As well as trialling alternatives to plastic film mulch, we are working with and providing technical support to farmers who are conducting their own trials of alternative materials and methods. Organic-PLUS partners Coventry University and Soil Association in the UK, are working with the Innovative Farmers scheme which is open to both organic and non-organic farmers, encouraging them to come together to solve common problems.
On 2nd July 2020, Judith Conroy, Organic-PLUS project manager and researcher in the project’s SOIL workpackage visited grower Ben Coode Adams at Coggeshall Hall Farm in Essex, South-East England. Ben is a participant in the Innovative Farmers’ Alternatives to Plastic Film Mulch field lab and planted hundreds of blackcurrant cuttings in the spring through a variety of mulches. It was the day before harvest was due to start, but today’s job was to assess the young plants: heights, percentage weed cover and number of losses were the main measurements recorded.
Mulches being trialled by Ben include a biodegradable film and chipped wood from the farm (some newly chipped and some left for 1 year before use) as well as an unmulched control. It will be interesting to see the results and we are particularly excited to see how the fresh and 1 year old chipped woods perform as on-site sourced farm ‘systems solutions’ to replace plastic mulch.
Also at the farm were the Soil Association’s Dan Iles and Rebecca Swinn, making a film about the Innovative Farmers programme and the benefits of collaboration between researchers and farmers – we look forward to sharing the film once it is complete.
Organic-PLUS seeks to phase-out the use of fertilisers derived from non-organic livestock systems. Hugh Blogg from project partner the Soil Association visited Tree of Life Veganics, an organic farm free of all animal inputs; a model which is proving its resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can read Hugh’s account of the farm which features as an Organic-PLUS case study here. In the wider Organic-PLUS project, we are investigating the use of both vegan-organic fertility sources and alternative materials that would otherwise go to waste such as fish pond sediments in Poland and marine waste in Norway. The work on vegan-organic fertilisers focuses on plant-derived feeds that could be grown on-farm, contributing to more self sustaining farming systems. These include Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum), nettle (Urtica dioica) and legume meal which are being used to feed polytunnel tomatoes at Coventry University – updates will follow as this trial progresses over summer 2020.
Two new deliveries are available on the Organic-PLUS website: www.organic-plus.net/resources/deliverables. They are researching very different solutions for organic livestock and organic horticulture, but have a common thread researching bio-economy, based-plant products as alternatives to currently used contentious inputs.
The livestock research is aimed at phasing out antibiotics, antiparasitics and synthetic vitamins and comprised of trials on: (1) essential oils and nature identical compounds testing as antimicrobials, (2) plant extract testing as antiparasitic, and (3) chemical analysis of essential oils, essential oils active compounds and antioxidant/immunostimulants.
The research for horticulture is aimed at phasing out peat as growing media in horticulture and comprised of trials testing extruded ligoncellulosic materials from across Europe (e.g. from agroforestry, forests or orchards) for their suitability as fibres in peat substitutes especially to replace lighter materials still added to wood-based peat compost like vermiculite (a mined product mostly imported from the USA, Brazil, South-Africa and China; today mines are regularly tested for asbestos contamination and the USA/Montana mine at Libby with asbestos contamination has been closed in the 1990s). More on on-farm wood-based compost see this Grower videos: Wood innovation to phase-out peat.
On April 3rd 2020, as a result of work conducted within the Organic-PLUS project, the review article ‘Organic livestock production: a bibliometric review’ was published in the peer-reviewed academic journal ‘Animals’. Led by Dr Carmen L. Manuelian from O+ parter University of Padova, the review presents a bibliometric approach to organic livestock production and provides an overview of the research conducted on this topic. It highlights tendencies, identifies the countries involved in organic livestock production research and the scientific interaction between countries and authors, and maps the keywords of the published papers. These are all important aspects to bear in mind when embarking upon a new research area or writing a research proposal.
