Organic-PLUS uses a trans-disciplinary research approach. The IMPACT and MODEL WPs are primarily concerned with social and economic assessments of contentious inputs and possible phase-out scenarios, identified in the three ‘topical WPs’. To complete these activities, we will use a variety of research methods: laboratory trials, replicated field trials on research stations and on-farm trials in fields, barns, and greenhouses to test alternative products and contentious inputs under real farm conditions. Organic-PLUS also contributes to known knowledge gaps such as building up LCA inventories for organic inputs and uses mixed modelling from operational economic and social data. This will combine established methods such as LCA, Social-LCA and RISE to model pathways for the phase-out of contentions inputs. Social Return on Investment is used to account for social value with stakeholders. In addition, open source modules for decision support systems and technology innovation modelling will be used.
Participatory research methods are at the core of the Organic-PLUS project, both in the data collection and in the data assessment phases (with feedback loops from stakeholders to the WP activities). Knowledge brokerage methodologies are used to disseminate practical farm experience and to create a space for mutual learning and knowledge sharing. Because the trials will be done on commercial farms as well as on experimental stations, the project aims to design and validate pilot/candidate phase-out scenarios that can be demonstrated ‘in-operation’ to stakeholders. Participatory research includes all stakeholders from citizen-consumers to farmers and the food industry. The work will all be strongly rooted in the organic sector in the different partner countries to ensure that the proposed alternatives will be in the scope of the basic principles of organic farming as understood by the stakeholders. However, the findings will also be useful for conventional farmers the innovations that are being created will have a positive effect on agricultural production in general. The alternatives will be tested in different pedo-climatic and farming conditions providing a wide geographical coverage within Europe. We will investigate alternatives that are direct substitutes for contentious inputs but special emphasis will be given to the use of system approaches.