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Lettuce, Germany

Lettuce – Thomas Goedelmann, Germany

Thomas Goedelmann grows lettuce, carrots, radishes and other vegetables on his farm in the South of Palatinate, Germany. Here he describes how he is employing innovative ways of increasing soil organic matter, collaborating with his neighbours to grow more lettuce, whilst trying to reduce inputs and costs.

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Key areas of good practice

The key practices on the farm are:

  • The farm plants Sorghum-Sudan grass as a break crop which produces several tonnes of organic matter per hectare, this is cut and chopped for incorporation into the soil with the aim of increasing soil organic matter (SOM) levels. The additional benefits of the Sorghum-Sudan grass is that it is fast-growing smothering out weed growth and the deep rooting nature of the plant helps to improve soil structure and break up compacted soils.

  • To reduce the effects of soil erosion all organic material from Sorghum-Sudan grass and harvested wheat straw is mixed into the soil surface to provide a binding material which reduces soil erosion during the winter period. Cultivations are carried out towards the end of March just prior to planting lettuce.

  • To reduce the frequency that lettuce is grown within the rotation on the farm’s land, Thomas collaborates with neighbouring farmers to exchange land on short term agreements. This has led to 60% of the farms lettuce production being grown ‘off farm’ in fields that have not had salad crops in the previous year. This reduces disease risk, lowers plant protection product (PPP) use therefore reducing costs and inputs.

  • Although the farm has a good supply of ground water, consumption is optimised through:

    • Irrigation water is transferred from its source through a system of underground pipes, which reduces the risk of contamination
    • Careful positioning of irrigation sprinklers reduces the effect of wind and limits water loss through driftage
    • Optimising water drop size to be bigger and heavier and therefore less susceptible to wind and drift
    • Using a grid sprinkler system to provide a small quantity of water directed very quickly across the field surface to ensure water infiltrates the ground without forming puddles on the plants, which helps to prevent disease occurrence and spoiling
    • Highest volume of irrigation undertaken during the night which helps to reduce evapotranspiration and brief periods of irrigation are carried out during the day to reduce the temperature of the leaves and to decrease the risk of tip burn
  • In collaboration with agronomist engineer of Bonduelle Fresh, the farm tests and chooses the best varieties of lettuce adapted to the climatic soil conditions of the region of Palatinate which also meet the market requirements