Schoolchildren will become annual visitors to JKI’s Dahnsdorf field experimental station near Berlin, Germany, after the success of an unusual field day this summer which gave researchers the opportunity to explain and demonstrate plant protection in integrated and organic farming systems. JKI’s Bernd Hommel reports.
The Leibniz-Gymnasium in Potsdam asked JKI researchers in Kleinmachnow to show their pupils and teachers agricultural science in practice. Therefore, in June JKI invited them to visit the field experimental station in Dahnsdorf, 70km south of Berlin.
The 28 children, aged 10 to 13, and their biology and geography teachers learned and accomplished different tasks supported by a researcher at four different stations. The stations focused on various aspects of soil, cultivated crops, insect control and weeds, and the children were encouraged to carry out different experiments and to experience nature on their own.
Researchers were able to show common crops and the importance of plant protection against insects and weeds because Dahnsdorf has crop rotations with different arable crops (cereal species, maize, oilseed rape, potatoes, peas, clover), large fields where plant protection products are used differently, untreated fields, mechanically weeded fields, and plots where integrated and organic farming is simulated.
The children had the opportunity to knead and examine different soils (someone found an earthworm, much to their delight), gaze at crops and measure the thousand grain weight of crops. In addition they had the chance to collect and draw Colorado potato beetles (beetles scared kids with the excretion of a yellow coloured liquid on their fingers), weeds were picked in the untreated fields and some kept carefully for preparing a herbarium at home or school. Some children brought identification books to look up the names of insects and plants.
They noticed remarkable differences between experimental fields and asked researchers to explain the reasons why fields that are more commonly seen around the area appear far ‘cleaner’ than many of JKI’s experimental fields. The kids learned that weed or insect control is necessary only to a certain extent but the tools used and their efficacy are sometimes different. Both children and staff had an exhausting but successful day.
JKI’s field experimental station is very suitable for this kind of public ‘information and awareness-raising’, the requirement for which is outlined in article 7 of the European Union’s 2009/128/EC Directive for the sustainable use of pesticides. Researchers and teachers agreed to repeat annually this collaboration, aiming at providing balanced information about the role of plant protection for sustainable food production.
For more details contact Petra Seidel.