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Holistic Approaches in Organic Farming Research and development: A General Overview - U. NIGGLI


Until around 1970 organic farming as a method of producing food had been developed mainly by experienced farmers and gardeners. Although there were scientists and philosophers like Rudolf Steiner, Hans Müller, Hans Peter Rusch, Lady Eve Balfour and Sir Albert Howard who brought up the concepts and general ideas of organic farming, it was always farmers who developed the production technique. Major research activities in organic farming started in the 1970s, with the Institute for Biodynamic Research in Germany, FiBL in Switzerland, the Louis Bolk Institute in Holland, the Elm Farm Research Centre and the Henry Doubleday Research Association in the UK and the Rodale Institute in the USA. Researchers have had to legitimize their analytical approach vis-à-vis the intuitive “trial and error” method of the pioneers since the very beginning. To meet the holistic thinking of a farmer, organic farming researchers developed holistic approaches in research. The following paper tries to show the state-of-the-art of what is inherent in and specific to organic farming research.


Wynen (1996) proposed that organic and conventional agriculture belonged to two different paradigms. Beus and Dunlap (1990) characterized the fundamental difference between the two competing agricultural paradigms as follows:









Domination of nature

Harmony with nature





In contrast, several agro-ecologically based researchers stress more the fluid transition between conventional, integrated and organic farming, as an outcome of different assessments of economic, ecological and social goals (Altieri, 1995). Consequently, technical strategies such as integrated pest management or balanced nutrient supply might improve conventional agriculture to such an extent that it may appear unnecessary to strictly ban pesticides and mineral fertilizers as required by organic standards.

However, there is scientific evidence that organic agriculture differs from conventional agriculture not only gradually but fundamentally. Implementing organic methods consequently seems to provide a new quality in how the agro-ecosystem works. This functioning cannot be explained by summing up single ecological measures. Maire et al. (1990) compared the biomass (measured as ATP) of soil samples of cereal and potato fields of 60 organic farms with that of 190 integrated farms. In order to improve statistical significance, the soils were extensively classified according to their physical, chemical and biological properties and comparisons were made only with similar soils. In contrast to soils taken from integrated farms (which represented an ecologically optimized conventional farming method), organic farms showed a rapid growth in soil biomass correlating to the number of years the conversion period lasted (see Figure 1). Organic farming seems to improve soil fertility in a way and to an extent which cannot be achieved by conventional farming even if the latter consistently respects some ecological principles.

Figure 1. Interrelation between the number of years after conversion from conventional to organic farming and the ATP-content in the soil (Source: Maire et al., 1990)

Comparable and even more significant results have been obtained with the DOC Trial carried out by FiBL and the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agro-ecology and Agriculture (FAL) at Therwil/CH (Mader et al. 1996, Fliessbach et al. 1997). Assessing numerous parameters of soil fertility at the same experimental site over 21 years, biodynamic (DYN) and organic (ORG) treatments differed fundamentally from conventional ones (CON=IPM, MIN). The conventional farming systems (even the one with farmyard manure and integrated pest management) had in general, the same poor microbiological properties as the permanently non-fertilized treatments (NON) (see Table 1).

Table 1. Soil microbial properties after two crop rotations in the DOC Trial in Therwil/CH. Significant differences are indicated by different letters (p? 0.05)

Soil property







Microbial biomass [mg Cmic 100 g-1]











Cmic Corg-1 ratio [%]











Respiration [µg CO2-C 15d-1 100 g-1]











Dehydrogenase [µg TPF 6h-1 g-1]











Catalase [mg H2O2 h-1 g-1]











Protease [µg Tyrosinequivalents 2h-1 g-1]











Alkal. phosphatase [µg Phenol 16 h-1 g-1]











Saccharase [mg red. sugar 3h-1 g-1]











Microbial biomass-C total carbon-1 [%]











In the DOC Trial, the microbial populations were characterized by their energy use efficiency by determining their specific respiration, relating basal respiration to the microbial biomass (metabolic quotient for CO2 or qCO2). The highest qCO2 values were calculated in the minerally fertilized soil of the DOC Trial, whilst the bio-dynamic and organic systems, which had received organic manure, showed lower values (Figure 2). This indicates that the microorganisms of manured soils need less energy for maintenance. The conventional treatment with manure (CON) showed a significantly higher qCO2 and the minerally fertilized conventional treatment an even higher qCO2, i.e. a lower efficiency of energy use. Soils with lower qCO2 (metabolic quotient) are generally regarded as less exposed to various stress conditions. As the soil bacteria seem to use C-sources more efficiently, organic soils are viewed as sinks for CO2.