The review reveals an increasing interest in organic livestock production, which can be scientifically measured by the number of projects funded by governmental organisations and the number of published papers. Countries with a long-tradition in organic farming (German-speaking and English-speaking countries, and France) are still the predominant countries in organic livestock research. Collaborations among countries are still scarce, and probably triggered by geographical and historical relationships and languages. Some limitations of the search (e.g. database used, keywords, software for the analysis, language of the documents) and metadata linked to the documents (e.g. type of document, total citations) have to be accounted for when interpreting the results. Therefore, a bibliometric review is an interesting and reliable method when approaching a specific topic for the first time.
‘Animals’ is a peer-reviewed open access journal (ISSN 2076-2615; Q1 journal in the category ‘Agriculture, Dairy & Animal Science’) and the paper is open access and free to view here – www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/4/618.
Although, Organic-PLUS works mainly with commercial organic farmers and growers, plastic mulch is also a big issue for home gardens and allotments, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic to increase resilience in food supply. A big plastic-mulch citizen science experiment in the UK has just started in April 2020.
Organic-PLUS Associated Partner Garden Organic has done Members’ Experiments ever since the founder Lawrence Hills initiated them 60 years ago, and this year more than 300 gardens and allotments across the UK are taking part. The ‘Alternatives to plastic mulch experiment’ designed by Dr Anton Rosenfeld (Garden Organic, Members’ Experiments Coordinator) uses 50 onion sets and 5 treatments: 1. control – no mulch, 2. woven plastic mulch, 3. biodegradable mulch, 4. paper mulch and 5. own much choice (grass clippings in this case). It is not replicated on one site, but rather on 300 locations where soil and climate conditions are known from the postcodes of the members. Regular data recording (growth, pests, weeds, time input, yields, condition of mulch) will happen during the season.
Our 2020 Consortium Meeting and AGA (Annual General Assembly of the project) were scheduled to take place in Volos, Greece but as the impact and necessary restrictions due to COVID-19 became apparent, we had to change our plans. As a large project comprising 25 institutions in 12 countries, we are all familiar with video conferencing, but this is usually in much smaller groups of around 10 people. In the past few weeks, we have all been adapting to new, remote ways of working and after only minor teething problems, 49 individual people were able to participate in the day.
The main topic of the AGA was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our work. We are hoping that much of our field work can continue and are considering contingencies for those operations that are more affected such as access to laboratories.
During the Consortium Meeting, each of our Work Packages updated the rest of the project on their progress (presentations were shared beforehand, allowing more time for discussion on the day). As the work of Organic-PLUS advances, collaboration between the Work Packages is increasingly important – a large part of our work is to ensure that any inputs or methods we are investigating are genuine alternatives to the contentious inputs they are designed to replace in terms of: environmental impact, practicality and cost.
Although the online meeting was more cumbersome than a face to face gathering, we were able to communicate more effectively than most of us had expected and had a very productive day.
Organic-PLUS researchers at Coventry University in the UK recently hosted a second meeting of the Innovative Farmers group concerned with phasing out the use of plastic mulches. During the session, Dr Francis Rayns and Judith Conroy discussed with growers what data they would like to collect and the practicalities of conducting field trials in the 2020 growing season.
These farmer-led trials will be complementary to the work of Organic-PLUS which is investigating alternatives to the fossil-fuel derived plastic sheeting widely used in crop production to suppress weeds. A diverse range of growers are participating in the trial of alternatives which include biodegradable films and loose mulches such as chipped wood. Working alongside farmers in this way also provides the opportunity to discover any issues with the alternatives and investigate any barriers to their uptake, which is an important aspect of Organic-PLUS.
Having reached the 18 month milestone, the Organic-PLUS executive board attended a review meeting at the EU Commission’s Research Executive Agency in Brussels on 16th January 2020. The meeting was an opportunity to showcase the work of the project so far and look ahead to what is still to come.
