Home » Issue 27-2023 » Practical experience » Award-winning seed: Rainer Möhl, DE

Award-winning seed

Despite modest arable conditions, Rainer Möhl farms his fields with a lot of passion. In 2021, this was rewarded with an award for the best seed processor of organic seed. terraHORSCH visited the Bavarian farmer.

The Bergnershof, a solitary estate that is located at 500 m above sea level between the villages of Dietfurt and Osterdorf on the plateau of the Franconian Jura, has a long history. It was originally owned by the Reichsmarschalls von Pappenheim. It was sold in 1972 and the Möhl family bought it in 1998.

“When we took over the farm, the arable land amounted to 140 ha“, Rainer Möhl remembers. “The main sector of activity beside arable farming was pig fattening. Moreover, the farm was the origin of Angus cattle breeding in Germany.”
The Möhl family immediately converted the farm to organic farming. In addition, the buildings were renovated, partly knocked down and new ones were built. The farmyard alone covers 2.5 ha. Today, the main focus of the Bergnershof is on seed multiplication and seed processing.

A lot of stones

“I currently farm 280 ha of arable land, 50 ha of grassland and 63 ha of forest. Our soils are quite challenging, especially as there is a high share of limestones of different sizes. The topsoil layer changes enormously over short distances and varies between a depth of approx. 10 to 35 cm with the biggest thickness of the top layer naturally being found in the hollows. The high share of stones in the subsoil can lead to a rapid infiltration of the precipitations – 667 mm/a on average. The relatively favourable amount of clay and silt between the stones of the loamy soil provides favourable structural characteristics so that the risk of silting is rather low. Accordingly, we only carry out a shallow tillage in spring to avoid water loss and structural damages. The soil value varies in a wide range between 22 and 85, the soil condition level between 4 and 7. A loamy soil actually is quite favourable but with the climatic conditions in our region and the high amounts of stones it cannot achieve the yields that otherwise are normal for this type of soil. Cultivation is primarily complicated by the high share of stones and the constant change between shallow and deep topsoil. This, of course, affects the material of our machines.”
Rotation starts with a two-year cultivation of clover, followed by spelt or wheat which in turn are followed by spring crops consisting of spring barley or spring wheat resp. oats. The last crop in the rotation is triticale or rye. All crops are part of the seed multiplication.

Intensive cultivation

“This is why we cultivate our soils more often than is perhaps usual“, Rainer Möhl explains. “We use the time between combining and seeding very intensively to make sure that emergence is excellent. Catch crops don’t serve our purpose this well. The effect is lost as a lot of volunteer crop remains in the soil. Our HORSCH Joker 6 RT has proven its worth for the first cultivation of the cereal stubble. We can work quickly and shallowly. In our conditions, the SteelDisc packer is ideal. The weight is very high thus ensuring an intensive consolidation and a breaking of the clods when used for seedbed preparation after the plough. Moreover, capillarity is interrupted, and volunteer crops and weeds are activated quickly. Then we use a cultivator. The Cruiser is an excellent alternative we also like to use to keep the soil brown.
In my opinion, the Terrano 5 FM is the best cultivator since HORSCH has been building this type of tool. It is very stable and still the weight is relatively low. Due to the 4-bar design, there is enough clearance. There is hardly any clogging. The spring elements work very precisely and guide the tool safely back into the soil after the release. I opted for a double RollFlex packer that ensures an excellent fine soil production, separates the fine roots from the soil and places them on the surface to dry off, cleans itself and consolidates the soil in strips. However, I do not want the consolidation to be too strong as I use the Terrano to start weed control immediately after the power harrow.

I use the Cruiser for seedbed preparation in spring or for an additional pass after the Joker or the Terrano to get a grip on unwanted weeds for seed multiplication.”