In order to estimate the functional diversity of the soil microflora, an identification system for bacteria was also used according to Garland and Mills (1991). It allows the simultaneous testing of microbial utilization of 95 separate carbon sources. The substrate utilization of the whole microflora was analysed by inoculating soil dilutions directly to plates containing different substrates. Direct incubation may therefore produce patterns of metabolic response suitable for the characterization of heterotrophic microbial communities.

Functional richness and diversity (Shannon Index), calculated on the basis of substrate utilization patterns, revealed highest values for both organic treatments and lower values for the conventional treatments (Figure 2). These results were obtained in spring 1995 and 1996 under winter wheat. The DOC Trial at Therwil in Switzerland clearly shows that microbial properties of organic soils differ quite fundamentally from conventional and integrated ones in the long run.

Figure 2. Metabolic quotient (basal respiration to microbial biomass) and functional diversity of soil microbial communities in the DOC trial. NON = unfertilized control, DYN = bio-dynamic, ORG = organic, CON = conventional (combined organic and mineral fertilization), MIN = mineral. Sampling date: March 1995.

The conclusion to be drawn from this is that accepting a shift in paradigm from conventional to organic farming has a profound impact on research work. This concerns both the choice of research methods and the relevance of topics and priorities (Wynen, 1996).


Within the organic community there is no consensus as to what “holism” in research work means. To become holistic, the EC Workshop in Belgium in 1992 concluded: “We recommend that [organic farming] research on crops and pasture should be done in the context of crop rotations.” (MacNaeidhe, 1992). Others develop on-farm research concepts and integrate farmers in their research work. Or does it mean working inter- or multidisciplinarily, integrating socio-economics in agronomic research? Debating social issues like rural development, ethics and health is another approach to holism. Finally, adopting anthroposophic concepts seems to be the most radical way of holistic thinking. In his agricultural course in 1924, Rudolf Steiner already transferred his holistic concept of nature to agriculture: “Single parts don’t add up to a whole, but a whole controls partial activity and organizes it functionally, whereby this partial activity is subordinate to the whole” (Dewes, 1994). Bio-dynamic farming indeed combines scientifically based knowledge with spiritual notions based on anthroposophy. Some of its particular techniques, like the application of bio-dynamic preparations (field and compost compounds) and the consideration of cosmic and terrestrial forces, had no experimental basis when introduced by Steiner. His image of the farm as an organism is a challenging concept for research!


The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) has revenues of seven million Swiss Francs for research and extension work and of three million for certification. The certification branch will be outsourced in 1999 to ensure the independence of certification work. Research and extension work are carried out in plant production, animal husbandry and animal health, economics, landscape and biodiversity. Knowing that there is no perfect recipe for holism in research and that many problems cannot be resolved without reductionist approaches, FiBL tries to combine and maintain scientific research at all levels of complexity (see Figure 3). At each level, interactions differ. Whereas at the laboratory and glasshouse level pure scientific effects can be studied, site-related issues becomes dominant at the on-farm level. The human factor guides inquiry at the level of the network of reference farms. Socio-economic impacts become more and more important from the network of reference farms up to the wider scale of regional modelling and finally to the national level of analysing data from all organic farms.

Figure 3. The research concept of FiBL tries to achieve a holistic view through consistently combining research work at all levels of complexity

A second approach by which we try to deal with holism is to put complex issues at the centre of research projects. Some of these issues are “food quality”, “animal health” or “human health”. To study such complex issues, multidisciplinary research is absolutely necessary and results of one discipline cannot be discussed without considering those of the others.

Finally, there is an intensive exchange of information between researchers and extension workers at FiBL. In addition, permanent feed-back from inspection work to both research and extension workers is crucial. This guarantees that the farm as a unit and the socio-economic reality of the rural society remains relevant in the thinking of researchers (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Knowledge transfer from research to the farms via extension service is important. Close exchange of information with the inspection bodies (in Switzerland bio.inspecta) helps research to remain relevant


A very broad and detailed enumeration of problems in production technique where research is needed is given in the paper of Willer and Zerger (1999). Therefore, the discussion in this section is only very general.

Organic farmers have successfully dealt with organic fertilizers, composting, crop rotation design, nitrogen fixation and nitrogen supply in crop rotations and weed regulation in recent years. Therefore, research projects in organic farming should concentrate on the following fields:

- holistic approaches to animal health;

- technical progress in horticulture crops (replacing copper application is a major issue here);

- minimum tillage and precision agriculture in arable crop rotations;

- improving consumer-oriented food quality in general;

- ecological and socio-economic implications of organic agriculture in comparison to conventional agriculture in different regions of Europe;

- ensuring future seed and animal breed supply for organic farming (GMO-free).

