Bumblebees and other bees buzzing around a flowering field

Unusual field trial by AGRAVIS Niedersachsen-Süd GmbH

This year, farmer Volker Hinze’s maize crops have unusual neighbours. Flowers are growing right next door. Along the Landesstraße 321 between Rethen und Meine, an eye-catching sight is growing: a landscape of flowers on one hectare.

The first signs can be clearly seen as early as May. The landscape should be coming into bloom soon here on farmer Volker Hinze's field. By July at the latest, the still tender little plants along the Landesstraße 321 between Rethen and Meine in Lower Saxony will be an eye-catching sight: a colourful mixture of considerable size.

Information on catch crops and flowering plants

A well-used cycle track runs past the 36-year-old farmer's land. Cyclists have spotted the information boards on the field, give Hinze a wave, approach and stop – people know each other here. The 18 signs provide information about the respective seed mixes for catch crops, wildflower meadows or flowering plants that Hinze sowed here in April. The farmer is hoping to meet interested people: "I'd love to have a discussion with them."

Honey fallow on 2.5 hectares

Maize could actually be grown on this one hectare, just like next door. But Hinze is deliberately leaving this area to "run wild". By doing so, he is actively getting involved in nature conservation. Hinze worries that "there are noticeably fewer bees now". This is a trend that he'd like to help counter. Christoph Siegert of AGRAVIS Niedersachsen-Süd GmbH stresses that "Volker Hinze wants no money for this". Hinze is his customer and he was able to quickly win the farmer's enthusiasm for the extraordinary field trial with different seed mixes from AGRAVIS. Hinze had already decided last year to have honey fallow on 2.5 hectares. "All of that shows how much the environment means to him," says Siegert, happily. And Hinze explains: "Nature isn't just something that I live from, but something in which I would very much like to live."

He cultivates rapeseed in his own fields: "I need bumblebees and other bees for that." Close cooperation with his beekeeping neighbours is second nature to him. "I no longer treat some areas with crop protection at all," he says. And if he does, then only in the evening when the bees are in their hives.

Seed mixes take account of extreme weather conditions

The sky is very cloudy when Hinze and Siegert assess the planting on this particular afternoon. Clouds, but still insufficient rain. Despite the conditions, some seeds are already sprouting though. However, the dryness is affecting the growth of others. But things aren't that bad: “Everything is better than last year," says Hinze, recalling the months of drought. He and Christoph Siegert expect extreme weather to occur more frequently in the future. That's also why sowing wildflower meadow mixes is valuable. “They give an insight into which plants thrive better under which conditions," explains Siegert. They could also protect against soil erosion. The AGRAVIS seed laboratory in Isernhagen is also involved in gathering a significant amount of meaningful findings on this land for catch crop cultivation and for greening.

Plants bind phosphorous and nitrogen

The project is intentionally being run in public view. The cyclists have now moved on. There isn't yet much to see apart from the small plants just a few centimetres high. Christoph Siegert of AGRAVIS is certain that the flowering areas will attract more attention in June and July. “We've also sown sunflowers here, for example." Those alone will catch the eye. The signs provide important information, such as on how the mixes release phosphorous or collect nitrogen. But Siegert and Hinze would prefer to engage in personal conversations with passers-by: "We'd like to explain what we're doing here and how agriculture can help to protect nature."

It seems that the seeding has been well received by the animals living around this land. Deer are regular guests here, as is apparent from the tracks in the soil. The meadow is intended to be a point of call for them and other animals, and also for insects. And interested humans can also come up close, look around and learn more. For that very reason, farmer Hinze has left sufficiently large spaces between the plots; these are intended to serve as footpaths for visitors in the future. A way for agriculture and nature to coexist – it's ready here.