German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Cultivation of diverse protein crops to enhance biodiversity

Legume with bumble-bee | Photo: Annkathrin Gronle
blooming legume with bumble-bee

Increased cultivation of native protein crops (legumes) can help conserve natural biodiversity and the genetic diversity used in farming. As well as having beneficial uses for agricultural biodiversity, for instance as an important food source for pollinators, protein crops have a particularly strong positive impact on nitrogen fixing in the soil, humus enrichment, erosion prevention and soil water storage capacity. Despite these wide-ranging ecosystem services, the cultivation of protein crops is continuously declining in Germany and across Europe because it is cheaper to import protein products – in most cases from non-sustainable cultivation – and also because of the failure so far to develop efficient, suitable seedstocks and to provide relevant advice services for farmers.

Legumes and grain: mix crops; Photo: Annkathrin Gronle
Legumes and grain: mix crops

With funding from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) supported a R&D project with the primary focus on developing ways of advancing and establishing sustainable and diverse legume cultivation, preferably with indigenous crop species. The aim was to collect practicable approaches for the sustainable cultivation of legumes in crop rotation regimes. A diverse crop rotation system can help conserve biodiversity in the agricultural landscape and contribute in climate change mitigation and environmental protection.

The project identified some 30 best practice farms across Germany that already feature diverse legume cultivation and serve as models for replication. Besides identifying best practice farms, field days were held at two demonstration farms, where interested farmers and consultants were able to view numerous varieties of legumes in a range of cultivation forms.

Legumes and grain: mix crops; Photo: Annkathrin Gronle
Legumes and grain: mix crops

The outcomes are published as a manual for putting into practice legume cultivation methods that are beneficial in terms of nature conservation and thus also further the objectives of Germany’s National Protein Strategy. The manual provides guidance for agricultural consultants, farmers, policymakers, facilitators, the public and industry. Further information on the demonstration farms and the project is provided at

Last Change: 09/04/2018