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Kultursaat, the association for research in cultivation and cultivar conservation using biologically-dynamic fundamentals, celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 15, 2014. Various partners and affiliated organization used the milestone to extend their best wishes for the road ahead.
Alternative to conventional cultivation
The association Kultursaat was founded in 1994. At that time, practitioners were already concerned about the monopolization of the seed market and the dominance of hybrid varieties. For this reason, independent organic growers joined together 20 years ago to establish a sustainable and autonomous alternative to conventional plant breeding. Many of Kultursaat’s founders as well as numerous guests from associated organizations gathered for the weekend. 20 years of Kultursaat, 20 years of biodynamic cultivation and breeding, 20 years of non-hybrid varieties.
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The chairman of Demeter, Alexander Gerber, was also one of the congratulants. He praised the pioneering work and success of biodynamic plant cultivation. At the same time, he stressed that cultivar development for organic agriculture in general must be further developed. To that end, Demeter Germany promoted the improvement in admission requirements for organically-bred varieties. Per Alexander Gerber, biodynamic growers, for their part, shaped the work of Demeter e.V, and thus Demeter, as the first organic food association, already enacted 2008 guidelines for plant cultivation and breeding.
Already 70 registered new vegetable varieties
Under the umbrella of Kultursaat, approx. 70 new non-hybrid vegetable varieties have been created. The seeds are available to commercial and hobby horticulturists through Bingenheimer Saatgut AG.
Organic plant cultivation has a key role in the organic market: to enable sustainable variety in taste and independence from seed multinationals in the vegetable section. However, vigorous, fertile varieties are also an important means of adequately meeting the consequences of climate change. The preservation of plant integrity and transparency in the development of plant varieties are the top priorities of Kultursaat growers. In this way, they develop and conserve varieties as a cultural heritage and within the accountability of farmers and gardeners.
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Considering the essence of the plant
The 20th anniversary was an opportunity to be joyful and celebrate, but also provided the chance to take a look back and into the future. The presentations given by the growers showed that the autonomy of biologically-dynamic, organic cultivation is an important driver of the association and its growers. In the opinion of the members of Kultursaat, the purely material view of conventional cultivation is too shortsighted. The growers of Kultursaat work in consideration of the essence of the plant and bring a holistic approach to organic agriculture that also includes the spiritual.
Georg Willmann, outgoing board member of Kultursaat, asked that members continue to hold on to the spiritual foundations of the association while remaining open to new social trends that affect agriculture. He believes community supported agriculture (CSA) to be an economic approach that can benefit the biodynamic movement.
For Kultursaat, seeds are a cultural heritage
Elke Röder, Bundesverband Naturkost Naturwaren (BNN – Federal Association Natural Food/Products) and the first Kultursaat ambassador, congratulated Kultursaat on having the courage to build and foster independent cultivation that is oriented towards organic and biodynamic agriculture. She congratulated the courage to bring the concept of a community asset into plant cultivation and the marketing of varieties, and praised the association’s stance of treating seeds as a cultural heritage.
Elke Röder reported on the efforts by natural food retailers of the BNN to offer organic vegetables free of CMS hybrids in the future. However, this goal would not be attainable without the intense cultivation of non-hybrid varieties by Kultursaat. Elke Röder challenged all members of the value chain in organic food to collaborate even more closely and to improve the exchange of ideas and understanding between economic partners.
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Challenges for organic plant cultivation
Stimulating speeches were given by grower Christina Henatsch from Gut Wulsdorf in Ahrensburg (farm) and Burkhard Tillmanns, gardener and seed propagator from the nursery Gärtnerhof Röllingsen. Both talked about the challenges of organic cultivation and breeding.
On account of the solid cultivation work by Kultursaat, Burkhard Tillmanns was able to bring increasingly more non-hybrid varieties into cultivation over the last few years. Tillmanns reported that nursery Röllingsen has put in 65% non-hybrid varieties on open land; the percentage of non-hybrid varieties in the greenhouse is 71%.
The gardener asked the audience to think about how growers, gardeners, merchants, and consumers, together, could further develop the concept of quality. Per Tillmanns, taste, vitality, and nutrition-specific properties should be communicated more effectively. In his opinion, direct marketing has good prospects in this area as consumers have become significantly more interested in the topics of seeds and healthy nutrition.
Cultivation back into agricultural education
Kultursaat’s own cultivation training, which follows a holistic concept of cultivation and aims to strengthen cultivation on a commercial level, was mentioned several times. Tillmanns called for stronger integration of cultivation themes into agricultural/gardening education programs as well as the training in biologically-dynamic agriculture. He indicated that this was the only way to ensure an alternative to the molecular, biological, and genetic approaches in conventional cultivation.
In her presentation, grower Christina Henatsch referenced the “Agricultural Course” by Rudolf Steiner. She said that even the best cultivation of produce would not achieve anything if the quality of the variety did not correspond to nutritional quality. She pleaded for the courage to maintain a long-term view and not to focus too much on what is “doable” or required in current marketing conditions.
Kultursaat – uncompromising and with a long-term view
Christina Henatsch reported on her experiences with young people and trainees on Gut Wulsdorf. Per Henatsch, the next generation of organic farmers must also be uncompromising and espouse a long-term view in organic cultivation. This includes independence from corporate groups and cultivation that regards varieties as communal assets.
According to Henatsch, organic cultivation should focus on regionally-adapted varieties and extensive diversity. This diversity must always be supported by quality in taste as well as nutritional value. Only if organic cultivation stays consistent and uncompromising in these areas will organic growers attain their goal.
Creating alternatives to the seed industry
Gebhard Rossmanith, one of the two managing partners of Bingenheimer Saatgut AG thanked Kultursaat growers for their positive collaborative cultivation results over the last 20 years. From a political perspective, Rossmanith sees farmers and consumers facing the challenge of halting the worldwide acquisition campaign of the seed industry.
New genetically-engineered cultivation methods would increase the dependence of agriculture on corporate groups in the seed and chemical industries. Within this context, the work done by Kultursaat growers presents courage and hope by finding a positive alternative. Rossmanith expressed his gratitude to Kultursaat growers for having the presence of mind to see these developments coming already decades earlier.
Continuous further development of varieties
Boris Voelkel of Voelkel Naturkostsäfte (natural food juices) emphasized the high quality of non-hybrid varieties, which is also of great importance in juice production. According to Voelkel, his company processes more than 2,000 tons of non-hybrid vegetable varieties a year. He underscored the importance of continuous development of the varieties and reinforced the willingness of the Voelkel company to make a financial contribution to the cultivation efforts by Kultursaat.
Organic farming requires diversity and fertility
Oliver Willing, Executive Director of Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft (future foundation agriculture) by GLS-Treuhand, (trust company) applauded the work of the Kultursaat growers and especially highlighted the diversity of the people involved in the organization. Diversity in both plant varieties and cultivation as well as fertility will be the deciding factors in the further development of organic farming, per Willing. According to him, organic farming urgently needs independent plant cultivation.
Additional congratulants queued up. These included Mieke Lateir from the belgischen Ökosaatguthändler Biosano (Belgian organic seed dealer Biosano), Jean-Pierre Bringiers from Saatguthändler und Züchter Sativa (seed dealer and cultivator Sativa) from Switzerland, Barbara Maria Rudolf from Saat:gut e.V., an organization that promotes biologic, organic plant cultivation, as well as Klaus Schönfelder, natural food retailer and representative of BioMarkt-Einzelhändler (organic market retailers) (an initiative by Denree).