Species rich seeding on agricultural fields, Würzburg district, Germany

Within the framework of a pilot project entitled “The Biotope Network in the Cultural Landscape” (“Mit Biotopverbund in die Kulturlandschaft”), the aim is to establish a comprehensive network of interlinked biotopes in two municipalities in Würzburg district, Germany, within five years. At the same time, a further aim is to reduce the potential for conflict between different types of land use, including farming and forestry, hunting, nature conservation and recreation.

To this end, various species-rich seed mixtures, containing wild and cultivated plants, were developed and were mainly sown on set-aside areas. During project implementation, existing tools for structural development in the agricultural sector – including agri-environmental measures, parcel exchange and set-aside – should be deployed, combined with new measures and developed further. An interdisciplinary team, whose members include biologists, forest scientists and countryside managers, was established to run the project, and a number of different authorities were involved, including agriculture and forestry offices and landscape management associations. Farmers, hunters and local community representatives were also invited to participate.

© Hermann / pixelio.de
© Hermann / pixelio.de

As a first step, local people were asked to give their views on what kind of farmland they wished to see. Surveys were carried out, and it became apparent that most people in the region would like to see more waysides with flowering plants, hedges and patches of woodland, stretches of water and mixed orchards.

Efforts were therefore made to identify ways of taking local people’s wishes into account in the creation of a biotope network. However, it became apparent that establishing permanent landscape structures (hedges, patches of woodland) on this generally very fertile farmland was likely to pose major problems and could only be achieved in combination with compensation and substitution measures. A key aspect of the biotope network was therefore to encourage the growth of flowering plants on cropland. To this end, species-rich seeding was undertaken on set-aside areas, whose composition was developed further during the course of the project and geared towards the needs of various species of fauna. Various types of seed mix were developed, such as a flower mixture which proved particularly suitable for outlying and fallow land in the locality. A key criterion was that the seed mixes should have no negative implications for agriculture and that conventional production could be resumed on these areas at any time. Local species were also deliberately selected for seeding.


The areas which have undergone species-rich sowing provide food and cover for a wide range of species on farmland which is otherwise lacking in structure. The importance of the sown areas for species protection was demonstrated by numerous scientific studies which monitored the impacts on birds and invertebrates (ground beetles, spiders, butterflies). Impacts on hedge dwellers were also demonstrated (e.g. the Red-Backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)).

A further survey conducted at the end of the project term found that the flowering areas met with great acceptance among farmers, hunters and the local community alike. In total, 3.56% of the municipality, i.e. 8% of the agricultural production area, was “greened” as part of the project. Funding for relevant areas can be covered by agri-environmental measures. As an innovative funding option, one possibility that could be considered is to obtain a financial contribution from hunters and the municipalities, given that they benefit from the measure. Overall, the project showed that in an intensively used landscape in particular, species-rich seeding with wild flowers offers a good opportunity to create attractive and ecologically effective biotope network structures.

The seeding of areas with an assortment of wild-flower species, e.g. in the form of agricultural field margin projects, forms part of many agri-environmental programmes. The “Biotope Network in the Cultural Landscape” (“Mit Biotopverbund in die Kulturlandschaft”) project specifically investigated the importance of habitat creation on set-aside areas for the implementation of biotope network projects. Similar results were achieved in the DBU-funded project “Lebensraum Brache” (“Habitat Fallow Land” project) which explores ways of making fallow land more hospitable to wild fauna using agricultural market policy instruments (set-aside) in Germany.


Further information

  • Bayerische Landesanstalt für Weinbau und Gartenpflege, Abteilung Landespflege (2007): Mit Biotopverbund in die Kulturlandschaft. Artenreiche Ansaaten auf Ackerflächen als neues Hauptinstrument des Naturschutzes – Ergebnisse eines Pilotprojektes im Landkreis Würzburg
    (Bavarian State Institute for Viticulture and Horticulture (LWG), Countryside Management Department: The Biotope Network in the Cultural Landscape” (“Mit Biotopverbund in die Kulturlandschaft”), Species-rich Seeding on Agricultural Fields as an important new instrument in nature conservation – outcomes of a pilot project in Würzburg district)
    http://www.lwg.bayern.de/landespflege/landschaftspflege/25786/ansaat_pilotpro.pdf (de)
  • Projekt „Lebensraum Brache“ der Deutschen Wildtierstiftung, gefördert durch die Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU). Endbericht „Wer Vielfalt sät, schafft Lebensräume! – Von monotonen Ackerbrachen und Stilllegungsflächen zu wertvollen Habitaten“
    http://www.lebensraum-brache.de/_downloads/service/downloads/eigene/2007_Endbericht_Lebensraum_Brache.pdf (de)
  • "Habitat Fallow Land" Project of the German Wildlife Foundation, financed by the German Federal Foundation for the Environment (DBU). Final report of the project: “Creating habitats by sowing a wide variety of plant species: From monotonous set-asides to valuable wildlife habitats habitats”


Species rich seeding on agricultural fields


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