Delicate purple in Lusatia – Lavender is blooming and growing quite successfully on reclaimed land, here in the second vegetation period. Thereby, combining lavender, short rotation wood and photovoltaic panels is a climate-adapted and friendly blueprint for innovative land use systems. A multifunctional post-mining landscape serves cross-cutting issues. It contributes to energy transition, secures the income for farmers and has multiple ecological benefits.
As a landscape research institute, FIB is in close contact with local and regional stakeholders including farmers, other landowners, civil society organisations, crafters and food processing companies. The guiding principle of this prospective project is to work with them to establish innovative and ecologically sounding value chains based on renewable resources from the region. One focus lies on integrated agri-PV systems, combining highly efficient photovoltaics with ecological-friendly and climate adapted crops, such as lavender on degraded or otherwise underutilised land. This promising project idea can support farmers in Lusatia to grow specific crops in degraded land and produce regional high quality products, across regional value chains and networks.
- Depending on the individual operational possibilities, crop management, harvesting and processing will be done ideally by local farmers themselves or in cooperation with regional crafters to produce real and innovative local products with a low carbon footprint.
- Processed products can be sold with some appealing slogans, like “From coal to lavender” to tourists in the region or in nearby cities like Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and Prague. This may be attractive for start-ups with a unique selling point.
- Specially chosen crops can generate more added value from a single hectare of land than with the usual crops, especially on marginal soils and other low-yielding land, e.g. new soils of lignite mining.
- The crops are selected by their suitability to the soil and also taking into account measurable effects of climate change on land use.
- Because the mechanisation level of special crops is lower when compared to common arable crops, there is more need for manual work. This an opportunity for reskilling workers and creating jobs for the particularly protected labour market.
However, establishing new value chains − particularly special crops like lavender − is quite expensive and has financial risks for start-ups. On the other hand, photovoltaics on arable land are more and more in common and quite lucrative for landowners. The module rows of the PV systems represent spatial obstacles for conventional cultivation methods − depending on the installation − so that smaller-scale land uses in between are possible. Below the line: The generated income of combining lavender and photovoltaic panels is much higher as compared to earnings by conventional agricultural production in the target region – even on higher yielding arable land.
Right now, there are already first demonstration projects and lavender growing trials with scientific support and evaluation by FIB. They show the good growth, without any additional irrigation, plant protection measures and fertilisation – a really site-adapted and low input cropping system. However, the challenging task is right now to connect effective cropping, harvesting and processing with a sounding product development and marketing. Also missing is an economic optimisation of the combined land use, linked to the higher-ranking and legally binding reclamation targets.
Our project idea aims to test a combination of different types of photovoltaic installations − elevated modules of different heights, vertical modules and bifacial modules − and different sorts of lavender and advanced farming techniques. Research activities will take into account the effects on soil development, biodiversity and overall reclamation success/speed. With a focus on lavender cultivation, researchers will test the influence in the positioning of the cultivated lavender under or in between PV-modules and the effect on quantity and quality of extractable oils and pharmaceutical ingredients.
For more information contact: Dr. Anne Rademacher (email@example.com)