Bioland Handelsgesellschaft mbH (BHG) based in Esslingen is a joint company of four Bioland producer groups which are predominantly active within their own regions, the Bioland Landesverband Baden-Württemberg and Dottenfelder Bio-Saat GmbH. It has been marketing organic grain and basic seeds in Baden-Württemberg and beyond for 25 years.
In addition to organically or bio-dynamically propagated varieties, their range offers many varieties that come from organic breeding. BHG is the nationwide leader in the marketing of these varieties and is therefore an important market partner of bioverita in the grain sector.
Propagation Taken Into Your Own Hands
“At first it was difficult to get untreated seeds on the market,” says Bernd Habeck, who has been managing director of BHG for six years. “This is why our team began to reproduce organic seeds in the first few years of business.” Over time, the range has been steadily
expanded and the quantities of seed potatoes and fine seeds by Bioland have also increased significantly. In the meantime, three employees coordinate the reproduction and marketing of grain on around 20 multiplication farms on over 500 hectares in southern Germany.
Last autumn, the farmers were able to choose from 20 different types of winter wheat. Of these, 14 came from the Peter Kunz Grain Breeding company (GZPK) or from Dottenfelderhof Research and Breeding (FZD). Ten of these varieties are bioverita certified. In addition, the spelt varieties Copper and Gletscher as well as the rye Firmament were available in autumn 2020 with bioverita certification.
“Overall, there is far less choice from organic breeding for spring sowing,” regrets Habeck. “A lot has to happen here.” In addition to many conventional varieties that have been organically propagated, the range includes the Talkunar oat varieties from the Cultivari Grain Breeding Research in Darzau, Kaspero from FZD and the bioverita-certified Evolino maize population from GZPK.
Seed Trader With a Mission
Habeck does not see BHG simply as a regional seed trader: “The aim of our company is to promote organic plant breeding. This is not only anchored in our constitution but is also reflected in our daily activities: “In Baden-Württemberg, we achieve a 90% share of wheat from organic plant breeding. That is unique in Germany.” The fact that the promotion of organic breeding is a central concern of BHG is also shown by the fact that Dottenfelder Bio-Saat GmbH has been a partner since 2017.
As well as the Dottenfelderhof Research and Breeding the GmbH is a company of the grain breeder Peter Kunz. This means that close exchange with organic breeding is fundamentally established. “BHG is close to the current breeding projects and at the same time can directly reflect the cultivation experiences of the farmers back to the breeders,” says the managing director happily.
Organic Breeding Must be Encouraged
Since the organic breeding companies mentioned are not part of the Saatgut-Treuhand (Seed Trust) and therefore do not receive any automatic royalties for the reproduction of their varieties, BHG asks its customers for a voluntary
contribution to support the breeding work in the amount of 2 Euros per decitonne delivered. This brings in several thousand Euros each year, which are then handed over to the seed fund.
Organic right from the start
The demand for specific seeds for organic farming has been growing noticeably for years. “While at the beginning most of the customers were regional organic farmers with smaller farms, today more and more larger farms switch to organic and buy from the BHG,” says Habeck. In addition to small-scale farmers and direct marketers, customers also include large customers who supply the large food retailers. Habeck knows from experience that there is still a great need for providing advice.
In addition to the cultivation associations and the producer associations, BHG often does the basic task of convincing farmers to try out these new varieties. Not an easy undertaking. Habeck is convinced, however, that the choice of variety is one of the most important decisions for organic farmers. After all, the organically bred varieties meet the specific requirements of organic farming. They are the basis for the overall concept “Organic right from the start – from breeding to the end product”.
Photos: Bioland Handelsgesellschaft, GZPK