The following day, the team enjoyed a very interesting session organised by Gregg Jones (Director of Coventry University’s Brussels office). First reflecting on the work of Organic-PLUS facilitated by the LIAISON project team (Jekaterina Markow and Susanne von Münchhausen, www.LIAISON2020.eu) who are examining interactions between researchers and actors in agriculture. We then looked forward to future research opportunities in the new 100 billion ‘Horizon Europe’ programme, together with Hans-Joerg Lutzeyer (Senior Research Policy Officer at DG Research & Innovation, Unit C2 Bioeconomy and Food Systems at the European Commission), and Jon Brookes (European Adviser, UK Research Office, UKRO).
The Organic-PLUS team of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council (Landbrug & Fødevarer) has been investigating the use of plant extracts which could be used in place of zinc to ensure that piglets do not develop diarrhoea. Following trials, the team has decided to switch their focus to creating a checklist on how to manage weaned piglets without zinc and antibiotics.
A test group of lactating sows, suckling pigs and weaned pigs had the plant extract phenol included in their feed at a rate of 0.2 % (as recommended by the producer). The weaned pigs were not given zinc. Phenol is an anti-infective compound which in this case was derived from pine trees. It was hoped that it would eliminate the need for supplementation of the diet with zinc.
In a control group, lactating sows, suckling pigs and weaned pigs did not have any phenol included in their feed. The weaned pigs were fed a high level of zinc (2500 mg/kg).
The pigs in the test group developed diarrhoea after one week, so it was necessary to give them zinc again. Tove Serup, project manager of the test explains, “this result demonstrates that phenol, in this particular instance, could not replace zinc as a remedy for diarrhoea in weaned piglets.” As an alternative, the Danish team is now developing a checklist to ensure weaned piglets are cared for in a way that does not require zinc or antibiotics. “We doubt that we can find one single product that will solve the problem of diarrhoea in weaned piglets. The solution, rather, is to implement a number of management initiatives, particularly those that ensure piglets do not become stressed during weaning”.
A big part of our work on Organic-PLUS is to aid dialogue between scientists, farmers, other stakeholders and members of the public about contentious inputs in organic agriculture. In December 2019, Coventry University’s Organic-PLUS team (project manager Judith Conroy, project coordinator Ulrich Schmutz, workpackage 2 lead Adrian Evans and Researcher Rosa van Kesteren) attended a seminar on involving citizens in deliberative processes at Oslo Met University. The seminar was organised by Gunnar Vittersø and Hanne Torjusen (Consumption Research Norway-SIFO and Organic-PLUS partner) and was funded by an additional grant from the Norwegian Research Council.
Coventry University’s presentation concerned citizen juries: Enhancing our understanding of animal welfare and organic farming through science-society dialogues.
Further presentations were: Cathrine Hasse, Aarhus University: Reeler Outreach: Minipublics Simon Burall, The Involve Foundation: The UK experience of deliberative processes Virginie Amilien, Consumption Research Norway (SIFO): Hybrid Forums Erik Thorstensen, Work Research Institute (AFI): Engaging Older Adults through World Cafés. Pål Strandbakken & Harald-Throne Holst, Consumption Research Norway (SIFO): 3rd Generation Deliberations
After the presentations, there was a “world café” – a session where participants from different projects shared a range of learning experiences. The following day, this led to some very constructive and lively conversations, shaping the future of our citizen jury research on contentious inputs within the Organic-PLUS project: in Norway, the United Kingdom and Italy.
On 18th September Organic-PLUS partner the Soil Association ran a workshop to examine the future of growing potatoes in the UK following uncertainty around the reauthorisation of copper-based fungicide Cuprokylt. The sell-out event was attended by a wide range of stakeholders, indicative of significant interest in the topic. The first half of the workshop comprised a series of presentations examining key areas. The Soil Association gave an overview of the legislative background, providing insight on how the current lack of copper authorisation arose. A variety of solution-based talks followed including: examining blight-resistant potatoes from Agrico, biostimulant opportunities from Itaka, hands on experience of growing copper free with host Joe Rolfe and an insight into Organic-PLUS which aims to phase out contentious inputs in organic agriculture such as copper.