Unfortunately, funds for organic farming research will remain limited in the next five to ten years, so that fast progress cannot be expected. Our experience in Switzerland shows that policy-makers do not have enough understanding of the role which organic farming could play in rural development to provide funding for organic farming research that is commensurate to this potential. It was the fast growing market for organic products, even though the land area under full organic management and in conversion was still less than 10 percent, that has created a much more favourable situation for research funding in Switzerland. As a result, a considerably increased amount of public funds has been made available for organic farming research. In addition, trading and processing firms as well as farmers’ associations (e.g. livestock breeding, dairy and fruit associations) have provided money for R&D projects in order to develop and safeguard future markets. All strategies helping to develop a faster and sustainable growth of the organic market should also be considered and supported by the scientific community too.


There is no universally agreed consensus among the organic movement as to what a holistic approach in research does mean. A better understanding of holism can be achieved when groups of researchers work at different levels of complexity in parallel. At the very least, each research group should have a network of reference farms (commercial farms) or several on-farm projects for gauging results or insights derived from “isolated” scientific work.

In the practice of organic farming, there is an urgent need for both simple technical solutions and a better understanding of complex interactions. The research methodology has to be appropriate to each level so there is a peaceful co-existence of methods in organic farming research. Nevertheless, we do not dispose of really good holistic research methods to describe complex impacts (e.g. “What is healthy food?”, “When is an animal kept in a species-appropriate manner?”, “What is a fertile soil?”). Such methods could be computer models, a simple co-efficient of different analyses or measurements or methods which are sensitive enough to describe new qualities (like the picture creating methods).

Finally, it must be said that research collaboration among the organic community is insufficient. Improved exchange of information about on-going experiments and recent results is vital. Closer collaboration and more joint projects could partly compensate for the lack of funding and poor research facilities.


DEWES, T. (1994): “Der Wissenschaftsbegriff im ökologischen Landbau - Zur Konzeption ökologischer Landbausysteme”. Sonderausgabe Nr. 58, Stiftung Ökologie und Landbau, D-67098 Bad Dürkheim, 16-27 pp.

FLIEßBACH, A., MÄDER, P., WIEMKEN, A. and U. NIGGLI (1996): “Metabolic diversity of microbes in biological and conventional soils”. In: Organic Agriculture: Down to earth and further afield. Abstracts of the 11th IFOAM International Scientific Conference, Copenhagen, August 11-15, 154 pp.

MACNAEIDHE, F.S. (1992): “Conclusions and recommendations for further research”. In: Potential and limits of organic farming. Proceedings of an EC Workshop. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. Peeters, A. and Van Bol. V. (eds). Working document for the Commission of the European Communities ref. F.II.3-SJ/0008, 185-191 pp.

MÄDER, P., ALFÖLDI, TH., FLIEßBACH, A., PFIFFNER, L. and U. NIGGLI (1999): “Agricultural and Ecological Performance of Cropping Systems Compared in a Long-term Field Trial”. Book CAB (in print).

MÄDER, P., PFIFFNER, L., FLIEßBACH, A., VON LÜTZOW, M. and J.C. MUNCH (1996): “Soil ecology-The impact of organic and conventional agriculture on soil biota and its significance for soil fertility”. In: Fundamentals of Organic Agriculture. Proceedings of the 11th IFOAM International Scientific Conference, Copenhagen, 11-15 August, Vol.1, 24-46 pp.

MAIRE, N., BESSON, J.M., SUTER, H., HASINGER, G. and A. PALASTHY (1990): “La conversion des domaines agricoles en mode biologique: Effet sur l’equilibre physico-chimique et biologique des sols”. Rapport 43 du Programme national de recherche “Sol”; Liebefeld-Bern, 131 pages.

WILLER, H. and U. ZERGER (1999): “Demand of research and development in organic farming in Europe”. Proceedings of the FAO Workshop “Research Methodology in Organic Farming”, Frick, Switzerland, 30 September-4 October 1998.

WYNEN, E. (1996): “Research implications of a paradigm shift in agriculture. The case of organic farming. Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies”. The Australian National University, Canberra, p. 1-58.

Biodynamic Approaches in Research and Development - J. RAUPP


We often experience that people expect something absolutely different, something very unusual or even strange when the conversation turns to biodynamic agriculture. Some people suppose biodynamic agriculture is like a cow with four horns and two wings or biodynamic farming relies solely on spiritual forces without looking at fertilization and plant protection techniques.

You will probably be disappointed if you have a similar expectation now for my contribution. Biodynamic approaches in R&D do not mean that we do everything completely different from the rest of the world. We share many experiences, habits and views with the other types and groups of organic farming and share many research topics and methods with the general scientific community. As the biodynamic fraction is the oldest part of the organic movement, some habits and views might have been developed first by this group but are not used by them exclusively.

