The situation of traditional orchards in Germany

Though spontaneous and not man-made, traces of wild fruits can be found, dating back to 4.500 B.C. First special varieties came to Germany with the Roman colonisation. Those fruit trees were only planted close to the gardens of roman villas and during subsequent barbarian migration cultivar disappeared for several hundred years.

In the early medieval period of the 6th century, German tribes had hard laws to protect and to enforce the planting of fruit trees. Communities, like Apfelbach, Apfelstetten, Eppelheim, Nussdorf and so on, were named after pomiculture. Also monasteries had a strong influence on dissemination and preservation of orchard farming. People used fruits to support their self-sufficiency.

It wasn't until the 16th century, that traditional orchards became popular, not only for self-sufficiency, but also for processing and other economic functions.

This caused landscapes to become dominated by traditional orchards. Not only close to the villages but also in remote rural areas, some kilometres away from the next dwellings, along trails, streets and alleys.

Fruits for a growing population

In the beginning of the industrialisation, traditional orchards were also used in other regions, mainly to cover the production of fruits for a growing population. Until 1930, traditional orchards in their biggest dimensions, consisting of standard trees, were established by peasant agriculture. Family farm management needed green fodder and the standard tree were still common, though low standard fruit trees already existed.

By the middle of the 20th century, the standard tree disappeared in favour of the half standard tree or even the modern pillar tree. Traditional orchard farming was not considered economic anymore. From 1950 to 1970 in some pomiculture regions, such as the Lake Constance Region or "Altes Land" near Hamburg, standard trees were completely removed in order to plant the small fruit trees. Another reason is to be found in  the enforcement of infrastructure measures, such as the extension of streets or the expansion of residential areas. Industrial agriculture, solely producing fruit, has no need for analogy production of green fodder on the same land.

Since 1980 NGOs, such as Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. (NABU) and later Grüne Liga Thüringen e.V., foremost in Germany, are committed to save remaining crops and also to replant standard fruit trees. There was an increasing need to protect this ecological and aesthetic biotope.

Until present the traditional orchard is in danger, but its decline has decelerated. But often the management and care of existing traditional orchards is not good enough. This means creeping disappearance of traditionally used land in favour of grass- or scrubland.