Organic grower Iain Tolhurst (Tolly) phased out the use of peat on his vegetable farm several years ago. Here, he talks to the Organic-PLUS team about the growing media he produces on-farm from wood waste, fulfilling all of his plant propagation requirements (clip 18 on the Organic-PLUS playlist).
Organic-PLUS team members Dr Stéphane Bellon (INRA, France) and Dr Ulrich Schmutz (Coventry University, UK) brought critical input to the discussion, reflecting on the research results of long-term farming system comparisons (organic versus conventional) in Kenya, India, Bolivia, Ghana and Uganda. A major part of the discussion was around modelling scenarios to radically change food and farming systems based on a recent Nature paper by FiBL’s Muller et al. “Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture”.
Scaling-up agroecology from the perspective of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (Carolina Starr) and EU parliament (Maria Heubuch, MEP) was another focus. One conclusion was that 100% organic could comfortably feed the world in a 2050 ‘peak population’ scenario and contribute more to SDGs than current systems. However, besides major social and political challenges there are still multiple research needs such as achieving full yield potential in organic systems and fulfilling the world’s fuel and fibre needs in a bio-economy (globally, non-organic cotton accounts for 16% of all insecticide use despite comprising just 2.4% of the total cultivated area).
Dr Francis Rayns of Coventry University’s CAWR attended the Annual General Meeting of the Organic Growers Alliance (OGA), on 16th and 17th March 2019 . The OGA is a network of growers, farmers and horticulturists across the UK, and an associate partner of Organic-PLUS. The OGA organises regular events concerned with practical organic fruit and vegetable production, and publishes a quarterly organic horticultural journal. In the Organic-PLUS project we are collaborating with several OGA members and disseminating our findings via their networks. The meeting was held at Rhos Market Garden in Knighton on the Welsh side of the England/Wales border and included a farm tour which focused on polytunnel production and discussion around the use of contentious inputs.
The English Organic Forum (EOF) has opened a new chapter by discussing its Terms of Reference at a meeting at the Soil Association‘s Bristol headquarters on Friday 15th March 2019. There was consensus on all issues discussed, with Garden Organic voted interim-secretary organisation for 2019 and Dr Christopher Stopes (former IFOAM EU President) the interim-chair. It is hoped that with the new terms of reference, the public voice of the Organic Movement in Englandwill be significantly strengthened.
Membership of the English Organic Forum is open to organisations and individuals with an interest in and experience of organic food, farming and growing. Organic-PLUS partner Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience is a member.
On Friday, 8 March Coventry University held it’s second focus group on the perceptions of contentious inputs in organic agriculture. This time it was a selection of already very committed organic consumers. There was lively discussion and in addition to antibiotics and plastic, which were raised already by the mixed consumer group, supermarkets in general, and the perception of organic as a fashion trend came under intense scrutiny. With focus groups in Norway and Italy also under way we hope to get a more detailed picture of perceptions of contentious inputs published.
Innovative technique: wooden studs inoculated with Trichoderma fungi to suppress pathogens.
“In this EIP Operational Group, we want to test the antagonistic activity of Trichoderma fungal species, applying in pruning wounds as usual, but also through its inoculation in the base of the trunk. The aim is to demonstrate the efficiency of this innovative practice. The test field for our Operational Group is located at the Godeval Winery in Xagoaza, Galicia. José Luis Bartolomé from the Godeval Winery tells us: “The inoculation of these fungi by wooden studs sounded a very promising technique for us. Due to the fact that this technique was earlier tested in our winery and because of the experience that we already had, it was a logical choice to continue this research in our winery.”