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.”
Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), lead partner of Organic-PLUS has produced a new project highlights booklet.
Available as a paper document or to download, the booklet will be refreshed regularly with details of the ongoing work of Organic-PLUS and other projects that CAWR is involved with.
In January 2019, Organic-PLUS’s associated partner, the International Biocyclic Vegan Network (www.biocyclic-vegan.org) featured prominently in UK print media. The Guardian newspaper published a piece titled, ” ‘We’re humus sapiens’: the farmers who shun animal manure “
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, 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.
On 15th-16th November, the 2018 UK Organic Congress took place in Rugby, UK, close to Ryton Organic Gardens, the home of Organic-PLUS’s lead, the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resiliance (CAWR). As well as researchers from CAWR, the conference was attended by other UK partners the Organic Research Centre, Soil Association and Royal Horticultural Society.
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.