepts for MANUELA were also reviewed in an expert workshop. Studies on acceptance show that the software is met with interest by both consultants and farms. However, most companies need more incentives than before to record, evaluate and present their environmental performance. In order to exploit the efficiency potential that the use of computing offers in principle, on the one hand the promotion of nature conservation consulting as well as the other framework conditions for the use of such software systems need to be improved (e.g. with regard to the accessibility and availability of geodata as well as mobile recording technologies). On the other hand, the prototypes and specialized concepts for the system that have been created must be further developed into software that is ready for practical use. However, the requirements of the interviewed potential users for such a software are very heterogeneous, so that the further development should follow a flexible user-oriented modularization concept.

The final meeting of the R&D project took place on April 18, 2008 in Osnabrück. A short report of the event can be found

A final publication on the results of the R&D project is expected to be published by
ibidem in September 2008.

For information on downloading a demo version of MANUELA, click here.