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Potatoes – Germany, DexTerra Farm

This case study shows how small family farms can work together to build an economically viable and diverse business, whilst enhancing the local environment and benefitting the local community.

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Key areas of good practice
Certification / assurance:

The farm is GLOBALG.A.P assured. The environmental requirements ensure that production methods do not adversely affect the natural environment, and the assurance improves marketability of produce grown.

Agrotechnology:

The business has incorporated the Argus decision support system within its blight management and pest control strategy. This ensures plant protection products (PPP) are used when there is a calculated risk, optimising the timing for PPP application, reducing pesticide use, and saving money.

Global positioning system (GPS) technology is fitted to the sprayer, enabling accurate application of PPP and ensuring that crops receive the correct amounts of necessary product. This accurate application optimises pest, disease and weed control.

Sufficient high quality production:

DexTerra has merged with ten other local farms, now encompassing approximately 1,000 hectares of land. This has enabled the company to restructure and streamline the businesses, benefitting from economies of scale and reducing fixed costs per hectare.

Renewable energy:

The business has diversified into renewable energy with the construction of a 700 KwHr anaerobic digester (AD). This has enabled the business to provide full–time employment to one of the families involved in the company and is also a profitable diversification development.

Soil health:

The digestate from the AD system is used on the farm as a natural fertiliser. This reduces the costs associated with purchasing man–made fertilisers, and results in excellent soil health and fertility.

DexTerra has adopted a minimum cultivation policy. This policy reduces costs, and improves soil structure. Minimal earth disturbance also helps increase earthworm numbers, whose casts in turn improve soil structure.

Water:

Two large irrigation wells have been sunk on the farm. These, along with investment in a rain gun and reel irrigation system, ensure that crops are adequately irrigated in times of low rainfall.

The sprayer loading area on the farm has been concreted. Over 40% of pesticides found in water come from farm handling/filling areas, so shielding the surrounding environment from spillages protects local water courses and removes the risk of pollution fines.

20 metre wide maize buffer strips are planted along ditches to protect local waterways from any inadvertent pollution from crop–spraying. The maize harvest is used as a feedstock for the anaerobic digester.

Biodiversity:

The business has made and erected 82 bird boxes around the farm, which had a 87% occupancy rate during the 2011 nesting season. There has also been a trial plot of flowering plants sown in one of the wheat fields to encourage increased insect activity, insects being an important food source for the local bird population.

The farm plants a strip of sunflowers alongside one of the public footpaths specifically for the local villagers to cut and take home.

Community:

A small trailer was given to local teenagers, which has been converted by them into a hang– out on a piece of land just outside the village. This has helped build a strong relationship between the farming business and the local community.