Central Institute for Decision Support Systems in Crop Protection (ZEPP)
Zentralstelle der Länder für EDV-gestützte Entscheidungshilfen und Programme im Pflanzenschutz (ZEPP)
In order to develop and test Decision Support Systems (DSS) in crop protection, from 1993-1997, a comprehensive joint applied research project was conducted, including almost all federal Crop Protection Offices in Germany. It was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The project was a great success and thus, in 1997 the partners decided to consolidate the collaboration by developing and establishing the Central Institute for Decision Support Systems in Crop Protection (ZEPP). Since the Federal State Rhineland-Palatinate agreed to host and administer the newly founded research institute, ZEPP was located in Bad Kreuznach at the regional authority Agricultural Public Service Center Rheinhessen-Nahe-Hunsrück (DLR-RNH).
Applied Research and Development (1997-present)
ZEPP focuses on planning and coordinating research activities, together with various national and international institutes, e.g. Crop Protection Offices of the Federal States, Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Federal Office for Agriculture and Food, ISIP e. V., universities, Julius Kühn-Institute - Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Germany's National Meteorological Service (DWD) and several private companies. The overall goal is to assist advisors and farmers in on-farm insect pest and disease control in agriculture and horticulture, by providing up to date digital models and apps (DSS). Most models simulate the onset and/or progress of insect population dynamics and disease epidemics, both in time (during the growing season) and space (ranging from single field to region wide assessments). In principal, the models can be used in conventional and organic farming. For example, ZEPP has developed a DSS for both production systems for late blight control in potato. The service provider ISIP e. V. (in German: Informationssystem für die Integrierte Pflanzenproduktion) has developed a very close partnership with ZEPP over time. Whereas ZEPP conducts the research and develops the model algorithms, ISIP e. V. designs the user and management interface. ISIP e. V. also provides and maintains the computer infrastructure needed to run and publish the DSS. Consequently, ISIP e. V. is located in close proximity to ZEPP, also at DLR-RNH in Bad Kreuznach. The spectrum of various research and development projects is considerably broader than 20 years ago and today about 50 DSS for crop protection are available online. Our various DSS assist advisors and farmers to apply plant protection products more wisely, with regard to the exact timing of pesticide applications. We see our DSS as instruments for farmers to improve the control efficacy and economic return of crop protection on one hand and on the other hand to reduce the environmental impact of pesticide use in agriculture and horticulture.
Currently, ZEPP is involved in many different research and development projects including the development of new DSS’s (project ‘SIMKEF’), improvement of existing DSS (project ‘ValiProg’), and long-term assessment of the likely future crop disease risk regarding climate change (project ‘SIMKLIMA’). In recent years, ZEPP increasingly conducts projects referring to (1) precision farming, in particular to automated and site-specific application of pesticides (projects ‘AssSys’, ‘PAM3D’ and 'PAM-M'), (2) to smart farming (project ‘Elektronischer Beratungsassistent 2.0’), and (3) digital agriculture (project ‘Geobox-1’). Thus, ZEPP continuously evolves and consequently stays at the forefront of new developments in agriculture, addressing present and future challenges.
Nationwide administrative responsibilities in plant health and crop protection
In 2007, ZEPP was authorised to develop and maintain a nationwide internet platform for the issuance of phytosanitary certificates for the export of plants and plant products and the application and administration of imports (in German: ’PGZ-Online’).
Moreover, in 2013, ZEPP established and maintains since then a second internet platform that organises the nationwide grant procedure for certificates needed for the use and sale of plant protection products (in German: ’Pflanzenschutz-Sachkundenachweis-Online’).
ZEPP is the service provider for all 16 Federal States of Germany including the Federal Government which is expressed by the name ‘Central Institute’. In 2021, the number of employees at ZEPP was about 18. The Chief Executive Officer is Dr Benno Kleinhenz.