It's events like the one in merkendorf a good 14 days ago that make anton weig bright-eyed from a professional point of view. In the district of bamberg, a thunderstorm caused considerable damage at the end of august – in particular due to soil that was spooled into the town from agricultural land. "The fields could not hold the water", explains weig, crop consultant at the coburg office for agriculture. And he even knows how to prevent such occurrences.
Together with sebastian schultheib (22), whom he is teaching in advanced training to become a master farmer, anton weig oversees a field between neuses an den eichen and gossenberg. There, corn grows, which is particularly susceptible to soil erosion. But on sebastian schultheib's six hectares, the problem does not exist. Anton weig walks through the row of two-and-a-half-meter-high plants and, looking down at the earth, says with satisfaction: "pressure-resistant and full of pores, that's how we want it."
The fact that the soil is also capable of storing even coarser amounts of precipitation is primarily not due to weig and not to schultheib. This is due to earthworms, which are found in large numbers in the soil and make it permeable to water with their tubes. They have come in droves because – even now in autumn – they find plenty of food on the fub of the corn plants. "With organic matter on the surface, I feed my soil life", explains anton weig.
Sebastian schultheib already attracted the soil-dwelling creatures last fall. He has sown an intercrop in the field after the harvest, the remains of which have been left since the spring after surface tillage. Anton weig shows what has become of it: he takes a small pile of dead plant material from the ground, and a worm tube becomes clearly visible directly below it. The plant residues are the worm's food supply, so to speak.
Intercrops such as mustard or horseradish are not only important as food for soil organisms, they also cover and protect the soil from heavy rainfall in autumn and winter. How these affect, female anton weig from experience: "per liter of precipitation hit on a square meter up to 13000 raindrops." Especially during heavy rainfall events, the high kinetic energy with which the drops literally hit the ground and cause erosion should not be underestimated.
Well protected in winter, well aerated in summer thanks to the earthworms – sebastian schultheib's cornfield comes very close to the ideal image from agricultural teaching. "Like a sponge, says weig, the soil has to be strong enough for heavy agricultural vehicles to drive on. Weig and schultheib quickly determine how much water the soil can absorb: they pour water into a metal ring that is printed into the ground. The more permeable the soil, the faster the water disappears. After three watering cans full of water that seeps into the soil in less than three minutes, the crop cultivation expert nods with satisfaction and calculates: "that was 60 liters per square meter."
Standing next to the small experimental set-up in the middle of the field is wolfgang schultheib – sebastian's father and, he says himself, "from the days of the 35-horsepower tractors" originating. He could not have imagined the mass of the earthworms and the permeability of the soil in such a way. Wolfgang schultheib also recalls from the time of his training: "mulch attracts worms."
The question of the auand
However, one must not forget, says schultheib senior, that the time and technical effort required to use catch crops is already greater than without them. Anton sways his head a bit inconclusively until he finds the right formulation: "let's say: the management rope is a bit higher than the one on the other." In the long run, however, this is put into perspective, especially in dry years. Corn is the crop where the farmer is most likely to suffer harvest losses. "In terms of yield, we are much more stable", sebastian agrees with his trainer.
A team from bavarian television accompanied sebastian schultheib's experiment. A report on the project is on friday, 15. September, at 7 p.M. On the program "our country to see.