Terra Medica - A model project in sustainability
Terra Medica in Staffort outside Karlsruhe is the most important source of herbal raw materials for the DHU’s homeopathic preparations. 70% of the total plant material we need is grown here under ecologically certified conditions. At Terra Medica, we cultivate the raw materials for the majority of our homeopathic medicines – completely free of pesticides.
Since 1976 we have been raising our medicinal plants in Staffort in keeping with the criteria of environmentally responsible farming, and we have even had EU certification since 1998. Our ecological approach to growing plants is the foundation for the quality of our homeopathic medicinal products. We are involved in every step from the seedling to the mature plant, and we harvest 100% organically grown plant material; all of this, however, is more than merely a guarantee of quality.
An oasis of biodiversity
The medicinal plant cultivation in Staffort creates a home for plants which have a wide variety of needs. All of the plants have the habitat and the ideal growing conditions they require to flourish, whether it be in shade houses, on or near a pond, in beds protected from the wind, or standing in the full sun. The many measures implemented at Terra Medica also create a biotope which makes a quantifiable contribution to ecodiversity in the region.
The lure of diversity
Biodiversity among the plants attracts a massive range of different insects, which in turn attract numerous birds. As a result, we have been able to confirm the presence of some 90 different butterflies and moths as well as four species of bats. A biodiversity expert from NABU, a nature conservation group in Germany, assisted us in parts of this endeavor. And among the 44 kinds of birds we have seen at Terra Medica, there are some which are considered rare. Large numbers of linnets, goldfinches and European serins have settled here.
Ample food for amphibians
Thanks to the many sources of nourishment available, several different kinds of amphibians and reptiles have found a home at Terra Medica, including pool frogs, agile frogs and grass frogs as well as smooth newts, Alpine newts, green toads and garter snakes. We are proud of this biodiversity. And above all, we want to preserve it and help it keep developing!
The regulations for organic farming also include extensive agriculture practices: this means that each plant has much more space surrounding it than in conventional farming. With its remarkable biodiversity, Terra Medica offers many ecological niches in which beneficial insects, lizards, hedgehogs and birds can find a home for themselves. This helps us keep pest problems down to a minimum.
Thanks to our organic farming procedures, we have created an attractive home for beneficial creatures. As a result, Terra Medica has become a magnet for ladybirds which help us protect plants.
Birds of prey can sit on the perches we have placed here and keep their eyes out for voles and moles. In a similar fashion, songbirds help keep pests under control. They find shelter in the many hedges at Terra Medica.
Niches for beneficial creatures
Bats here have a habitat in their bat houses: Every bat eats a third of its body weight every day, feeding in particular on beetles and other insects — which is ideal for maintaining equilibrium in the natural environment.
Other animals can find their own biotope amidst the medicinal plant cultivation. For example, hedgehogs help the gardeners keep slugs at bay.
Relevant to regional biodiversity
Terra Medica is home to a wide variety of ecospheres and thus numerous different kinds of plants and animals. The entire region benefits from this. The large number of varied species is important, because there are very specific interactions between plants and animals, and certain animals “specialize” in certain plants. Ultimately the plants here also benefit from the fact that the natural equilibrium between pests and the creatures that eat them is well-balanced at Terra Medica, which means crop failures are rare.
The visitor center at Terra Medica hosts events and an exhibition.
Some plants are still harvested with a sickle, such as Echinacea purpurea.
Obtaining seeds from our own plants guarantees that we can harvest plant material at Terra Medica that has consistently high quality and meets ecological standards.
Terra Medica lives from the diversity of its biospheres.
Employees harvesting Calendula officinalis at Terra Medica.
An insect hotel creates a home to nest and shelter.
An aerial view of Terra Medica shows greenhouses, storage space, the visitor center and planted fields.
150 different species
The topics of environmental protection and ecological awareness did not have a significant impact until the 1970s. Growing our own medicinal plants made us less dependent on external suppliers whose raw materials were increasingly likely to be affected by rising environmental pollution. Consequently, the Schwabe Group decided to supply its own need for plants for homeopathic medicines by growing as much as possible by itself.
Medicinal plant cultivation thus began in Staffort in 1976. Nineteen specialists work at the Staffort site of some 15 hectares. They raise, tend to and harvest up to 150 different medicinal plants a year. All in all, we have planted over 600 different kinds of plants at Terra Medica grounds.
Schwabe received the “Silver Plant” for cultivating medicinal plants back in 1979, a prize awarded by the German Foundation for the Protection of Endangered Plants. The Foundation saw the 250 different kinds of medicinal plants at Terra Medica at the time, including many protected species, as serving as a “commendable and particularly worthy contribution to the active conservation of indigenous plant life.” The prize was granted in Bonn by the then-first lady of Germany, Loki Schmidt, who in 1976 established the organization which later became the Foundation. This shows that sustainability and biodiversity played a significant part in the Schwabe Group early on.
Adapting to climate change
Terra Medica has also had to adjust to changes in climatic conditions. The team here is currently working on adapting Terra Medica to integrate agroforestry. In doing so, trees, hedges and bushes will also grow alongside medicinal plants to create synergistic benefits with the plants.
One measure in response to the rise of dry periods has been to plant drought-resistant trees with deep roots at appropriate sites. These trees draw groundwater into the upper layers of the soil so that other plants can use it and will need to be watered less frequently. Trees also offer shade and enhance the microclimate. Hedges, including dead hedges, are also used as protection against the wind to keep the soil from drying out.
The Terra Medica team uses various methods on test fields so that it can continue to grow our medicinal plants in an ecologically sustainable fashion and keep maintaining such extensive biodiversity.
Solar and wind energy
Terra Medica is also a source of energy. Its solar-panel system generates enough energy to power approximately 20 households. A small wind turbine has also been installed.
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