The workshop was sponsored by the regional office for Europe of the UN's Food
and Agriculture Office, FAO. The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari,
Italy hosted the group for the three day meeting.
Attendees were present from Egypt, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Lithuania, France,
Palestine, Albania, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Poland, Bulgaria, Iowa and MA
USA, United Kingdom, Hungary, Switzerland, Slovenia, Netherlands, Bosnia,
Croatia and Tunisia.
Proposals are being made that an organic research section be considered for
inclusion in the 2001 US Farm Bill. The track record of agricultural and
university research institutions and USDA/State extension agents regarding
organic farming has been exceedingly poor. Organic farmers themselves have
and continue to be the self-financiers and basis of organic farming research.
Suggesting a 2001 Farm Bill section raises serious questions of what is the
best research methodology for organic farming and what are the substantial
questions needing answers. The meeting, that unfortunately only two organic
farmers were in attendance, directed its attention to these issues and may be
useful in the US discussion of an organic research agenda and methodology.
The 1999 FAO-REU workshop participants defined the term "pilot farms" as
encompassing three categories of "on farm research" projects. In the
previous, 1998 FAO-REU workshop the convening group had concluded that all
organic farming research should be performed in consultation and co-operation
with organic farmers. Organic farmers are "experts" at farm production and
management in their own right and must receive "benefits" commensurate with
their research support and work. Such a direct involvement with organic
farmers is defined as "participatory research."
The website has on display a copy of the table generated at the workshop
discussing categories of "pilot farm research" at the address
http://members.aol.com/organic4um/info/research.htmlInterim report on:
The following is report of the workshop on the following issues:
IMPROVING ORGANIC FARMING TECHNIQUES TO REDUCE THE ENVRIONMENTAL IMPACT
To consider new techniques and/or improvement of existing techniques within
participatory on-farm research, and
To network information within the organic community.
Overarching organic community concerns:
Pollution of air water and land
Soil erosion and degradation in soil quality
Loss of biodiversity
Landscape quality (aesthetic and cultural)
Use of non-renewable resources
Negative impact caused by GE introduction
Forest fires and farm waste management
Organic farming standards set forth an ideal that reduces farmer, farm worker
environmental and consumer health risk. However, associated with all food
and fiber production systems there is an environmental impact to a greater or
lessor extent. Organic farmers recognize potential negative environmental
impact from their practices and systems.
Among the factors to be considered and for which further improvement have
been identified as need are:
Optimization of nutrient cycles/management in different agro-ecological
Soil quality and assessment, restoration and conservation including
Retention of soil structure and development of humus
Environmental impact of tillage
Water management within soil
Multi-functional cropping systems that include legumes.
Considering integration of perennial and annual species.
Soil microbiology and invertebrate species enhancement.
Weed control strategies.
Pest and disease control strategies--effect on target and non-target
Maintaining local genetic pools--Evaluation, selection and development of
appropriate plant cultivars and livestock breeds for organic farming systems.
Livestock, nutrition, health, welfare and impact on soil and water conditions.
Livestock waste management.
To create a public understanding of the positive benefits from organic
To date there has been considerable research efforts investigating negative
impacts of commercial farming. There now needs to be a shift of emphasis to
quantifying the benefits of organic farming in regard to:
Storage of carbon in soil
Increased humus, water retention and fertility
Ecological sound infrastructure management
We recommend these research and extension approaches:
Determination of a scale of activity, question of single or multiple farms or
-Systems comparison, as appropriate;
-Knowing when to make best use of conventional research;
-A combination of on-farm/plot trials and whole farm
monitoring/documentation, as appropriate;
-Farmer participation in determining and implementing research programs;
-Utilizing pilot and demonstration farm networks.
We appreciate the assistance of the Humane Society US and others in attending
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