On Tuesday 6th October, researchers from Coventry University’s Organic-PLUS team facilitated an open discussion at the UK’s Northern Real Farming Conference. The session ‘Alternatives to contentious inputs in organic horticulture’ was attended by growers, consumers and academics from across the country but primarily from the north of England and Scotland.
Contentious inputs include peat in growing media, plastic for mulching, fertilisers derived from non-organic production and overall, the dependence on off-farm inputs. Although these issues are widely known, contentious inputs are often used because there is a lack of alternatives, or because they are more expensive. The participants were concerned about contentious inputs in organic systems and discussions focused on the use of plastic in horticulture i.e. for pots and mulching as well as for packaging, the availability of reliable peat-free alternatives and contaminants such as aminopyralid herbicide in animal manures.
Overall, participants were in favour of systems approaches; where inputs could be sourced locally or on-farm and emphasised the imperative for effective intersectoral cooperation. The session was a great opportunity to exchange ideas and insights, learn from each other and explore contentious inputs in organic horticulture as well as the implications of phasing them out. To find out more, there is a more comprehensive summary of the discussion on the Northern Real Farming Conference website.