"Sometimes it’s astonishing how varied the issues in pomiculture are nowadays," says Michael Zoth, his enthusiasm plain to see. "We are living through a time of great change in our landscapes and climate, and we need to find out what we can and must do now – and what is realistically feasi-ble both practically and financially." Curiosity, a thirst for knowledge and enjoyment of analytical problem-solving are what drives the head of the pomiculture plantation at the Schlachters research station for pomiculture. Michael Zoth has been working at the HSWT research facility since Sep-tember last year.
"My passion is experimental research, and I did it as a tutor when I was still a student," explains the 57-year-old. "I enjoy thinking about what characteristics or data I will include in the research, how I will structure it and in doing so answer the questions I asked at the beginning." He goes on: "I find it rewarding to be able to share these things with interns, students and my team. If I can pass on my passion for the subject to them at the same time, it’s just brilliant. Research work is teamwork – I love accomplishing things together as a team."
Michael Zoth is an 'educated gardener', as he puts it. After leaving school, he completed a garden-ing apprenticeship at a tree nursery in the Main-Rhine region, and then went on to study horticul-ture there, majoring in pomiculture and tree nursery studies. Pomiculture held a particular fascina-tion for him right from day one. His passion is clear: "This coming alive, this cycle of continuous re-newal over years, the enjoyment of ripe fruit, the variety." Plus there are business management factors in pomiculture, such as the right expertise to keep the quality at a high standard over the course of years, and the techniques to work efficiently and sustainably. He was already familiar with the Schlachters research station for pomiculture; in fact, its research head of many years, Prof. Dr. Dominikus Kittemann, is a former colleague. The two stayed in touch over the years and Mi-chael Zoth kept a close eye on the successes achieved in studies and teaching. "So the research station was of great interest to me as a potential workplace, and when the job was advertised, I seized the opportunity," recalls the South Hessen native.
As head of the research station, his tasks include ensuring the pomiculture works well and there is a solid basis in place for research projects to succeed. He also participates in the research himself, and is currently conducting projects on fruit yield regulation, for example – which involves prevent-ing trees from bearing too much fruit as this can impair quality. He is also responsible for the more bureaucratic side of the research, which is no less important to the success of a project; for exam-ple, he is in charge of third-party funding and supports project applications. In general, a lot de-pends on the equipment used in pomiculture and research – having to act with limited financial means is a challenge at times for the research station head, and being as well equipped as possible is something he works hard towards.
What does the head of the pomiculture research station do to unwind outside of work? "I’m a gardener at home, too," says the father of three grown-up children with a smile. Michael Zoth loves spending time in nature in general, and enjoys hiking, for example. "The beautiful Lake Constance region is perfect for walking, of course," he says, adding: "I love the gentle hills here, which is a con-trast to the flatter countryside in my home region." Plus Austria and Switzerland are more or less just around the corner – Michael Zoth enjoys going on motorbike trips there. "I learned how to ride a motorbike when I was a young man and spent some time in the USA during my degree. Then I had a gap of about twenty years when I didn’t go on a motorbike at all – until I wanted to buy a Vespa but ended up coming home with a Moto Guzzi instead, which is kind of the Italian equivalent of a Harley," he explains, laughing.