Pronto KE

For Rainer Möhl, his Pronto 6 KE is the “seed drill of the century”. Of course, the power of the tractor has to match the requirements of the machine. At the Bergnershof, they use a John Deere 8400. With his old seed drill, Rainer Möhl always had to prepare the field in advance. Now he can seed in one pass even if the conditions are not optimum. And even if every now and then one power harrow tine does not make it because of the stony soils of the Franconian Jura – the design of the Pronto is stable enough even for these adverse conditions.
A plough is still used where a lot of growth and soil have to be moved. For example on fields that are not harvested at all because of an increased weed infestation, but cultivated immediately. “This, too, is a reality in organic farming“, Rainer Möhl admits. “Sometimes total failures happen. And those who deny it, are lying. But I have cut back on ploughing considerably. We used to do it as a matter of principle, but today we only plough in clover grass. Though I am not completely convinced by the result. The growth emerges sometimes more, sometimes less in the second year.“
The machinery of the Bergnershof is lean. The tractors are all from John Deere. In addition to the already mentioned 8400, there are a 6250, 6145 and a 5100 on the farm. The latter is used on the farm premises and as maintenance tractor. Moreover, there are two large dump trucks from Krampe, a telehandler, a second loader and a grassland machine from Krone as well as harrow and hoe. Combining is carried out by a contractor.

Clean population

“The population management of our fields for seed multiplication is hardly different from that of other organic farms“, Rainer Möhl says. “The general rule is to get the nutrient problem under control and be at the right place at the right time with the right tool. If this is the case, the yields are good, and the populations close quickly – there is less weed, and the plants are healthier.”
The key to achieving clean crops is rotation. According to Rainer Möhl, clover cultivation plays a major role: “It has to work. If something is out of place, it will affect the whole rotation. In addition, there is the consistent changing between spring and winter crops. Hoeing or harrowing is not this important.”
The crops are kept clean by hand. And this is what makes the small but subtle difference. It starts with cutting dock. Starting in May and June, wild oat and everything else that might be a reason for denial are depleted. From mid-May until the end of June, Rainer Möhl and two employees spend their time in the fields until the acknowledgement is finished. The regulations for producing certified seed are strict. For oats for example, there is a zero-tolerance approach for wild oat in the fields.

The harvest starts with rye, followed by triticale, wheat and spelt. After the harvest, the crops are roughly cleaned and then aerated and dried. This is important. For in organic farming, the crops often still are a little bit wet after combining - 17 to 18 % are not unusual. They then are stored in high silos. At the Bergnershof, there are 18 of them with a total capacity of 1,200 t. The processing technology is from Westrup. “The regulations for sorting are compulsory“, Rainer Möhl states. “Everything else is a matter of experience and feeling. There are different process steps. The brushing machine is used to break up the husks. Any fungi are also brushed away. Then the crops are cleaned in a sieve system. Then they go to the trieur. This is a drum that removes broken grains, shrink grains and weed seed with a similar size. The last step is the weight separator. The result is a pure seed variety with a high germination capacity which is then bagged. Together with the material requirements planner of the marketer, we decide which varieties we grow.”



Rainer Möhl was awarded the prize for the best processor of organic Z-seed in 2021. The award is based on numerous samples taken within the scope of the ongoing quality assurance of the Getreidefonds Z-Saatgut e. V. Not only the harvest of the year of the award is taken into account but also the average assessment of the past five years. The central quality criteria for the assessment are a high germination capacity, the technical purity and the lowest possible amount of foreign matter. For Rainer Möhl, this is an incentive to not only maintain this level, but to become even better.

Native Angus

A great passion for arable farming paired with a similar passion for animal husbandry is rather rare. For Rainer Möhl, however, this is the case. When the German Angus breed developed from a substitution crossing in the 1950s resp. 1960s, the previous owner of the Bergnershof was one of the pioneers. Rainer Möhl, too, got in touch with this breed at an early stage. He already kept some Angus cattle on this parent’s farm in Baden-Württemberg. By now, the Bergnershof is the home of a real rarity: native Aberdeen Angus cattle. This is a historic breed that does not contain any genetics from the outside. Even in the country of origin of the breed, this type is extremely rare. There probably is no other native herd as large as the one at the Bergnershof on the European continent. The animals are mainly kept on pastures. They spend the winter in an open stable with a concrete paddock, but even there they have a constant access to grass. As ancient as the breed may be – with regard to breeding, Rainer Möhl uses state-of-the-art methods. For example, the back muscle area, the fat layer and the intramuscular fat content are determined by ultrasound. Moreover, the animals are registered in the Irisches Herdbuch register as, according to Rainer Möhl, this is the breed society with the most significant system for the estimation of breeding value. The combination of tradition and state-of-the-art agriculture thus is not only found in the fields of the Bergnershof but also in the stable.