Anyone driving over land these days is surrounded by a sea of green plants. Even more so, the up to three meter high walls intrude into the view of the walker. Corn has been on the rise in lichtenfels county since 2004. The amount of the accrual has increased by more than ten percent.
Hans-jurgen rebelein sees no problem in it. The head of the coburg branch of the bavarian farmers' association (BBV) doesn't understand why so many people are so upset about corn cultivation. The fact that the corn sector is playing a bigger role than before can be explained by the fact that it is now being used as a renewable energy source to generate electricity via biogas plants, admits rebelein. However, he does not see this as a cause for concern.
"Last year, just one tenth of the total agricultural land was used to grow silage corn", rebelein explains and points to the figures from the office for food, agriculture and forestry in coburg. This shows that coarse flat arable land is abandoned. "If lichtenfels can still afford to shut down more than 1,000 hectares, then there's no need for the 'tank or plate' discussion", says the coburg branch manager. This value proves that there is still a sufficiently large buffer and that the corn does not reduce the acreage for cereals.
Because that is precisely the core of the "tank or plate" debate – concern that increasing energy production from biogas plants will lead to a loss of arable land for cereal production. Whether these plains will be planted with corn instead, so that soon only corn will grow in the god's garden?
Farmer johannes angermuller, himself the operator of a biogas plant in buch am forst, also does not consider the flat area cultivated with corn to be too coarse. However, he finds it understandable that discussions are arising in other areas of germany. "When i see nothing but corn all day in parts of schleswig-holstein, i start to worry, too.", he says. However, he does not expect similar results for the district of lichtenfels and explains that he himself does not intend to grow significantly more corn on his fields. What he grows now is enough; that is, 60 to 70 hectares out of a total of 180 hectares.
In a statement, the nature conservation alliance draws attention to the downside of increasing corn cultivation. District chairman anton reinhardt criticizes that the eleven biogas plants in the district of lichtenfels are almost exclusively "fed" with the energy crop corn were. Instead of this, the resulting slurry from animal husbandry and the mown material, which is poorly suited for feeding, were to be increasingly brought in. Similarly, manure and biowaste – as practiced in the district of bamberg with the biowaste garbage can – could also be converted into electricity and heat in a biogas plant.
Criticism from the nature conservation alliance
This demand is met by johannes angermuller. He fills his plant with 40 to 50 percent corn meal, the rest is grain, gas, manure and slurry. "Theoretically, I can run the plant completely without corn.", he says. "If I use grass or grain as an alternative feedstock, I need a lot more flat to utilize the plant." Alternatives to corn have already been tried, millet varieties for example. However, these cannot yet be used as effectively as corn.
Despite this criticism, angermuller and rebelein agree that corn has decisive advantages for farmers. In cultivation, he says, it is less complicated than any other plant, builds up more biomass and copes better with the development of the climate. In addition, the need for chemical fertilizers is kept to a minimum. Corn can also be used in many ways: it is a source of energy and animal feed, it is used to make popcorn and it is eaten as mushrooms.
According to anton reinhardt, food production is the most important aspect of nature conservation at the bund. "Plate before tank and transformer!", he warns. Nevertheless, angermuller does not want to give up corn as an energy crop. For him and his colleagues, the biogas plant is a second mainstay alongside agriculture. For many farmers, this is now indispensable.
Nature conservationist reinhardt is also critical of the monocultural structures in corn cultivation. Because the living creatures find one-sided conditions in the soil and in the air, the diversity of species in the coarsely structured fields dwindles.
Reinhardt, on the other hand, says that wild boars really feel at home in corn. They find a "land of milk and honey" in the fields-and cause considerable damage, for which the farmer can hold the responsible hunter liable. Angermuller knows this problem from his own experience: two years ago, he had wild boar damage of around 5000 euros. The liable jager was his father.