Working Groups of the Senate Commission

“Sustainable Intensification of Plant Production Systems” Working Group

During the first term of its mandate the Senate Commission published the policy paper “Sustainable and resource-efficient intensification of crop production: perspectives of agroecosystem research”, headed by Mr. Wolters.

The policy paper identifies three especially fundamental and innovative interdisciplinary research areas relating to the environmentally friendly intensification of production, which must be developed as a matter of urgency to respond to future challenges:

  1. Full utilisation of the potential of crops for environmentally friendly intensification of production in the context of ecosystem conditions
  2. Sustainable increase in plant production in a landscape context
  3. Economic, societal and political dimensions of increasing crop yields

"Genotype x Environment x Management Interaction in Wheat Cultivation" Working Group

The working group “Genotype x Environment x Management Interaction in Wheat Cultivation” was set up in the second mandate term to identify fundamental research topics which will improve understanding of the complex interactions between genotype, environment and management, taking the cultivation of wheat, one of the most important cereal types in Germany and Europe, as an example. The working group was chaired by Mr. Stützel.

"Field Trial Infrastructure" Working Group

Large-scale, long-term field trials are a core element of location-specific agricultural science.

During the first term of its mandate the Senate Commission published the position paper “Field Test Infrastructures – Current Situation and Future Prospects”, outlining the current situation and future requirements relating to field trial sites. To optimise field trials in agricultural science, it is proposed that landscape functions should be mapped out prototypically in a network of trial sites to enable researchers to investigate productivity per unit area, resilience and resource efficiency in specific landscapes in an interdisciplinary approach. It is also necessary to make standardised data available to the scientific community in data repositories.

“Meta-analysis and Productivity Development of Crops” Working Group

During the second mandate term the Meta-analysis and Productivity Development of Crops working group, led by Mr. Stützel, was formed to gauge the added value of integrative data evaluations and the development prospects of crop field trial sites.

The aim of this working group is to initiate the establishment of a data repository through coordinated research activity.

At a roundtable discussion on 3 July 2014, where the participants included the managers of experimental stations in Hannover, the subject of “Productivity development of winter wheat, maize and rape crops with reference to climate change” was identified as a suitable theme given its strong relevance to society and the existence of metadata.

“Theory Construction” Working Group

The white paper “Future Perspectives of Agricultural Science and Research” published by the DFG (2005) identified the systemic nature of agricultural science. By drawing on concrete examples, the Theory Construction working group intends to highlight the paradigm of agricultural science as a systemic science – in particular problems of scale – and identify scientific solutions for sustainable food production at various levels: for example different regional solutions associated with different societal contexts.

Members of the working group

  • Prof. Dr. Regina Birner, University of Hohenheim
  • Prof. Dr. Johannes Isselstein, University of Göttingen
  • Prof. Dr. Andrea Knierim, University of Hohenheim
  • Prof. Dr. Martin F. Quaas, University of Kiel
  • Prof. Dr. Eva Schlecht, University of Kassel
  • Prof. Dr. Hartmut Stützel, University of Hannover
  • Prof. Dr. Volkmar Wolters, University of Giessen

Cross-Commission Working Group “Infrastructure for Terrestrial Research”

To identify the need for integrative infrastructures in systemic terrestrial research and to produce concrete proposals for networked structures and recommendations to overcome existing obstacles, the cross-commission working group Infrastructure for Terrestrial Research established in September 2009, in which the Senate Commissions on Agroecosystem Research, Future Directions in Geoscience, and Water Research as well as the National Committee for Global Change Research were involved, published the strategy paper “Long-Term Perspectives and Infrastructure in Terrestrial Research in Germany – A Systemic Approach” in 2013.

The strategy paper highlights the need for the establishment of a German infrastructure network to predict the dynamics, resilience and adaptation of terrestrial ecosystems in a changing environment and presents proposals for the implementation of such a network.

In a statement in March 2013, the Leibniz Association (WGL) and the responsible Sections C and E as well as the Leibniz Research Alliance on Biodiversity (LVB) welcomed the recommendations of the cross-commission working group in full. In their statement, the WGL and the LVB expressly endorse the integration of the topic into the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany with a view to initiating a German infrastructure network in terrestrial environment research.

On 15 May 2014 the strategy paper was presented at a meeting of presidents of the relevant state offices and the participation of the federal states and their representatives in operational implementation was discussed.

The topic of infrastructures in terrestrial research was also introduced in the Bioeconomy Council. The strategy paper is cited in the Bioeconomy Council’s BÖRMEMO 03 (Broers et al., 2014).

“Infrastructures in Terrestrial Research” Working Group of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany

As proposed by the cross-commission working group Infrastructure for Terrestrial Research[A1] in the strategy paper “Long-Term Perspectives and Infrastructure in Terrestrial Research in Germany – A Systemic Approach”, in March 2014 the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany set up the working group Infrastructures in Terrestrial Research, which is led jointly by the DFG and the Helmholtz Association. The working group is chaired by Prof. Ingrid Kögel-Knabner and Prof. Georg Teutsch from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig.

In 2017 the working group published its final report “Infrastructures in Terrestrial Research – Recommendation for the Establishment of a National Observatory Network”, which serves as a basis for discussion for the scientific community, observatory operators and funding organisations. In its final report, the Alliance working group recommends establishing a network of observatories for terrestrial ecosystem research. Such a network could form the core of a nationally coordinated long-term concept and contribute to the integration of what is currently very fragmented long-term research in Germany. It would also provide a suitable nucleus for the establishment of a nationally managed coordination structure for terrestrial environment observation and the associated data management. The Alliance working group recommends that decisions on the integration of observatories in the network should be based on an announcement and application process to give maximum consideration to the potential of existing observatories.

