Royal visit at the oil mill

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Royal visit at the oil mill

It was the second week of August and everything was finally ready. Martin Schmidtmann was able to start up the combine harvester and get to work on this year’s rapeseed crop. Martin is one of eight farmers producing rapeseed for the Haubern oil mill, which is situated in the Hessian district of Waldeck-Frankenberg. His family’s enthusiasm for rapeseed and the products made from its black seeds is obvious; from amongst them comes the current Hessian Rapeseed-Blossom Queen Carolin Schmidtmann.


“Rapeseed is a local product with a wide range of uses”, said Carolin. “I think it’s very worthwhile, representing it and bringing it to the customers.” Sufficient grounds for visiting the Haubern oil mill and meet with Martin and with Armin Hesse, deputy-chairman of the Vereinigung Nachwachsende Rohstoffe Haubern e.V. (Haubern Renewable Resources Association), to discuss this innovative local project.


In conversation

Fans of rapeseed: in August 2012 the Hessian Rapeseed-Blossom Queen Carolin Schmidtmann visited the Haubern oil mill and met with Armin Hesse und Martin Schmidtmann to share their experiences.


Erwin Niederländer, regional advisor for K+S KALI GmbH, was on hand to give useful assistance regarding specialist questions about plant nutrition.


Filling up with rapeseed oil: where it all began

“The oil mill came into being as a result of a few nights together in our local bar”, explained Martin Schmidtmann. It was in 1999 that the idea came up, of processing rapeseed in a locally situated oil mill and thereby making a contribution to the creation of an energy closed-loop in the region. The context was the attractive incentives available at the time for the use of rapeseed oil as an alternative to diesel for road vehicles.


The concept behind the newly formed Vereinigung Nachwachsende Rohstoffe Haubern e.V. proved convincing and in 2001 received the Hessian Agricultural Ministry’s sustainability prize. “With this award we received start-up capital for building the oil mill and the conversion of farm machinery for rapeseed production”, explained Armin Hesse. “Fortunately, when we first built the oil mill we designed it so that it would also be suitable for food production, including food-grade rapeseed oil. This meant that we have been able to react to the fact that rapeseed diesel has been rapidly dropping in value since 2006, and switch to high value food-grade oil.”

A powerful group, producing the best rapeseed oil

Five active members of the association work voluntarily to keep the oil mill in operation and ensure that the rapeseed oil reaches consumers. Depending on each harvest, around 60 to 65 tonnes of rapeseed oil are produced annually, using cold-press methods which protect the quality of the product. “We produce two qualities of oil, depending primarily on the pressing grade but also according to the seeds selected,” explained Armin Hesse. “The less the oil-containing raw material is pressed, the higher the value of the oil. That applies to rapeseed the same as olives and other crops grown for oil.”


The mill’s flagship product is gourmet rapeseed oil. But Mr. Hesse also says that the Vital oil stands above similar products on the market. “We put all the emphasis on quality, rather than maximum oil yield, and that’s something you can taste.”

(1) Last checks before harvest: Armin Hesse, deputy-chairman of the Vereinigung Nachwachsende Rohstoffe Haubern e.V., und farmer Martin Schmidtmann, who is responsible for the harvest.
(2) Armin Hesse, deputy-chairman of the Vereinigung Nachwachsende Rohstoffe Haubern e.V., in the bottling section of the Haubern oil mill.
(3) Armin Hesse is proud of the high quality product from the Haubern oil mill.

A convincing ambassador for rapeseed

Carolin Schmidtmann is also totally convinced of the quality of the oil: “Cold-pressed rapeseed oil is the best food oil you can buy at a supermarket. As a source of vitamin E it reduces the risk of arteriosclerosis. In addition, it contains a high proportion of omega-3 fatty acids. Rapeseed oil contains more than 60% mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which has a positive effect on cholesterol levels and is therefore good for circulation and the heart.”

„Rapeseed is a plant with great potential. I think it’s great to be able to represent this local product and help rapeseed oil become more widely known.“

Carolin Schmidtmann, the fourth Hessian Rapeseed Blossom Queen. The Rapeseed-Blossom Queen competition has been organized by the Hessian Farmers Association since 2005. The current queen’s reign runs from 2012 to 2014.

One of her main duties as Rapeseed Blossom Queen is to get people interested in rapeseed oil, and this comes easily to Carolin Schmidtmann. She visits local festivals and markets across Hesse, and will be representing rapeseed during Berlin’s “Green Week” in 2013.


Local farm shops and supermarkets are also amongst the most important outlets for Haubern oil. It’s also possible to order oil directly from the mill’s website. “Another important sales route is the Hessian regional project of a national chain,” reports Armin Hesse proudly. “The system for including local products is based on the principle of ‘as near as possible’. And because we are the only artisanal oil mill far and wide, we can reach a lot of customers in this way.”

Quality starts on the farm

It sounds like a cliché, but in the case of local oil production it really is true: the process of producing a quality product begins on the farm. And without good co-ordination between farmers and processors, it doesn’t work.


“The degree of ripeness of the rapeseed is a key factor in the mill being able to produce a top quality product, because unripe seeds will introduce undesired elements that create bitterness. That is also the case with weed seeds such as morning glory, which means we need the fields to be as weed-free as possible at harvest time”, explained farmer Martin Schmidtmann, describing the mill’s quality demands. “In addition, the moisture content of the produce is also decisive. We can only harvest when the moisture content is eight percent or less, so that the seeds do not change in flavor after harvesting. The dryer the better. This means that the harvesting has to take place at just the right time.”