The workshop culminated in an open discussion road-mapping possible future pathways in the copper debate. Opinions were divided with some growers preferring temporary licensing as a priority. The majority, however, strongly supported working quickly towards managing without copper. Four key actions were identified – 1) growers seeking temporary licensing should approach AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board); 2) the Soil Association’s Innovative Farmers scheme will collaborate with AHDB in setting up field trials to investigate potential solutions; 3) more needs to be done with retailers and packers to improve the market for blight-resistant varieties; 4) participants were invited to be involved in a working group to progress this important issue.
To find out more about the next steps, visit the Soil Association’s news feed and for more information on agroecological approaches to tackling potato blight read here.
Organic-PLUS partner ABioDoc (Le Centre National de Ressouces en Agriculture Biologique) manages a database called Biobase which specialises in French publications relating to organic agriculture. Through the Organic-PLUS project, ABioDoc has collaborated with Organic eprints the international open access archive, to document and translate titles of publications concerned with alternatives to contentious inputs in organic farming into the English language. We are pleased that through this collaboration important work in French will now also be available to a wider audience in English.
There are 7 detailed PDF-documents (more then 200 pages together) available for download with recent research and knowledge on alternatives to: 1 COPPER, 2 PEST CONTROL, 3 MASTITIS ANTIBIOTICS, 4 ANIMAL HEALTH, 5 BEDDING, 6 PEAT and 7 PLASTIC MULCHING. The documents are also found in the ‘Resources’ section of the Organic-PLUS website under ‘ABioDoc French Documents’ www.organic-plus.net/abiodoc-french-documents.
On 4th October, Judith Conroy and Dr Francis Rayns of Organic-PLUS partner Coventry University attended a meeting organised by the University of Glasgow to address the use of ‘Plastics In Agricultural Settings’ (PIAS) in the UK. Organic-PLUS is focusing on potential replacements for the fossil-fuel derived film mulches used by many organic growers but it is important that we consider the full extent of plastic use in agriculture, for example: silage tarp, twine, plant labels and clips, tree guards etc. so we will be interested to see how this work engaging growers, manufacturers, government bodies, academics and NGOs develops.
The Catania team presented again at the 5th International Conference on Microbial Diversity (MD2019) in Catania, Italy, from 25th-27th September 2019. In the poster, “Evaluation of the efficacy of biocontrol agents and cardoon plant extracts to contain green mold of citrus fruit”, promising results from the first 20 months of the Organic-PLUS project were presented.
Members of the public were able to see the ongoing work of Organic-PLUS and other projects in the greenhouse facilities of the University of Thessaly, Greece on 18th September 2019. The Open Access Day was part of the pan-European communication campaign Europe in My Region 2019 (#EUinMyRegion). Associate Professor, Nikolaos Katsoulas, (director of the Laboratory of Agricultural Constructions and Environmental Control) and his colleagues guided visitors through the facilities including a new pilot greenhouse.
A variety of farmers, researchers, professionals, teachers and other interested people attended. There was an emphasis on farm diversification within the framework of the circular economy and the benefits of sharing good practice to encourage networking and dialogue.
The farm is in the Valestino area, near the national road which runs from Athens to Thessaloniki and covers an area of 25 ha serving the research and educational needs of the members of the Department of Agriculture. A significant area of about 0.35 ha are covered by greenhouses.
Czestochowa University of Technology (CUT), our consortium partner in Poland has now launched a Polish language Organic-PLUS website. After talking to farmers and growers, it emerged that there was the need for a resource that explained the project and the activities of the CUT team in the local language. To follow the project in Polish, you can visit https://organic-plus.is.pcz.pl/pl/o-projekcie-organic.
There were several short presentations on topics including the overall use of plastics in agriculture/horticulture and Organic-PLUS’s 2019 field trials – Francis Rayns and Judith Conroy have been working alongside 5 Acre Community Farm, trialing a number of mulch films including: two fossil fuel derived plastics, two biodegradable films currently available to growers and two novel materials developed by project partner the Częstochowa University of Technology. As well as measuring the effectiveness of the mulches and subsequent yield, soil samples are being analysed to find out whether substances such as phthalates have leached from the mulches.