However, it is indeed true that biodynamic agriculture has some characteristic aspects of farming, nutrition, etc. that are intrinsic to and found only in this agricultural method. From these particular aspects, specific problems concerning research and development may arise. Therefore, specific tools or approaches have been developed and must be developed for these problems. This is an on-going process that has not yet come to an end. My intention now is to describe some of these particular aspects of biodynamic agriculture from my personal point of view and their consequences for R&D.

With regard to the expectations I mentioned at the beginning, please consider that some of the consequences that I point out may also concern organic farming or agricultural research in general, at least in a similar or transformed way.


Basic Background: Anthroposophy

The biodynamic method originates in the lectures of Rudolf Steiner (Steiner, 1924). He assumed a fundamental knowledge of anthroposophy, the spiritual science developed by himself. Without such knowledge, biodynamic agriculture can be applied but not fully understood with its essentials, e.g. the biodynamic preparations. Knowledge of anthroposophy cannot normally be achieved through ordinary education in schools, universities, etc. It is usually gained by private study and special courses.

The fact that a fundamental background exists means that deeper involvement in biodynamic farming should be accompanied by a study of anthroposophy. This is valuable to scientists as well as to farmers, advisers or even to consumers, as it offers another approach also to human nutrition. However, to pursue an additional study needs further time and effort. It may sometimes be difficult to communicate with people not having this background. In other words, you can tell everybody WHAT you do in biodynamic farming but only to a certain extent can you explain WHY you do it.

To date, a great number of studies and many hundreds of publications have been produced in the field of agriculture and ecology based on anthroposophy, referring to the work of Steiner and other authors. It is impossible to give a representative review of the literature here. Beismann and Rozumek (1997) attempted to give a comprehensive description and a historical outline of this topic including a bibliography of anthroposophical magazines.

Biodynamic Preparations

Steiner (1924) recommended eight preparations (Table 1); two of them are stirred in water in a specific way and sprayed on fields and crops, the other six preparations were added to farmyard manure, slurry, liquid manure, plant litter compost and any other type of organic materials in order to improve their fertilizing properties. Some other preparations or rather modifications of these eight have been developed here and there, but they are much less widespread in practice than the original preparations and are scarcely investigated.

Table 1. Biodynamic preparations (Steiner, 1924)

Spray preparations applied to soils and crops:


Horn manure


Horn silica

Manure preparations:


Yarrow (Flower heads from Achillea millefolium)


Camomile (Flower heads from Matricaria chamomilla)


Stinging nettle (stalk from Urtica dioica)


Oak bark (Quercus robur)


Dandelion (flower heads of Taraxacum officinale)


Valerian (juice of flowers of Valeriana officinalis)

Each of the preparations is made in a specific way and applied in very small quantities, a feature shared with homeopathic remedies. Therefore, research on the preparation effects and way of action is very difficult. We are all more used to quantitatively linked effects, i.e. a larger effect is expected if an agent is applied more often or in a higher quantity within a certain range. However, the biodynamic preparations do not show a clearly discernible dose effect. Moreover, the extent and direction of an effect seems to vary depending on the prevailing circumstances (e.g. growth conditions), as can be concluded from the results of several studies (Abele, 1973; Dewes and Ahrens, 1990; Koop, 1993; Kotschi, 1980; Spiess, 1978 and 1979).

From these experimental results, the concept of system adjustment was derived and can explain some aspects of the preparation mode of action (König, 1993; Raupp and König, 1996). This concept fits, for example, the yield results of spring wheat in one of our fertilization trials. Figure 1 shows the yields of two treatments in 11 years (in four replicates). The yield with composted manure without biodynamic preparations (CM) is plotted against the horizontal axis and the yield achieved in the same year with composted manure including the application of all biodynamic preparations (CMBD), is plotted against the vertical axis. There is obviously a great variation from year to year within both parameters and on average, from 11 years yield no difference showed between the treatments with and without the preparations (39.0 and 39.5 dt/ha, respectively). Regarding the influence of years as a random effect, one has to conclude: no effect of the preparations on average. However, a significant bivariate correlation can be calculated between CM and CMBD, which shows a declining tendency of the CMBD results with increasing CM values. When, however, CM results were low, the CMBD treatment yielded higher. This means, the preparations increased wheat yield under bad growth conditions (when the control treatment CM had low yields) and under high yielding conditions the preparations reduced yield a bit. The slope of the major axis of the correlation ellipse shown in Figure 1 is significantly smaller than 1 (p<0.05), providing evidence of the described effect.