“Research Infrastructure” Joint Working Group with Science Europe

In the second mandate term the activities of the Field Trial Infrastructure working group, which previously had a national focus, were integrated into the activities of the Science Europe working group “Research Infrastructure”. This is especially important with respect to the mapping of climate gradients and the ability to investigate plant production in a landscape context.

As a basis for the scientific investigation of a sustainable and resource-efficient increase in plant production in a landscape context, the Senate Commission and Science Europe propose the establishment of a European Consortium for Open Field Experimentation (ECOFE) in the form of a self-managing network.

During the course of 2017, in line with the decision of the roundtable discussion “The future of field trials in Europe: Establishing a network beyond boundaries” held on 10 February 2017, an initial network of field trial stations was established by linking well-known sites in Belgium, Germany, the UK[A1] , Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. Within this network, cultivation of 12 different winter wheat varieties was started in 12 different climate regions and 9 countries. The objective is to identify the traits that influence adaptation to a particular location. The scientific data is being made available to the research community in standardised, quality-assured form through a central data platform. A multi-location trial for maize will start in 2018.

The Senate Commission is thus acting on the options outlined in the cross-commission DFG strategy paper “Long-Term Perspectives and Infrastructure in Terrestrial Research in Germany – A Systemic Approach [A2] (2013)”. To implement the recommendations, the Senate Commission is participating in the working group “Infrastructures in Terrestrial Research” of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany.

Joint Working Group of the Senate Commission on Agroecosystem Research and DKN Future Earth

The working group was set up in spring 2015.

Its goal is to bring together researchers from various disciplines, companies from different agricultural areas and other stakeholders at federal, state and local level (from Germany and other countries) to raise their awareness of the subject of “sustainable intensification of agricultural production”, to promote the development of socio-economic solutions at a regional level and to identify research required to achieve this. The new research approaches developed in this way should be targeted at improving productivity at the same time as protecting natural resources and maintaining ecosystem services. The newly developed research approaches will take region-specific conditions as their subject and also offer solutions.

On the basis of the roundtable discussion “Sustainable intensification of agricultural production: The need for socio-ecological solutions at the regional level”, held in Bonn in November 2015, the working group prepared the working paper “How the sustainable intensification of agriculture can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals – The need for specific socio-ecological solutions at all spatial levels (2018)”. This paper identifies the need for research in relation to the development of regionally specific concepts for the sustainable increase of productivity per unit area. It also addresses the future challenges of climate change, technical innovations as drivers of new developments, and issues relating to acceptance.

Cooperation with the DFG Senate Commission on Genetic Research

In response to the development of new methods in molecular biology (TALEN technology, CRISPR/CAS), on 24 June 2015 the DFG organised a conference on “Requirements for protected sites for field trials with genetically modified plants (GMP)” to identify the need for protected sites for field research with genetically modified plants in Germany. The conference was organised jointly by the DFG Senate Commission on Agroecosystem Research and the DFG Senate Commission on Genetic Research. The discussion of the necessary basic conditions took account of the findings of a group of researchers from Agroscope in Reckenholz/Switzerland.

It was agreed that field trials with genetically modified plants are necessary for basic research, applied research and security research. In terms of the required area, an area of 5 to 6 ha per site was judged to be appropriate. The aim is to create a network of protected sites at European level. It is also considered necessary to establish a scientific advisory board to evaluate trial planning and provide advice to users.

Junior Researcher Academy “Agroecosystem Research: Soil Resources and Plant Production” Working Group

First Junior Researcher Academy
“Agroecosystem Research: Soil Resources and Plant Production” (2015-2016)

To address the lack of early career researchers with excellent training in the interdisciplinary field of sustainable increase of crop production, the Commission launched the first Junior Researcher Academy, “Agroecosystem Research: Soil Resources and Plant Production”, in 2015 with a week-long workshop (phase I). The academy spanned two years in total. The five-day workshop in Freising (phase I) allowed 20 researchers (10 women and 10 men) to discuss their experiences and enabled both young and experienced researchers to expand their professional networks in an interdisciplinary context. The feedback from all participants was very positive. They described as especially useful the opportunity to share information outside their own specialist areas, benefit from ideas for interdisciplinary collaboration and network with both peers and established researchers. The chance to learn about funding opportunities and the work of the DFG was also regarded as a very important outcome. The colloquium for applicants was held at the DFG in spring 2016 (phase II). The DFG approved a total of eight proposals. In autumn 2016 a two-day workshop provided the opportunity for participants to receive advice and support on the implementation of their first projects (phase III). The event made an important contribution to optimising the flow of information by intensifying personal contacts.


Second Junior Researcher Academy
“Agroecosystem Research and Plant Production” (2018-2020)

The call for the second DFG Junior Researcher Academy on Agroecosystem Research and Plant Production, issued on 27 June 2017, is available at

The selection of 20 participants was completed by mid-October 2017.

The workshop in phase I for the development of proposals will take place between Monday 9 April 2018 and Thursday 12 April 2018 at the Gustav-Stresemann-Institut in Bonn.

The provisional deadline for the submission of proposals is 1 September 2018.

The colloquium for applicants is scheduled for the beginning of October 2018, such that projects could get underway in early 2019.