The day concluded with a tour of 5 Acre Community Farm to see the Organic-PLUS onion and cabbage trial plots, and to find out more about 5 Acre’s experiences of using biodegradable mulch films over the past few years. There will be a further Innovative Farmers meeting in the next few weeks which it is hoped will lead to on-farm trials in 2020.
Danuta’s poster “Potentials of fish pond sediment composts as organic fertiliser” was very well received, coming 3rd out of 202 posters that were presented. As this research progresses, we will making our findings available by producing reports, articles and by publishing scientific papers.
From 26th-30th August 2019, the 70th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) took place in Ghent, Belgium. The EAAP is one of the largest animal science congresses in the world and the main theme of this year’s meeting was “animal farming for a healthy world”. Dr Mauro Penasa (of DAFNAE, University of Padova) presented the poster “Organic livestock farming contentious inputs in France: preliminary results”, which summarised the initial findings of the French part of the recent Europe-wide livestock Organic-PLUS livestock survey conducted in France by the Organic-PLUS livestock team.
One of the primary aims of Organic-PLUS’s IMPACT work package (WP2), is to explore citizens’ views and concerns about organic agriculture. In the first half of this year, six focus groups were carried out in the UK, Italy and Norway. Within each country we undertook one focus group of regular consumers of organic food and another group consisting of less frequent consumers of organic food. Topics addressed within the focus groups included shopping and eating habits, understandings and definitions of organic, impressions of different organic foods and an evaluation of the importance of the various contentious inputs within organic agriculture (including the use of copper, antibiotics and plastics).
During the sessions, participants also received a 20 minute presentation from a natural scientist explaining the different contentious issues in more detail so that they were able to make more informed decisions. Initial results show that participants identified a far broader range of ‘contentious’ issues than those currently addressed by Organic-PLUS (e.g. issues of seasonality, over-commercialisation of organic, labour conditions). Of the specific contentious inputs identified by the project, focus group participants believed that antibiotic use, plastic mulches and the use of mineral oils were the most pressing to address, although many felt that all the issues were similarly important. Results from the focus group are now being used to help inform the design of a questionnaire of 14,000 respondents across 7 European countries.
As part of the Horizon 2020 project Organic-PLUS, the Laboratory of Agricultural Constructions and Environmental Control of the University of Thessaly, is organising an open day for the public. The event will take place at the University’s experimental farm in Velestino, on 18th September 2019 from 10:00am to 15:00pm.
There will also be the opportunity to visit the Innovative Greenhouse, including a presentation of the new pilot greenhouse of the Laboratory of Agricultural Constructions and Environmental Control of the University of Thessaly, where most of the above mentioned projects are implemented.
The Open Access Day (OPEN DAY) event is part of the pan-European communication campaign Europe in My Region 2019 (#EUinMyRegion).
The Organic-PLUS (O+) livestock team presented first results from the project as posters on on two international conferences one at the ASPA 2019 (Sorrento, Italy) lead by Dr. Mauro Penasa (DAFNAE, University of Padova) on ‘Organic livestock production: a bibliometric analysis’ (first picture below). www.aspasorrento2019.org/index.php/sorrento
The second poster was presented at the ADSA 2019 (Cincinnati, Ohio, USA) by Dr. Carmen L. Manuelian (DAFNAE, University of Padova) on ‘Survey about the use of allopathic treatments and sources of information for organic livestock farms in France’. Dr. Luciana da Costa from Ohio State University is also shown as she has cooperated with the O+ team on the livestock survey (second picture below). www.adsa.org/Meetings/2019-Annual-Meeting
At NORSØK (Norwegian Centre for Organic Agriculture) in Tingvoll, Norway, two Organic-PLUS field trials recently featured prominently on Norwegian television (www.tv.nrk.no):
The first trial is examining the effects of treating seed potatoes and potato leaves with ozone (O3)water to reduce infection of late blight. Ozone is highly toxic to fungal spores and bacteria, but then rapidly decomposes to oxygen (O2). Norwegian regional television visited the trail (31-05-2019) and reported on the ongoing research work; Please click this link to watch.