Figure 1. Spring wheat yield with composted manure in 11 years; CMBD = with biodynamic preparations, CM = without; major axis: Y1 = 0.724 * Y2 + 10.43

I do not present this example because of the mathematical procedure; the bivariate correlation used here is quite a normal statistical tool. I present this example because of the concept of system adjustment as a way of action of the biodynamic preparations that can be described with this procedure. System adjustment is more focused on varying environmental conditions rather than expecting linear, quantitative effects. According to this concept, the effect of the preparations is not completely determined by their properties and mode of application but depends very much on the conditions of soils, plants and the environment, including their interactions.

A similar way of influencing organisms can be found in medicine. Schaumann (1987) points to the three basic ways for working with systems and organisms both in medicine and agriculture: stimulation, substitution and suppression. As the author points out, each system or organism has an inherent capability, to a certain extent, to regulate and adjust its processes and conditions. Depending on the way of treatment or therapy, this inherent capability can be stimulated or suppressed. By giving a certain therapy or medicinal preparations to an organism it is possible to stimulate the productive and harmonizing forces of nature in a single organism as well as in an agricultural system.

Schaumann (1987) suggests this view of stimulation for the action of biodynamic preparations. Following this view, the search for new experimental designs and statistical methods for research can be encouraged. Moreover, our knowledge and understanding of organisms and their processes will be enlarged.

Need for Education and Training

Of course, enlarged knowledge is also a matter of education. As already mentioned above, training and education in biodynamic agriculture and anthroposophy are only offered by private institutions (except for a short basic course at the Agricultural University of Wageningen, The Netherlands, currently under discussion). Table 2 shows some examples from European countries, (not complete). Only those institutions having long courses (lasting many months or some years) are shown. Organizations and institutions which offer short introductory courses of a few days or weeks are not considered here. There are approximately 20 in Europe.

Established and run by private initiative and support, these institutions usually have to be paid by the people who attend a course. This is a severe obstacle to many, mainly young people, who have to register. People who want to have such an education, will not only spend extra time and effort but also extra money. More private or public grants for the people would make the decision to attend a course easier in many cases. Most people use these courses as a supplement to their ordinary professional training. This demonstrates an obvious lack in public education (usually available free of charge).

Table 2. Some examples of private institutions offering long-term courses in biodynamic agriculture and anthroposophy in Europe

Emerson College, United Kingdom
Skillebyholm, Sweden
Landbauschule Dottenfelderhof, Germany
Hofgut Rengoldshausen, Germany
Warmonderhof, Netherlands
Formation en Agriculture Bio-Dynamique, France

Farm Level as an Important Consideration

One of the key issues Steiner introduced in his agricultural lectures is the concept of the farm as an individuality. The entire farm should be organized like an organism and developed as a unique individual under its natural, economic and social site conditions. Everything which is essential for life in a farm should be produced within the farm. Certainly this does not mean that each farmer should produce his own combine harvester. The point is, for example, all the fertilizers and feedstuffs which are needed should be brought out of the farm itself. In other words, the farm should have a balanced ratio between livestock and land use, a minimum area per livestock unit. In terms of today, Steiner perhaps would speak of the farm agro-ecosystem. Like a farm, an ecosystem can be regarded as an organism on a higher level in which various components depend on, work for and with each other. However, the term ecosystem was still unknown during Steiner’s lifetime; it was first used in 1935 by Tansley.

In some textbooks, also translated into English, the description of biodynamic agriculture starts with the concept of the farm organism or farm individuality (Koepf et al., 1976; Sattler and Wistinghausen, 1992) which shows the particular significance of this view. It is very important to consider that this concept is not a fixed and constant idea, but has to be adapted to various site conditions in different regions and continents. I think, this poses a research problem of very high priority, as organic farming has spread worldwide and meanwhile strong tendencies towards specialized farm types can be observed and need to be investigated thoroughly. Moreover, it is characteristic of organic farming that the farm is consistent with its local conditions and works with them. Examples for R&D projects which aim at the evaluation, development and improvement of organic farming at the farm level, has been described by Köpke (1993) and Kaffka and Koepf (1989).


Research activities started soon after Steiner’s lectures, at that time mainly carried out by biodynamic farmers on their farms (probably some decades earlier than the creation of the term on-farm research). Koepf (1993) gave a short description of research topics and institutions developed from the twenties to date, in different countries of Europe and the United States. A new, expanded edition has been published in German (Koepf, 1996). This shows that biodynamic agriculture has been connected with R&D activities from its beginning and that private institutions are an important factor in this regard. Most of these institutions, still existing today, are relatively small compared to a university or another public institute, because the available budget, usually provided more by private foundations than by public funds, is the most limiting factor.

