The story of Ilzenberg Manor Farm begins over 500 years ago. Initially established by Germans, during the Soviet Union years it was expropriated and managed using intensive farming methods. In 2014, yet another chapter began when Gintaras Bingelis took over and reintroduced natural farming traditions. The farm became internationally certified as organic and biodynamic in 2017, and today produces over 100 different products.
“Only nature-friendly farming methods are sustainable and beneficial – not only to those who reap the harvest but also when it comes to maintaining a harmonic human-nature relationship,” says Gintaras.
Transitioning to organic and biodynamic methods has required a lot of learning and manual work. It was during this process that Gintaras ran into challenges related to nutrient runoff.
“We were still finding excessive amounts of nitrates in the fields due to previous intensive agriculture practices,” he recalls. Excess nutrients were also showing up in the surrounding water bodies, especially during summer months.
Several measures have since been implemented on the farm. In addition to using organic agriculture methods free from chemicals, crop rotation is practiced to help maintain humus, increase nitrogen reserves, and decrease erosion risks.
Better manure management has also been a big part of the solution. Liquid manure reservoirs are covered and treated with biodynamic fermentation mixtures to help it decompose faster and to reduce ammonia nitrogen evaporation. The manure, along with any other fertilizers, is then applied to the soil at low rates, no later than within five hours. Protective boundaries have also been established along all water bodies.
Additionally, a GIS field and crop management sys- tem is used to monitor soil and field conditions. The data is included in fertilization and other activity planning. Feedback is also received from the Lithu- anian Agricultural Advisory Service, which takes regular samples for soil composition research.
Since integrating these measures, Gintaras has noticed that nearby waters have already become less polluted compared to previous years. He’s also seen an increase in community support.
“The most important result is that there are only a few people left who call us strangers,” says Gintaras. “Most of the people we are in contact with respect what we do, and those who work here speak proudly of the farm.”
In 2019, Gintaras Bingelis received the national Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award in recognition of his efforts to reduce nutrient runoff on his farm.
- Location: Ilzenbergas Village in northeast Lithuania
- Type of farm: Organic and biodynamic crop and livestock farm (450 ha)
- Main production: Variety of cereal grains, poultry and bovine meat, milk and dairy products, fruits, vegetables
- Key practices: Composting, crop rotation, manure management,
no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, precision technology, soil monitoring and analysis
- National jury motivation: “Ilzenberg Manor Farm provides a good example of effective farming and environmentally friendly solutions. They use fertilization plans in order to protect streams, drainage ditches and other open water bodies from nutrient load ing. No chemical agents as fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides or other chemical compounds are used on the farmland. Liquid manure reservoirs are covered and biodynamic fermentation mixtures are used. Modern technology and software solutions are used to monitor field and soil conditions. The farm cooperates with other farms to spread ideas and measures, and invites farmers to visit and learn about natural agriculture methods and solutions. They are highly motivated to take part in various environmental friendly activities and cooperate with environmental movements.”