Thomas Goedelmann grows lettuce and other vegetables on his 340-hectare farm in the south-west of Germany.
Focusing on soil quality, the farm uses Sorghum-Sudan grass as a break crop to produce tons of organic matter and prevent weeding. Goedelmann also takes an innovative approach to land use and collaborates with his neighbors to grow more lettuce while lowering cost and reducing risk of disease.
The farm plants Sorghum-Sudan grass as a break crop, which produces several tons of organic matter per hectare; this is cut and chopped for incorporation into the soil with the aim of increasing soil organic matter (SOM) levels. The additional benefits of this grass are that it is fast-growing, smothering out weed growth, and deep-rooting, which helps to improve soil structure and break up compacted soils.
To reduce the effects of soil erosion, all organic material from Sorghum-Sudan grass and harvested wheat straw is mixed into the soil surface to provide a binding material that reduces soil erosion during the winter period. Cultivations are carried out toward the end of March just prior to planting lettuce.
Although the farm has a good supply of ground water, consumption is optimized through the following measures:
- Irrigation water is transferred from its source through a system of underground pipes, which reduces the risk of contamination.
- Careful positioning of irrigation sprinklers reduces the effect of wind and limits water loss through driftage.
- Optimizing water drop size to be bigger and heavier and therefore less susceptible to wind and drift.
- Using a grid sprinkler system to provide a small quantity of water directed very quickly across the field surface to ensure water infiltrates the ground without forming puddles on the plants, which helps to prevent disease occurrence and spoiling.
- Highest volume of irrigation undertaken during the night to reduce evapotranspiration; brief periods of irrigation are carried out during the day to reduce the temperature of the leaves and decrease the risk of tip burn.
In collaboration with an agronomist engineer from Bonduelle Fresh, the farm tests and chooses the best varieties of lettuce that are adapted to the climatic soil conditions of the region of Palatinate and that meet the market requirements.
To reduce the frequency that lettuce is grown within the rotation on the farm’s land, Thomas collaborates with neighboring farmers to exchange land on short-term agreements. This has led to 60% of the farm’s lettuce production being grown “off farm” in fields that have not had salad crops in the previous year. This reduces disease risk and lowers the need for plant protection product (PPP) use, thereby reducing costs and inputs.
Learn more about Thomas Goedelmann’s story
Explore the case study, where you’ll find extra details on how the farm has performed against the program’s good practice standards and criteria, what external research reveals about the producer’s actions and how improved sustainability benefits them.
“It is important for me to grow and produce quality salad crops for my customers. Food safety, protecting the environment and reducing our demands on natural resources are all crucial elements to farming sustainably. By ensuring that we stay focused and committed, we aim to improve the land and its productivity, allowing me to hand the farm on to the next generation in a better condition for them to continue the journey. Being recognized by McDonald’s as a Flagship Farmer has demonstrated to me we are doing the right thing and I will continue to look for ways to improve.”
“Recognizing and addressing the key sustainability challenges within your farming system are fundamental factors for short and long-term success. While ensuring that the short-term goals and practices are well managed, Thomas has an eye on the future of his farming business. The essential component of crop production is soil, and Thomas has a clear objective to improve soil fertility and health, which will ensure the farm can keep growing quality salad crops sustainably.”