IMST – Comenius08 (Austria-Poland-Czech Rep.- Finland)

Geography, de Waal, 7a:

Farming in Austria – dependent on relief, climate and soils

1. Revision of Austrian federal states (in English); compare the map with a map of geomorphological structures (mountains/ hilly areas/ flatlands); which provinces are partly Alpine (all) – mainly Alpine (V,T,S,St,C)

2. Analyze the Alpine region of Austria – 2/3 of the country:
a) Central parts of crystalline ridges – the Central Alps
here the timberline is much higher than in other Austrian mountain regions, especially in the Tyrol (Oetztal Alps above Sölden) and in East Tyrol
b) North of Inn and Enns valleys the northern Limestone Alps – rugged mountain rigdes form a belt of sharp peaks in the West (Tyrol, Salzburg) and barren high plateaus in the East (Lower Austria). Steep cliffs and sloping masses of detritus prevail. Deeply incised valleys of varying width are typical.
c) The foothills of the Alps in the north are hilly slopes of sandstone mountains (silicate bedrock) that do not exceed 1500m.

Task: Decide which regions are shown in the following pictures

3. Analyze hilly tiers and flatlands (1/3 of the country):
In the north of Austria the granite highlands of Mühlviertel and Waldviertel belong to the Bohemian Massif – an average height of 800m , rolling fields interspersed with smaller patches of woodlands.
The Alpine foreland, mainly in Upper Austria and Lower Austria, is a hilly region between the foothills and the river Danube. The landforms have been markedly influenced by the glaciations of the Pleistocene era. The mighty tongue basins of the glaciers created the lake country in the Salzkammergut (Upper Austria) and a sequence of moraines and terraces.
4. Analyze flatlands:
The Eastern part of Austria is mainly flat, with an absolute minimal height of 120m east of Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland. It is segmented by the eastern foothills of the Alps which belong to crystalline and limestone formations as well, but generally do not exceed heights of 500-1500m.
Some parts of the Danube valley are also smaller flat areas, like Tullner Feld or Marchfeld.

5. Climate:
The largest part of Austria is climatically determined by the Alps, especially in the north of the mountains there is frequent precipitation, as the air masses from the Atlantic Ocean usually move east into the continent. Here the average is 2400 mm annually, whereas in the eastern part of the Alps and in the rain shadow of the high Central Alps ridges precipitation drops to about 600/700mm per year.
Apart from influences due to mountainous areas, Austrian climates may be influenced by both oceanic and continental climates (Central European transitional climate). In general, the eastern parts of Austria are much drier and warmer than the rest of the country (Pannonian climate).
The south-east is influenced by the Mediterranean, which means generally higher temperatures and ample snow in winter due to the regular Mediterranean low pressure periods (Illyrian climate).

6. Soils:

Soils in the Alpine regions depend on the underground (crystalline or limestone).
In the lower limestone regions brown and brown-loam soils prevail with mixed forests of beech, fir and spruce. The higher regions however are unproductive as far as farming is concerned.
On acidic soils of the eastern Central Alps spruce forests are widely present. In the Inner Alps gravely, weathered and thin-layered water-permeable skeletal soils are good for pine. In the Tyrol, the timberline is higher, and the topmost trees have all been taken down long ago for purposes of summer pasturing.
On silicate bedrock in the foothills of the Alps (Flysch-zone) mountain beech and oak forests prevail. Beech and fir grow on oligotrophic, lightly podsolic brown soils.
The entire Eastern Alpine region, including the foreland, received a substantial peri-glacial detritus cover, on which fertile brown-loam soils developed. In the north-east of Austria there are also loess and dust-loam deposits which caused the most fertile Austrian areas with Black earth (chernozem) in Weinviertel and Marchfeld (Lower Austria).
Azonal soils east of Lake Neusiedl include the biosphere of halophytes.

7. Farming:

Task: Fill in the key and use your atlas to find the regions and federal states where the products are grown.

In the Alpine regions, due to the combination of relief, climate and soils, livestock farming and timber production is dominant. Farmers rely on cattle breeding and use the higher areas as summer pastures during. In the drier areas around the Ötztal Alps also sheep are bred, and this mountain farming reaches up to heights of over 2000m.
In the main agricultural centres, however, the Alpine foreland and the eastern flatlands, cropfarming is dominant. The most important field crops are wheat, maize, barley. The production of rapeseed is becoming increasingly important – for purposes of producing organic fuels as well as oils for consumption.
Farm sizes in Austria are smaller than the EU average, therefore it’s difficult to compete financially with large-scale industrial farming. Thus many farmers try to find niches where they produce goods that yield higher income compared to the input. Almost 12% of the farms produce organically (EU average: 4,1%).
The hilly areas in the north, Mühlviertel and Waldviertel (the Bohemian Massif) have long been known for rye, potatoes and poppy seed production. In recent years the production of herbs, spices (caraway seeds) and hops has been ventured. There have been successful efforts to produce even whisky, as the soft water and the rye resemble Scottish areas.
The flat areas in the east are also the main areas for wine-making, as the soils on loess and the climate are suitable. There are 16 wine growing districts reaching from the Danube valley (Wachau), to Weinviertel and Burgenland in the east to Eastern Styria in the south. The average annual harvest is about 2.5 million hectolitres.
Near the main agglomerations, especially east of Vienna, vegetable growing has become extremely important, including greenhouse production of e.g. tomatoes all the year round. In the Marchfeld region of Lower Austria asparagus is grown. Many of the farmers also produce vegetables to be processed in large factories.
Fruit farms are a speciality of Eastern Styria, they produce apples and peaches, but also elderberries (for eating and dyeing purposes). Another speciality of the region are oil squash pumpkins, which produce a dark green-brownish, very tasty oil.
Thus, based on the clear-cut climato-ecological regionalization of Austria, a remarkable regional specialization of farm-types can be discerned.

Which crops are shown in the following pictures?

Put the various agricultural products of Austria on the map, showing where they are mostly produced.

Sources: Elisabeth Lichtenberger, Austria - Society and Regions (Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, Vienna, 2000)
GS Multimedia Cross-Curriculum Creativity – Book3, Agriculture
Österreichs Wirtschaft im Überblick, 2008/09 (wirtschaftsmuseum)
Durchblick3, Westermann Wien, 2008
Last modified: Donnerstag, 6 September 2012, 11:41