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Potatoes - Austria, Seefeld Farm

Seefeld Farm shows how modern farming can provide environmental benefits for wildlife and biodiversity, whilst producing high-quality potatoes. It focuses on water management, soil testing, and demonstrates how by delivering consistently high-quality potatoes, supply contracts can be established.

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Key areas of good practice
Certification / assurance:

Seefeld Farm is inspected under the requirements of the Frisch & Frost farm assurance scheme and the globally recognised GLOBALG.A.P standard. These schemes ensure consumer confidence in food quality and safety, and cover other important areas such as environmental impacts and good agricultural practice. Being certified ensures that the production of potatoes on the farm is fully compliant with the requirements of the McDonalds Agricultural Assurance Programme (MAAP) (http://www.flagshipfarms.com/MAAP.php).

Product quality:

The farm has a supply contract with a local potato processor, setting out minimum grades which the potatoes are expected to meet, with incentives and bonus payments for quality above that stated in the contract. The contract enables the farm to calculate the profitability of the potatoes and allows inputs and management decisions to be implemented accordingly.

The improved management system and implementation of good agricultural practices have increased the farm's potato yield to 50 tonnes/hectare, over 50% above the Austrian national average of 33 tonnes/hectare.

Soil health:

The farm undertakes a regime of testing for phosphate and potash (along with trace elements and pH) on a four–yearly basis. Mobilised nitrogen is tested in the autumn on land where cereal straws have been incorporated to ensure there is 90 kg N/Ha, to allow adequate breakdown of the straw in the soil. Mobilised soil nitrogen is also tested in the spring; the farm's pig slurry is then applied to the land to ensure adequate nitrogen availability for the growing crop, reducing the need to purchase artificial fertilisers.

The farm's use of pig slurry, which is produced by the estate's 1000–sow breeding unit, reduces the reliance on purchased artificial fertilisers. A strict regime of soil nutrient analysis allows slurry to be applied accurately where required. Low–level application followed by swift incorporation reduces ammonia (nitrogen) losses.

The farm plants a green cover crop during the autumn for fields which are to be sown in the spring. Cover crops can lessen nitrate losses from the soil, and reduce the risk of soil erosion.

Water:

There is sufficient centre pivot irrigation on the farm to irrigate around 800 hectares. Irrigation scheduling has been improved with the introduction of a Dacom system which measures soil moisture levels at three depths. This allows precise monitoring of soil moisture levels and allows timely application of the correct amount of water to the crop, resulting in optimum water use and top–quality potato yields and grades.

The unique water storage system for irrigation is incorporated within the ditches and wetlands on the farm. These areas provide crucial habitats for the local wildlife and help to increase the levels of biodiversity. The stored water allows the potatoes to be irrigated as soil moisture and crop requirements dictate, ensuring optimum growing conditions for the high– quality potatoes needed for processing.

Ecosystem protection:

The unique water storage system for irrigation is incorporated within the ditches and wetlands on the farm. These areas provide crucial habitats for the local wildlife and help to increase the levels of biodiversity. The stored water allows the potatoes to be irrigated as soil moisture and crop requirements dictate, ensuring optimum growing conditions for the high-quality potatoes needed for processing.

The farm has long–term set–aside, providing natural habitats for feeding and nesting wild bird populations. Even with the abolition of compulsory set–aside, the farm appreciates the benefit that these areas provide. There is also an extensive network of hedges and wildlife strips around the farm, bringing benefits to the wildlife and insects, and providing crucial interconnecting wildlife corridors.

Community:

The farm has a network of stone tracks which are used as the farm's transport route around the estate. This is also accessible to the local population as cycle tracks, providing a valuable resource and giving easy access to the countryside.