Biodynamic farming as well as related research, has to deal with very complex problems. Many topics require a high degree of specialization, e.g. in plant or animal physiology or soil biology. However, it is just as important to have a total sound knowledge and understanding of farming. Thus, cooperation with other experts is necessary and from my experience, can be very stimulating and fruitful. By means of cooperation, different backgrounds and views can be realized. However, cooperation is not easy in each case, for various reasons. It demands, to a great extent, from each partner fairness and open-mindedness. This is especially true as regards biodynamic projects because of reasons already explained.

Table 3. Main research topics of the Institute for Biodynamic Research, Darmstadt, Germany

The Institute for Biodynamic Research in Darmstadt (Germany), for which I work, is the oldest private research institute for organic and biodynamic farming in Europe. Cooperation with other private and public research institutes plays a very important role in our work. This is not only the result of limited staff and financial resources, but also in order to combine different backgrounds and disciplines. Table 3 shows the most important topics on which currently one or more projects are under way. We use partly common research methods and tools, like field and pot trials, chemical and biochemical analyses and partly new methods or criteria are developed, e.g. for food quality assessment (protein analysis with wheat, durability of potatoes). A project on the picture creating methods is going to be launched in cooperation with a Swiss and a Danish organization. A recently finished project on fertilization based on long-term trials has been carried out in cooperation with six other institutes in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Some of our activities in plant breeding are part of a German-Swiss group of biodynamic breeders (Kunz et al., 1997). An important element of biodynamic plant breeding is the regional development and preservation of cultivars which can (under certain preconditions) or should be done by each farmer (Spiess, 1996; Müller, 1996). Therefore, the biodynamic approach in this field is in contrast to the current tendency towards commercial breeding by large international companies, but is in line with the aims of sustainable regional development. Another research topic in our institute is, of course, the optimization of the biodynamic preparations and investigations on their effects. This includes, for example, experiments with different stirring methods for the spray preparations. The effects are evaluated by classical parameters (plant growth, chemical contents, etc.) and by picture creating methods.

More information is available in our publications.


I am grateful to Dr Uli Johannes König for his comments on the manuscript.


ABELE, U. (1973): Vergleichende Untersuchungen zum konventionellen und biologisch-dynamischen Pflanzenbau unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von Saatzeit und Entitäten. PhD-Thesis University of Gießen.

DEWES, T. and E. AHRENS (1990): Wechselwirkungen zwischen organischer Düngung und der Anwendung des biologisch-dynamischen Präparates P500 im aeroben Inkubationsversuch. Agribiol. Res. 43, 65-73 pp.

KAFFKA, S. and H.H. KOEPF (1989): A case study on the nutrient regime in sustainable farming. Biol. Agric. & Hortic. 6, 89-106 pp.

KÖNIG, U.J. (1993): Systemregulierung - Ein Wirkungsprinzip der biologisch-dynamischen Präparate. In: Zerger, U. (ed.): Forschung im ökologischen Landbau; SÖL-Sonderausgabe Nr. 42; 394-396 pp.

KOEPF, H.H. (1993): Research in biodynamic agriculture: methods and results. Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Assoc. Inc., Kimberton PA, USA.

KOEPF, H. (1996): Biologisch-dynamische Forschung. Methoden und Ergebnisse. Verlag Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart.

KOEPF, H.H., PETTERSSON, B.D. and W. SCHAUMANN (1976): Bio-dynamic agriculture. Anthroposophic Press, Spring Valley, New York.

KÖPKE, U. (1993): Forschungsinhalte und -konzepte des ökologischen Landbaus. Projekt “Ökologische Leitbetriebe in NRW”. Ökologie & Landbau, Heft 87, 12-16 pp.

KOOP, W. (1993): Der Einfluß unterschiedlicher Düngerarten (mineralisch, organisch, biologisch-dynamisch) auf bodenmikrobiologische Indikatoren und Parameter der C- und N-Dynamik im Feldversuch und in Laboratoriumsversuchen. PhD-Thesis University of Gießen.

KOTSCHI, J. (1980): Untersuchung zur Wirkung der in der Biologisch-Dynamischen Wirtschaftsweise verwendeten Spritzpräparate “500” und “501” auf landwirtschaftliche Kulturpflanzen. PhD-Thesis University of Gießen.

KUNZ, P., MÜLLER, K.-J., SPIEß, H., HEYDEN B. and E. IRION (1997): Der “Weizen-Ringversuch”: biologisch-dynamische Weizenzüchter schließen sich zusammen. Lebendige Erde 48, 110-114 pp.

MÜLLER, K.-J. (1996): Welchen Weg eine ökologische Getreidezucht nehmen könnte. Ökologie & Landbau, Heft 99, 11-14 pp.

RAUPP, J. and U.J. KÖNIG (1996): Biodynamic preparations cause opposite yield effects depending upon yield levels. Biol. Agric. & Hort. 13, 175-188 pp.