The second trial studies the effect of marine fertilisers. Fish bones and residues of seaweed (extracted for production of commercial fertiliser) are used alone or in combination, and compared with dried poultry manure. Early results indicate that fish bones result in more rapid plant growth than manure and a positive effect is observed when combining it with seaweed residues. Norwegian regional television visited the trail (24-06-2019) and broadcast the following report; Please click this link to watch.
Wednesday 26thJune – Arrival day 18.00 City walk. Meet at Aarhus Central Station (rail) in front of the main entrance towards the town. 19.00 Dinner at the organic restaurant, Langhoff & Juul in Aarhus.
Thursday 27thJune 8:00 Arrival and coffee at SEGES Agro Food Park, AFP 15
In May 2019, Dr Ulrich Schmutz represented Organic-PLUS at the 4th World Agroforestry Congress in Montpellier, France – the first time this congress has been held in Europe. The congress has put Agroforestry firmly on the map, in Europe and the EU. New areas were explored such as the link between Agroforestry and Agroecology, and the idea of using only certified organic methods within Agroforestry. The contribution of Agroforestry to achieving ‘Drawdown’ (the capture of greenhouse gas pollutants from the atmosphere) was a major part of the keynote discussions.
Significantly at the congress, the Montpellier Declaration was passed stating: “we, the 1200 delegates from 100 countries, agree that the massive degradation of our world’s biodiversity documented in the recent IPBES report is principally due to poor agricultural practices. Agroforestry offers a key solution to remedy the situation…” Read the full document here.
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 from 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 Resilienceis a member.
On Friday, 8th March Coventry University held its second focus group investigating perceptions of contentious inputs in organic agriculture. This time it was a selection of people who are already committed organic consumers. There was lively discussion and in addition to antibiotics and plastic (which were previously raised as concerns by a mixed consumer group), the role of supermarkets and perceptions of organic as a ‘fashion trend’ were scrutinised. With similar focus groups in Norway and Italy also underway we hope to gain a more detailed picture of perceptions of contentious inputs on which to base a larger Europe-wide survey.
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.”
Biocyclic vegan agriculture is a form of organic farming that uses only plant-based inputs. Since November 2017, the Biocyclic Vegan Standard has been available worldwide as a global standard for vegan organic farming accredited by IFOAM. This is in-line with Organic-PLUS’s aim to phase-out the use of conventional (non-organic) manure in organic systems. Biocyclic vegan agriculture does, however, permit fertility sources from conventionally raised plants. For example, fertiliser derived from conventional sugar-beet waste.
On Wednesday 12th December 2018, Sustain(‘the alliance for better food and farming’), which is an associate partner of Organic-PLUS, met for their AGM and Annual Gathering at the Canal Museum, King’s Cross, London. Dr Ulrich Schmutz and Judith Conroy represented Organic-PLUS and also the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, whose membership was officially ratified at the meeting.
Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, to improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture, and promote equity. The alliance represents around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level.
The conference attracts a wide range of delegates including farmers, researchers and retailers, so we took the opportunity to speak to people and collect their views on contentious inputs such as copper fungicides, peat and plastic mulches as well as the potential alternatives.
The ‘Organic Innovation Days’ events have become a late November tradition, aiming to inform and grow networks between stakeholders in the organic sector. This year, Anne-Kristin Løes (NORSØK, Norway) and Alev Kir (MFAL, Turkey) both partners in Organic-PLUS attended.
