We started the day by visiting the research division of the Bavarian Ministry for agriculture and forestry, also known as the LFL. They showed us 3 different projects they are currently working on. The first is called the moving field. The LFL is doing research on barley varieties and conditions. They have hundreds of boxes growing under a greenhouse where they can control the moisture. They are looking for hearty barley that will grow in dryer conditions, due to climate change. They see barley increasing as a cover crop in the future.
Everyday the boxes move on belts and are photographed. The first pictures look at the root systems for comparison. The second camera looked at emergence and growth. The third camera looked at the chlorophyl levels of every box. This is a new device and the first time this test has been run so there is some uncertainty of the results.
The next test we visited was the rain out shelter. This is a moving greenhouse roof. The roof has sensors that will close the roof when it senses rain. This allows the scientists to test drought tolerance of various crops growing in field conditions versus a greenhouse. The last item we viewed was the biogas research station. This is an ongoing project that uses multiple methane reactions in a controlled test tube environment. The researchers are looking for more efficiencies and other fuel sources. All this research was being done in two small semi containers.
Our next stop was a hops farm. This farm was operated by the Stiglmaier family. Elisabeth Stiglmaier was our host. She operates tours on the farm during the summer season. She told us their farm has 20 hectare (50 acres) of hops. The farm has been in the family since 1603. This area of Bavaria is also the largest hops producing area in the world.
She took us to the hops field and showed us how the hops are grown. When the hops are young they trim each plant so there are 3 vines growing per plant. There is a wire system over the hops field and a wire lowered for each hop vine to grow around. The vines will grow to be 7 meters tall and may grow 10-15 cm per day. She then showed us a video of harvesting hops. They can harvest 1 hectare per day. The picker moves through the field and harvests the whole vine including the wire. The vines are brought back to the barn and ran through what I would compare to a threshing machine. This is where the hops are separated from the vine. The hops are then placed into 60 kg bags to be taken to the distributor. We enjoyed learning about this unique crop.
Agropa potato and onion packing plant was our next stop. This is a privately owned sorting and packaging company. Agropa packages fresh potatoes, no processing is involved. They package 100,000 tons of potatoes and onions into 2 kg packages. They explained consumer preference in package size has lowered from 10 kg to 2 kg in the past few years. The other interesting note on the packaging is they label the levels of starch by color code. Customers prefer low starch for mashed potatoes but higher starch for baked or boiled so they do not fall apart or get mushy.We then headed for the city of Regensburg for the evening.