SATTLER, F. and E.V. WISTINGHAUSEN (1992): Bio-dynamic farming practice. Publ. by the Bio-Dynamic Agricultural Assoc., Woodman Lane, UK.

SCHAUMANN, W. (1987): Vom Wirken mit Stoffen (III). 3. Die Stimulation der produktiven und ordnenden Kräfte der lebendigen Natur. Lebendige Erde no. 5, 251-256 pp.

SPIESS, H. (1978): Konventionelle und biologisch-dynamische Verfahren zur Steigerung der Bodenfruchtbarkeit. PhD-Thesis University of Gießen.

SPIESS, H. (1979): Über die Wirkung der biologisch-dynamischen Präparate Hornmist “500” und Hornkiesel “501” auf Ertrag und Qualität einiger Kulturpflanzen (I). Lebendige Erde no. 4, 126-131 pp.

SPIESS, H. (1996): Was bringt der Anbau von “Hofsorten”? Vergleichende Untersuchungen zum langjährigen Nachbau von Getreide bei ökologischer Bewirtschaftung. Ökologie & Landbau, Heft 99, 6-10 pp.

STEINER, R. (1924): Geisteswissenschaftliche Grundlagen zum Gedeihen der Landwirtschaft. 8 lectures 1924; 5th edition, Steiner Verlag, Dornach, 1975.

Facilitating Empirical Learning in Agriculture Scientific Knowledge and Practical Choices: Forging a Link Between the Way of the Researcher/Extensionist and the Way of the Farmer - T. BAARS and A. DE VRIES



Röling and Jiggins (1998) identified three models for the development of agricultural knowledge: (1) technology transfer; (2) management development; and (3) support to organic agricultural systems. The principle underlying the latter is that innovations proceed from improvements to the management of a farm as an agro-ecosystem. Ecological principles are applied to farm-specific circumstances, in which natural processes are deployed to the maximum and where observation underlies anticipation. A farmer’s learning process is based upon trust in his own observations, knowledge and decision-making capacities. Empirical learning is fundamental to this experimentation, observation and measurement. So, too, is group discussion. The support process should be focused upon farmers as experts on their own farm.

Motivation of Method

The task is to develop a method whereby research support is provided to a farmer currently learning by experience in the conditions prevailing upon his farm. An important motive for this is that many of the results established in fundamental and practical research are not applied to farm practice. This is because, whether consciously or not, the conduct of the research too strongly reflected a single style of farm, one not recognized by all farmers: a style focused primarily on maximizing income and growth.

In practice it may also be the case that the differences between a regional experimental station and a working farm are so great that farmers do not trust its findings. After all, the reality of their situation is far more complex than the results obtained in the isolated conditions of the trial farm. By contrast, solutions that are developed in practical on-farm collaboration are adapted to the farmer’s own abiotic and socio-economic conditions.

Another motive for focusing on farmers’ own experiences is that innovations, derived from their own practical circumstances, contribute to wider agricultural development. Focus on pioneering farms promotes the development of knowledge and new hypotheses that farming in general can support. Work performed with farmers individually or in research groups stimulates both their creativity and their independence and gives them greater trust in their own process of research and development.

The motivation to stimulate farmers to adopt an attitude of research can only increase when there are cuts in research programmes and when agriculture de-intensifies. Besides individual differences in farm style, regional differences are once more becoming more distinct. The method presented in this paper is effective in the step-by-step development of regionally and land-based farming.

Reflective Action as an Innovative Approach

At the end of 1998 a three-year project will culminate in a handbook for extension workers and applied researchers wishing to facilitate empirical learning in farm practice (Baars and De Vries, 1998). In other words, farmers will be supported and coached in those aspects of their daily work where experience leads to change and innovation. The key assumption underlying our work is that farmers are people who approach their work in a professional fashion. This professionalism can express itself in three different ways: in reflective action, in prescription-based action and in action derived from a sense of personal commitment. We would particularly like to focus on reflective action as a basis for agricultural innovation.

Reflective action makes it possible to transcend the one-sidedness of any action that is based purely on prescriptive or personal considerations; this is therefore the point at which empirical learning becomes significant. With regard to purely prescription-based action, a generic, top-down type of extension founded on basic and applied research is more applicable; with regard to action based solely on personal commitment, only individual support is adequate, provided it has been requested.

Experience and empirical knowledge rather than scientific knowledge and the natural or physical sciences are central to reflective action. The stress on farm practice and on professional action represents a paradigm shift. Instead of acting according to a generally-based prescriptive protocol, the development of the farmer as an actor and learner becomes central. Farm-based search and learning processes are the subject of this method.