Arranged by TP Organics, the event was held in Brussels, 27th – 29th November 2018 and incorporated the Global Sustainable Technology & Innovation Conferences (G-STIC). The work of Organic-PLUS and its sister project RELACS was highlighted a number of times in connection to reducing the use of contentious inputs such as copper in organic growing. Christian Huyghe, Scientific Director of INRA, France gave an enthusiastic lecture about post-pesticide agriculture, including the phase-out of those pesticides currently permitted in organic growing.
For the G-STIC event, agroecology as a driver for increased sustainability was the main headline. A range of success stories from around the world were presented, but with no mention of organic standards, certification, labeling or marketing as a route for realising agroecology in practice. Agroecology is a reminder to organic farming that we could make much better provision for biodiversity; for example, with new approaches to crop rotation (strip cropping has been tested with great success in the Netherlands). Though scientists involved in agroecology appreciate the practical efforts of the organic sector, there is still significant resistance to certified organic farming on the political side.
Organic-PLUS was represented at ICA2018, the 12th International Conference on Agrophysics: Soil, Plant & Climate in Lublin, Poland 17th – 19th September. Krystyna Malińska of Czestochowa University of technology and our SOIL workpackage delivered the keynote lecture on biochar and presented Organic-PLUS to the scientific community.
Also at the conference, Krystyna and colleague Danuta Dróżdż displayed a poster on “Fish pond sediment from aquaculture production – current practices and potentials for nutrient recovery” which has been submitted to the journal International Agrophysics as a review paper and is part of Organic-PLUS’s investigations of bioeconomy fertilisers.
The two sister EU-Horizon 2020 projects RELACS and Organic-PLUS organised a joined session and workshop at the 6th International Conference on Organic Agriculture Sciences (ICOAS 2018) held at the Esterházy Palace in Eisenstadt, Austria from 7 – 9 November 2018.
The presentations were followed by three parallel 30-min break-out groups to discuss contentions inputs in organic livestock, organic plant protection and organic soil/fertility management (peat, plastic and fertilisers). The project collected valuable feedback from the organic research experts community at the conference.
Thank you – to everyone at the workshop for the contributions made to the lively discussion on contentious inputs in organic agriculture!
Since the first Biocontrol Symposium in Darmstadt, Germany in 2005, these conferences have become a great opportunity to meet and discuss the latest research results and developments in the biological control of bacterial plant diseases. Biocontrol 2019 will focus on the main scientific, technical and political aspects relating to the management of the most serious bacterial plant diseases occurring worldwide.
Chaired by Prof. Giorgio M. Balestra, the symposium will provide researchers, students and professionals a chance to meet, exchange ideas and develop common activities in a warm and friendly environment. For more information, visit the Biocontrol 2019 website.
Organic-PLUS participated in the XIII Congress of the Spanish Society of Organic Agriculture (Sociedad Española de Agricultura Ecológica, SEAE) that took place in Logroño, La Rioja, Spain, from 14-17 November 2018. Dr Sara Burbi from Coventry University was invited to give a presentation about the project and engage with producers, policy-makers and NGOs that attend SEAE congresses. The event included workshops, roundtables, presentations and poster sessions. Organic-PLUS was included in the session on participatory work to highlight the transdisciplinarity of the project and present early results.
Copper use was considered one of the most contentious inputs by the audience, followed by antibiotics and antiparasitics use in livestock production.
The event was a good opportunity to engage with a variety of stakeholders, primarily from Spain, but also from France, Italy and delegations from Chile, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, as several Latin American countries are embracing organic principles and aim to further promote sustainable farming practices, in particular, adopting the agroecological framework. Agroecology and organic principles held an important role in the congress, which focused on climate change, as well as the proposed changes to the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
During the conference, the state of play under the old EU regulation 1107/2009 and the re-approval of copper as active substance was discussed from the policy and industry perspective. In addition, the EU copper minimisation strategy for organic crops was presented and discussed.
For the Organic-PLUS project WP Plant leader Prof Dr Nikolaos Katsoulas from University of Thessaly, Greece and Lucas Knebl from Forschungsring e.V. Germany participated and presented the project to the IFOAM Conference.
