Innovation and Research in Organic Farming
By Christina Vakali
In 2016 the most important researchers in the field of organic farming published an article in Organic Farming magazine to give a new impetus to the process of organic farming. In a multipage article they pointed out the following:
Future challenges in the production and consumption of organic food are clear: (a) the production of adequate sanitation, safe and affordable food for 9 to 11 billion people, (b) the reduction of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from food production, processing, marketing and consumption, (c) production organization and handling of food based on renewable energy sources and recycling nutrients, (d) climate change adaptation (e) and protection of soil, water, air, biodiversity and rural landscapes. These axes were so labeled because they are considered to be those in which organic farming can demonstrate innovative solutions. Unfortunately organic farming only manages 1% of global agricultural land and only a small percentage of the world population consumes organic food. The funds that are provided for research in organic farming are still a very small proportion of research funds provided for conventional methods. Even in Germany, which has the highest rates of research funds for organic farming, only 2% of the money given to agricultural research is devoted to organic agriculture.
Nevertheless, organic farming can and should play an important role in resolving future challenges in food production. The low level of external input in conjunction with sustainability minimize its environmental impact and can help produce more food for more people without adversely affecting the environment. Organic farming should be supported by interdisciplinary research to find both technical and socio-economic solutions to current agricultural issues. The main challenges of the future can only be overcome by a participatory approach, with emphasis on the producer’s participation.
To upgrade the «organic» solutions, production needs to be improved. Yields per hectare can be increased in the majority of the world’s farming systems by improving management and best agricultural practices. Organic food production needs to be converted from a system with low input and low yields into a system with low external input and medium yields. Furthermore, it should be linked to the consumption of local food. Organic agri-food systems should be developed that will show greater resilience to extreme weather and climate change. Furthermore, the integration of biodiversity as an integral part of the agri-food cluster should be improved. There is also a need to improve the efficient use of nutrients and methods of pest and pathogen life cycle controls.
here is also a great need for education about food production, healthy eating and sustainable lifestyle and over-consumption of food. Similarly, a fair distribution of highquality food at reasonable prices is a critical issue for organic farming. Organic products should be accessible to everyone, while maintaining the standards of production at a high level. Organic farming cannot rely only on the improvement of agricultural practices, but should be a model for sustainability and healthy food systems both locally and globally. There is an urgent need to identify directions for developing these models, and with the help of innovative research, the organic sector has the opportunity to produce innovative work.
In the second national organic farming conference held in Petritsi, Serres on 12. - 15. 11.2016 by the Association of Organic Farmers in North Greece, emphasis was placed on innovation, with four proposals from agronomists Gkisaki Vassili, Guidotti Diego and Christina Vakali. The recommendations concerned the ecological footprint, the application of new technologies in agriculture, the application field of soil evaluation protocol and the monitoring and control method of the olive fly from Tuscany, Italy. European innovation awards for 2016 were also presented, awarded by the largest organizations of the biological sphere (farmknowledge.org, sito.entecra.it, AssureWel etc.). The presentations are already accesible on AEGILOPS’ website (www.aegilops.gr).