Preserving and shaping orchards together

Participatory use of innovative geo-technologies to protect valuable cultural landscapes in Neckarsulm together with trainees (Steg:Geo)


Paul Joseph, M. Sc., Dr. Maike Petersen, Prof. Dr. Alexander Siegmund


The project highlights the Heilbronn-Franken region as an important orchard area in Baden-Württemberg. Despite its industrial importance, particularly due to the Audi plant in Neckarsulm, the region faces challenges and opportunities with regard to sustainable landscape development and the preservation of biodiversity. The aim of the project is to involve trainees in the use of innovative geotechnologies such as drones and satellite data to monitor and maintain orchards. By linking environmental monitoring, participatory environmental education and modern technology, the aim is to motivate young people to become actively involved in the sustainable preservation and further development of the local cultural landscape.


The Heilbronn-Franconia region is one of the most important orchard areas in Baden-Württemberg and is characterised by its diverse landscape, shaped by the Neckar Basin, the Kraichgau, the Hohenloher-Haller Plain and the Swabian-Franconian Forest Mountains, creating a unique cultural landscape. As an important industrial centre, particularly due to the Audi plant in Neckarsulm, the region also faces the major challenge of maintaining a balance between the close interdependence of people and the environment, town and country, and natural and cultural landscape.

In recent decades, orchards in the Neckarsulm region and beyond have disappeared or are in poor condition as a result of various factors including urban expansion, agricultural intensification and economic unviability, leading to widespread abandonment. The age structure of the owners contributes to the neglect and poses a threat to future maintenance. In response, the Steg:Geo project focuses on integrating innovative environmental monitoring methods and participatory environmental education with young people, in particular trainees at the Audi plant. These trainees represent both the last generation capable of making a significant contribution to sustainable landscape development and the first generation to experience the direct consequences of climate change.

The project takes advantage of young people's openness to new technologies, bridging traditional and future-oriented approaches. Modern geo-technologies, including drones, satellite data and geographic information systems (GIS), will be used to map the tree population and design maintenance plans. Trainees from the Audi plant will play an integral role in recording the condition of the orchards and implementing conservation measures, and will be introduced to the use of drones, satellite data analysis and GIS basics for an engaging experience. Direct involvement in the orchards of their region, including the collection of field data and the implementation of management measures, not only fosters the trainees' connection with their local cultural landscape, but also contributes to the sustainable conservation and development of this important regional feature.

In addition, information on land use type and intensity provides insights into orchard management. Analysis of small-scale landscape features such as size, shape, structure and neighbourhood relationships optimises orchard connectivity through targeted planting, thereby enhancing sustainable biodiversity conservation. These findings also evaluate potential future agricultural practices such as agroforestry systems.


Project period: 01.03.2024 – 28.02.2027

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