Environment and economy in harmony – ÖPUL measures in a nutshell

Fruit blossom in the Mostviertel
Photo: BMLRT / LFZ/Buchgraber

ÖPUL 2015, Austria's agri-environmental programme, pays considerable attention to the sparing use of natural resources and long-term climate protection.

Altogether, ÖPUL 2015 comprises twenty-three different measures.

Grassland: biodiversity and climate protection

In terms of grassland, ÖPUL 2015 focuses on farm-based grassland management. Pertinent measures serve to preserve and develop the cultivated landscape. Meadows and pastures with a rich diversity of species are home to many animals and plants. The cultural landscape in many regions is made up of these types of areas.

A crucial contribution to maintaining and fostering biodiversity in grassland is made by the measure environmentally sound and biodiversity-promoting management. Farms participating in this measure are required to establish "biodiversity areas". These grassland areas are mowed later than other fields and less fertiliser is applied. Moreover, the preservation of landscape features is ensured. Continuing education courses broaden existing knowledge on biological diversity and strengthen environmental awareness.

Limitation of yield increasing inputs is a measure for the abandonment of nitrogen mineral fertiliser and chemical-synthetic plant-protection products. This has a beneficial effect on the climate and diminishes the risk of polluting bodies of water. In animal husbandry, ÖPUL 2015 offers financial support for the maintenance of endangered livestock breeds, grazing of livestock and particularly animal-friendly stabling systems.

In alpine regions, the cultivation of mowed mountain-grassland and the support of mountain grazing and herding are measures of particular importance. They strengthen and sustain management under difficult conditions.

As in the programme for the previous period, renouncement of silage is a measure that promotes hay farming. This type of farming is a good example of how environmental services can also be communicated in the market and turned into value (e.g. hay milk).

Nature conservation is a measure that fosters the preservation of grassland with high ecological value. Mowing times, specifications regarding the use of fertilisers and the use of tools are optimally adjusted to environmental needs and the capabilities of the farms.

Arable land: soil, water and biodiversity take stage

In terms of arable land, the measures taken under the Agri-environmental Programme 2015 (ÖPUL) aim to maintain and improve soil fertility and the quantity of humus in arable land while at the same time curbing soil erosion. The measure intermediate crops aims to reduce soil erosion and diminish the amount of nitrogen washed into the groundwater.

The "Evergreen" system is a measure that aims to ensure ubiquitous greening of all arable land all year round using main or intermediate crops.

Renouncement of the use of fungicides and growth regulators with cereals is a measure that reduces not only the application of plant protection products but also of fertilisers. This measure promotes extensive grassland management.

In regions with groundwater polluted by nitrates or at risk of pollution, preventative groundwater protection is a measure that supports a type of management where only sparing use is made of groundwater resources and thus groundwater contamination is prevented. Buffer strips along bodies of water contribute significantly to the biodiversity of agricultural landscapes. By creating shore strips and buffer strips along endangered or polluted surface waters, preventative surface water protection on arable land is a regional measure that fosters the reduction of nutrient inputs in surface waters.

Blooming strips and the environmentally benign treatment of landscape features have a positive impact on the plant and animal diversity of Austria’s cultivated landscape. Specific biodiversity areas for flower-seeking insects, such as areas commonly known as “bee pastures”, strengthen this effect and are thus given particular support. Moreover, the cultivation of rare agricultural crops fosters biodiversity on arable land.

The 23 measures offered in ÖPUL 2015

  1. Environmentally sound and biodiversity-promoting management
  2. Limitation of yield-increasing inputs
  3. Renouncement of fungicides and growth regulators in cereals
  4. Cultivation of rare agricultural crops
  5. Maintenance of endangered livestock breeds
  6. Greening of arable land – intermediate crops
  7. Greening of arable land - “Evergreen” system
  8. Direct seeding and seeding on mulch (incl. strip till)
  9. Surface-near spreading of liquid farm manure and biogas manure
  10. Erosion protection in fruit, vineyards, hops
  11. Pesticide renouncement in vineyards and hops
  12. Renouncement of silage
  13. Use of beneficial organisms in greenhouses
  14. Cultivation of mowed mountain grassland
  15. Mountain grazing and herding
  16. Preventative groundwater protection
  17. Management of arable surfaces threatened by erosion
  18. Preventative surface water protection on arable land
  19. Nature conservation
  20. Organic farming
  21. Animal welfare - Pasture
  22. Animal welfare – Stable
  23. Natura 2000 - Agriculture

Eligibility criteria and administration

The BMLRT is responsible for the development of the legal framework as well as of the principles of ÖPUL. The implementation is based on a national Special Ordinance (‘Sonderrichtlinie’). The eligibility criteria for the individual ÖPUL measures are presented and described in the ÖPUL Special Ordinance. More detailed information is available on the homepage of Agrarmarkt Austria (AMA).

Agrarmarkt Austria (AMA) has been entrusted with the organisational aspects of the programme. It accepts the applications for participation. It also decides about the granting of payments, checks compliance with the eligibility criteria and, in case of infringements, determines the sanctions for the individual holdings.
The Chambers of Agriculture play an important role in the implementation, for example as regards the reception of applications and notifications. They also offer personal and targeted advice. Where ÖPUL measures are tightly linked to nature conservation also the nature conservation and agricultural authorities of the Federal Provinces are involved.

Information on ÖPUL 2015

Current information on ÖPUL 2015, the multiple application and individual ÖPUL measures is available on the homepage of Agrarmarkt Austria (AMA). AMA also offers an ÖPUL Newsletter. Farmers get personal advice at the Chambers of Agriculture ; also the offices of the Provincial Governments provide information material.

For some ÖPUL measures, also specific information is available, for example for “Preservation of endangered domestic breeds” on the platform ÖNGENE (Österreichische Nationalvereinigung für Genreserven), or for “Rare agricultural crops” on the website of AGES.