The picture below shows Nikos together with the RELACS Co-ordinator Dr Lucius Tamm.
Calling all organic livestock farmers across Europe… the Organic-PLUS survey for mapping contentious inputs in organic livestock farming is now online and we are keen to hear from you.
Please click the link in your language to find further explanation and instructions. For other countries (e.g. Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greece…) please use the English version. In the English survey version you can use the auto-translate option to narrow down the meaning, but it is not a perfect translation.
Dr Adrian Evans and Dr Ulrich Schmutz visited two research partners of Organic-PLUS in Norway. Firstly, NORSOK the Organic Research Centre and Organic Garden (see picture of garden) for Norway in Tingvoll on the Norwegian Fjord coast south of Trondheim. Secondly, in central Oslo the Consumer Research Institute (SIFO) at HIOA, University College of Applied Sciences in Oslo and Akerhus.
Both gave presentations on CAWR and the Organic-PLUS project at the two locations and exchanged ideas about research with a non-EU member country. It was interesting to find out how a non-EU country relates to EU regulation, e.g. the EU organic farming legislation. Within the next 4 years, the Organic-PLUS project will further investigate this. In addition, the research led by our partner SIFO is into understanding organic consumer attitudes to contentious inputs like peat, antibiotics and synthetic vitamins. But also asking now new diet trends, like Nordvegans, might affect organic consumption.
At the 30th International Horticulture Congress (12-16 August 2018, Istanbul, Turkey) organised by International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) Agroecology as a science got a big boost!
The 2nd International Symposium on “Organic Horticulture for Wellbeing of the Environment and Population” was held with a large audience. In addition, aShort Training Course on Organic Agriculture was hosted; a workshop onthe discussion of Soil and Soilless Organic Production Systems, and a workshop on Agroecology and Education: Socio-ecological Resilience to Climate Change. Prof. Dr Uygun Aksoy (Chair of the Scientific Committee of ISHS, and working for ETO a consortium partner within Organic-PLUS) organised them and helped to get agroecology science a bigger role in international horticulture research. With the election of Prof. Dr Yüksel Tüzel as next ISHS president the society has now a leader with deep understanding of organic horticulture.
To add to the growing role the current commission on ‘Organic Horticulture’ will be expanded and renamed ‘Agroecology and Organic Farming Systems’ (this is still within horticultural science) and more working groups on organic vegetables, organic temperate and tropical fruit and agroecology will be added to the existing working groups to respond to the rising academic and practical interest in this work.
Speakers at the Agroecology workshop are shown above (Left to right): Prof. Reza Ardakani (Iran), Dr. Ulrich Schmutz (United Kingdom), Prof. Beatrix Alsanius (Sweden), Prof. Martine Dorais (Canada), Prof. Uygun Aksoy (Turkey) and Prof. Maria Claudia Dussi (Argentina).
The Organic Research Centre (ORC) have joined the consortium of Organic-PLUS, the €4.1m CAWR-led EU Horizon 2020 project to phase out contentious inputs from organic agriculture led by Dr Ulrich Schmutz. The ORC is an independent research organisation for the development of organic and agroecological food production and land management approaches. As part of Organic-PLUS, ORC will be working on alternatives to synthetically derived vitamins and antibiotics given to livestock and also on replacements for the non-organic animal bedding often used in organic systems. A participatory research design with UK organic dairy farmers will be used.
Below Researchers from Organic-PLUS partners Coventry University (CU) and the Organic Research Centre – Elm Farm (ORC), enjoying the autumn sunshine at a recent meeting at Elm Farm.
In June 2018, the Organic-PLUS project held a successful 3-day kick-off meeting in Padova. 45 participants attended from across Europe (Norway to Turkey) as well as members of the international advisory board from America, Africa and Asia. It was a fruitful three days where we came together to put the project into action, meeting as a group and also in smaller clusters for more specific discussion.
Our partners from the University of Padova organised farm visits including an organic dairy farm, producing Parmigiano cheese and a vegan organic vineyard.