Full project title:Organic Knowledge Network Arable
Contract period:28 February 2015 to 27 February 2018
Main funder:Horizon 2020
Contact staff at ORC:Ms. Katie Bliss
Other staff involved:Susanne Padel, Anja Vieweger, Dominic Amos
The complexity of organic farming requires farmers to have a very high level of knowledge and skills. But exchange on organic farming techniques remains limited. The OK-Net Arable project aims to facilitate co-creation of knowledge by farmers, farm advisers and scientists to increase productivity and quality in organic arable cropping all over Europe.
OK-Net Arable is coordinated by IFOAM EU and involves 17 partners from 13 countries all over Europe. The Organic Research Centre is the UK research partner. The project is financed by Horizon 2020, the EU’s main funding instrument for research and innovation. OK-Net Arable is one of the first four so-called thematic networks funded under the umbrella of the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI). This EU policy instrument aims to foster innovation by connecting farmers and researchers.
There are three specific objectives:
- The project will synthesise the scientific and practical knowledge available about organic arable farming and identify the best methodologies for exchanging this knowledge. Based on this easily understandable advisory material will be developed;
- It will create a European network of farmers to exchange experiences and discuss the advisory material developed by the project;
- Finally, the project will create an online platform offering evidence-based advisory material as well as facilitating farmer-to-farmer learning. This platform will be a virtual meeting place for farmers, advisers and researchers that would otherwise not be able to meet.
OK-Net Arable takes a very innovative approach in that in all stages of the project, farmers play a prominent role. Much more than being asked for advice, farmers contribute to a process of co-creation of knowledge throughout the project.
Context of the project
Organic farming in the EU has recorded substantial growth over the last decade, both in terms of production and market demand. The organic area in the EU has almost doubled since 2004; 5.7% of EU agricultural land is now under organic management. Organic farming is a productive form of agriculture which combines food production with care for the environment. However, concerns have been raised whether organic farming is also productive enough. On average, organic yields are 20-25% lower than yields of conventional farms. In addition, organic yields vary a lot compared to yields in conventional farming. This is often due to the level of knowledge of the farmer. Evidence shows that the more experienced the farmer is, the smaller the yield difference with conventional farms. Indeed, organic agriculture works as a complex system which requires a very high level of knowledge. But knowledge exchange between organic farmers and technicians remains limited. Also the knowledge gap between organic farmers across the EU is considerable. By promoting co-creation and exchange of knowledge, the OK-Net Arable project therefore has significant potential to increase productivity in organic farming.
ORC is responsible for facilitation of knowledge testing with farmer innovation networks in the participating countries and will carry out this work in the UK with organic arable farmers.
Current progress highlights
ORC organised the first UK farmer innovation group meeting for the project, with support from OF&G and Organic Arable. The meeting was hosted by Richard Gantlett at Yatesbury House Farm. See photos
The second meeting of the OK-Net Arable Innovation Group was held at Abbey Home Farm, near Cirencester, in February. See photos
Project leader and partners
- IFOAM EU group Project leader
- The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Switzerland (FiBL)
- Bioland, Germany
- International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems (ICROFS), Denmark
- Assocaiazione Italiana per L'Agricoltura Biologica (AIAB)
- European Forum for Agricultural and Rural Advisory Services (EUFRAS)
- Centro Internazionale Di Alti Studi
Agronomici Mediterranei - Istituto Agronomico Mediterraneo Di Bari, Italy
- FiBL Projekte GmbH, Germany
- Okologiai Mezogazdasagi Kutatointezet Kozhasznu Nonprofit Kft (ÖMKi), Hungary
- Estonian Organic Farming Foundation
- Bioforum Vlaanderen
- Institut technique de l’Agriculture Biologique, France (ITAB)
- Videncentret For Landbrug Ps, Denmark
- Fondatsiya Za Biologichno Zemedeliebioselena, Bulgaria
- The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Austria (FiBL)
- Con Marche Bio, Italy
Download Creeping thistle: Successful control in organic farming or order hard copy here
Download The Basics of Soil Fertility: Shaping our relationship to the soil or order hard copy here
All sources of funding
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 652654. This communication only reflects the author’s view. The Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.