(1) The time is right: rapeseed husks just before harvesting.
(2) Timing is crucial for the rapeseed harvest, so that the seeds are at the perfect degree of ripeness.
(3) Harvested rapeseed.

A careful look from the combine harvester

Martin Schmidtmann’s words reveal many years of experience – both as a rapeseed farmer and from having responsibility for the collective rapeseed harvest. From the very beginning he has harvested the rapeseed for farmers who grow for the Haubern mill. Depending on crop rotation, between six and eight farmers with around 50 hectares of land are involved.


“You can already tell from the combine harvester, whether a rapeseed crop is suitable for our mill: too many weeds means ‘no’”, explains Mr. Schmidtmann. To test ripeness and moisture content he harvests a sample from the crop. “We take the seed from the grain tank and examine it. A test from the edge of the field is not sufficient.”

Growing quality rapeseed on Schmidtmann’s farm

„Rapeseed needs to be constantly observed. The use of fertilisers and crop protection must be appropriate, in order that the end product is right for our mill.“

Specialist in the production of rapeseed: farmer Martin Schmidtmann from Frankenberg in Hesse.

As a side-line, Martin Schmidtmann manages a non-mixed cropping farm, which comprises 31 hectares of ploughed land and five hectares of grassland. He describes the growing conditions: “We have here a semi-mountainous location, around 400m above sea-level. The soil is mainly sandy loam; ground points range from 20 to 80”.


Rapeseed has been grown on his farm for more than twenty years, because he appreciates the high marketability of the crop and also its usefulness in crop rotation. Accordingly, he operates a three-crop rotation, with rapeseed coming after winter barley and before winter wheat.

Rapeseed is a demanding crop

„A targeted application of Korn-Kali® in the fall, either on the stubble or at the 6-8 leaves stage, ensures not only correct potassium levels but also takes care of magnesium and sulphur, before winter dormancy.“

Erwin Niederländer, K+S KALI GmbH regional adviser for Hesse, with a rapeseed crop in the fall.

As an oil-producing crop, rapeseed has specific nutrient demands. Appropriate application of fertiliser is essential for a high oil content and a good quality product. This is where Erwin Niederländer comes in. As regional advisor for K+S KALI GmbH, he assists farmers in Hesse with his specialist knowledge of plant nutrition and practical fertiliser advice. “Intensive cultivation of rapeseed up to blossoming requires 200-300kg of nitrogen (N), 200-300kg of potassium (K2O), 100-150kg of phosphorous (P2O5), 40-70 kg of sulphur (S) and 50-60 kg of magnesium (MgO), explains Niederländer. “In addition, micro-nutrients are essential for a high oil content.”

A generous application of potassium is required for a good crop, because in spring the plants absorb it intensively in a short period of time. Up until winter dormancy up to 100kg/ha are absorbed. Both winter hardiness and drought resistance are enhanced.



Rapeseed nutrient requirements

Watch our video and find out more about rapeseed nutrient requirements during its growth phases.




Niederländer also points to other important aspects of fertiliser application: “A targeted application of Korn-Kali® in the fall, either on the stubble or at the 6-8 leaves stage ensures not only correct potassium levels, but also takes care of magnesium and sulphur requirements, before winter dormancy. This is because a rapeseed crop takes up 15-20kg of sulphur per hectare during the fall.”


Fertiliser for Rapeseed

Soil fertiliser

Logo Korn-Kali

Logo ESTA Kieserit


Foliage fertiliser

Logo EPSO Top

Logo EPSO Microtop

Rapeseed’s high nutrient requirements are beneficial to the next crop in the rotation cycle. It is covered by soil reserves and additionally by fertiliser application. If calcium and soil fertiliser are applied as part of the rotation plan, these should be applied to the rapeseed. Nutrients not removed by the rapeseed are left in its straw for the next crop. Useful shading and deep rooting have a positive effect on the soil structure and contribute to rapeseed’s value as a preceding crop.



Rapeseed has a high boron requirement and during the vegetation phase takes up 350-450g per hectare. The availability of boron in the soil is reduced by aridity, high pH levels and after the application of calcium. This means that foliage fertilizers are particularly useful for addressing boron deficiencies. 25-30kg EPSO Microtop® per hectare, applied in several stages from the rosette stage up until blossoming, will also take care of manganese requirements. Next to boron, manganese is the most important trace element and is just as likely to be blocked by adverse soil conditions.


1x1 der Mangelsymptome

Recognition and appropriate treatment of nutrient deficiencies

Recognition and appropriate treatment of nutrient deficiencies Deficiency Symptom ABC from K+S KALI GmbH.


Rapeseed is a plant that is full of potential

Carolin Schmidtmann is really excited about the Haubern oil mill. “Rapeseed is a plant that is full of potential. I think the way the farmers and the oil mill are working together is wonderful. They’re all pulling together, to benefit from rapeseed’s potential and to produce an excellent local product. It would be great if others were to take inspiration from this project, and I’m not just saying that as Rapeseed Blossom Queen” she says, and heads off to her next royal appointment.


There’s more information about rapeseed and fertilisers in our leaflet “Rapeseed for Oil and Energy”. You can order it from us or download it as a pdf document.


Find out more about the Haubern oil mill’s products at




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