Mountain Agriculture

 

Mountain agriculture is the main source of income for many families, it produces food and preserves rural environments – a crucial factor not only for those farming the land but also for urban dwellers who use the mountains for recreational purposes. And on top of that, rural and mountainous areas have long turned into a major pillar of local tourism (ecosystem services). 

In its applied research approach, the Reserach area Mountain Agriculture investigates different issues of alpine farming in South Tyrol: It researches site-adapted cultivars and investigates into optimising agricultural practices using different crops (meadows, pastures and silage maize) from an agronomic and ecological point of view. Furthermore, it explores the development and examination of grassland seed mixtures and the protection of local genetic cereal resources. 

The climatic and ecological specifics of mountain regions and their different growing seasons offer plenty of room for a large variety of products and the exploration of market niches. New interdisciplinary projects work towards acquiring the scientific basis to identify these opportunities especially in terms of cereals and vegetables – with the aim of activating and supporting local and regional production chains.

To determine the quality of your basic feed, visit the webGras project website. It's fast, free and easy!

 

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The climate of high-altitude sites favours the cultivation of vegetables of outstanding quality – a trait which consumers hold in high regard. Growing produce on open-air fields has therefore long been firmly integrated in South Tyrolean agriculture.

Continuous practical testing allows us to regularly evaluate new varieties of the most important vegetable cultivars, helping the agricultural sector to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the marketplace. The aim is to identify the most environmentally friendly cultivation methods possible, and to offer consumers healthy produce of the highest quality. The Laimburg Research Centre facilities provide:

  • cultivar testing of the main vegetable types grown in South Tyrol
  • research into a needs-oriented fertilisation approach
  • research into cultivation techniques, crop management and tending strategies
  • research into organic vegetable farming
  • technical assistance and consultation services for agricultural co-operatives and private farms

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Grassland farming

In mountainous regions, grassland not only provides healthy forage for cattle but also a refuge for rare plant and animal species – and recreation for people. All efforts to manage grassland should therefore be based on cyclical, sustainable and site-specific forage production in accordance with animal needs. The Centre offers:

  • forage cultivar testing
  • developing and examining seed mixtures for permanent meadows
  • site-specific crop management for meadows and pastures
  • yield and vegetation dynamics
  • fertilisation and nutrient balance
  • estimation of forage quality
  • drought damage on grassland depending on management intensity
  • preventing and combating weeds in an environmentally friendly manner
  • optimisation of livestock numbers on pastures
  • costs of forage production in mountain areas

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Livestock farming

Dairy farming is the most important economic sector of mountain agriculture. Animal welfare, adequate husbandry and above all a balanced feeding approach are pivotal for healthy cows and the production of high-quality dairy products – and on-farm production of basic feed plays an important role in it all. The Livestock Farming department provides essential input to help plan, carry out and interpret experiments into forage production:

  • tests to determine the significance of different methods to produce basic feed for milk cows
  • management and treatment of farm manure and nutrient analysis
  • silage maize cultivar testing

 


Arable Crops

Arable farming in mountainous regions plays a crucial role in shaping the landscape. But it also provides valuable food for human nutrition: Cereals for example can be an interesting production niche to complement the farm income. Local genotypes in particular deserve special attention: A systematic collection of the local grain varieties will ensure the preservation of their genetic diversity. At the same time, their properties are tested to identify new uses in agriculture and to safeguard their continued cultivation in mountainous areas.

The Centre engages in:

  • bread grains and barley cultivar testing
  • research into crop management
  • systematic collection of native grain varieties, ex-situ conservation in a gene bank, phenotypic and agronomic characterisation and identification of new uses (regional products)
  • creation of networks supporting regional production chains for cereals

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Aromatic Plants

Interest in medicinal and aromatic plants has increased significantly over the last few years. In South Tyrol, too, herbs have developed into an interesting supplementary – or even primary – crop for low- and high-altitude mountain farming. This prospect offers additional perspectives and a whole new contribution to the economic survival of a number of mountain farms.

 

The aim of the Alternative Crops department is to equip growers with new insights and vital expertise about medicinal and aromatic plants – at both theoretical and practical level. This will help to provide the basis for a competitive production of premium organic herbs in South Tyrol which can be marketed continuously and become a guaranteed income for the region's farms. Appropriate varieties and cultivation sites, adequate farming strategies and correct plant drying and processing methods are the key prerequisites for high quality herbal products. The department’s portfolio therefore includes:

  • assessment of the suitability of medicinal and aromatic plants for cultivation at low- and high-altitude mountainous sites
  • research into the quality and active ingredients of herbs
  • research into cultivation techniques, crop management and tending strategies
  • fertilisation and plant protection in organic herb cultivation
  • technical advice and continued training in cultivation and processing matters

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