Research and extension thus assume a support role in the gaining of new experience. As someone supporting the farmer’s process of research and learning, a coaching role is assumed. During the advisory interview, the input will therefore be to identify the potential for action and to elaborate this with the farmer, whereas research will lay greater stress on experimental development. In addition, a new conceptual framework is needed that is based upon the farmer’s experience. The development of empirically-based concepts can thus mean that individual experience is significant to an entire sector.

Not all actions are integrated into our experience: an action is only integrated via reflection, whether structured or otherwise. It is therefore useful to reflect on those actions which, in one way or another, catch the attention in one’s daily work: actions which break new ground with regard to habit, tradition or routine. By means of experimental and non-experimental research on farms, experience, too, can emerge in an explicit form; by making experience central, it is also possible to explore the potential for development that any work may hold out. This requires a respectful, positive attitude of both applied researcher and extension worker vis-à-vis the research and the farmer’s learning processes.


Reflective Action

Reflection on intuitive action reveals a form of action in which technical appropriateness and personal commitment can combine to reinforce one another. This form of action pre-supposes the farmer’s own, autonomous relationship with his profession. It is thanks to reflection that personal commitment does not degenerate into personal arbitrariness. The knowledge needed for this form of action is revealed in the extensionist’s reflection on and exploitation of the farmer’s unexpectedly successful intuitive action. This empirical knowledge encompasses both objective and subjective knowledge, which is situational in nature, becomes manifest due to personal application, can be communicated and invites research and authentic action. Sharing one’s work in this way and then reflecting on it brings about a more equitable form of collaboration.

Prescription-based Action

Prescription-based action is performed according to rules and prescriptions. The experience of others, or the knowledge gained by others in their research, are applied to one’s own situation without any appreciable adaptations taking place. A degree of automatism is inherent to such a series of such actions. Prescription-based actions follow a plan and are not always performed consciously. For the eventual action to be accomplished, a list of fixed points are followed in a fixed sequence. In essence, prescription-based actions take place according to protocol; they require objective knowledge and involve a hierarchical form of collaboration. Communication on them is simple and unequivocal. All norms are determined from a point of view of scientific objectivity.

Prescription-based action leads to a system of action that is largely fixed. Social acceptance (‘common sense’) has developed with regard to the best solution in a given situation (‘best technical means’); very often one or another scientific principle underlies this state of affairs. This type of action is characterized by the technological nature of the solutions it provides. These are uniform in nature, in other words, they can be applied in a broad range of situations.

This type of action also has a place in organic farming and justifiably so; it is found, for example, in work with so-called organic preparations for combating pests and diseases, such as the introduction of a bacterium for the infection of creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) and in the use of nematodes to combat slugs and in organically-justified preparations against scab in apples and Phytophtera in potatoes.

Action Based on Personal Commitment

For many people, prescription-based action is not always enough to cover real-life situations; this explains the existence of personal commitment. Action is viewed by such exponents as a form of personal interaction with whoever or whatever one is working with. The knowledge needed for this type of action is subjective and/or inter-subjective. A democratic style of collaboration is appropriate. Very often there is no communication on this type of action, or otherwise only on the result of the work in question. In its one-sidedness, this is an instinctive and self-willed mode of action.

An antithesis is often posited between prescriptiveness and personal commitment: i.e. action has either a prescriptive or a personal orientation and collaboration is either hierarchic or democratic. In other words, a conflict is perceived. At the same time, the opposite approach cannot be ignored. Some kind of integration of the two approaches must take place. In the final analysis, people do the work, not machines; on the other hand, what matters is not only the satisfaction a farmer derives from his work, but also the demonstrable result. The dynamics of this conflict are such that it is precisely the thing that one resists that is adopted.

From our point of view, it is not so much a question of striking a compromise between the two as of seeking a level at which the opposition between them can be transcended, thereby uniting both forms of action via this integration, even enhancing them. Negative aspects such as one-sidedness then fall away. Any case history contains not only a demonstrable objective element, but also a personal element that determines the nature of the individual problem.

Terms of Reference for Applied Researchers and Extension Workers

Our conception of facilitating empirical learning corresponds with the individual farmer’s process of discovery and learning, which underlies this development of reflective action. We can only achieve this facilitation if we ourselves work upon the development of our own professional reflectiveness. In this sense, no vision of farm practice can be separated from a vision of the actions of the individual extension worker or practical researcher.

Any examination of the ways in which reflective action can be developed in farm practice means that no applied researcher or extension worker may restrict his actions solely to the provision of prescriptive advice or to working from a sense of personal commitment.

The first, i.e. prescriptive advice, results in a top-down approach, with transposition of objective scientific knowledge onto a practical situation and with a hierarchy of extension from research to extension and from extension to farm. It is generally supposed that one only needs to collect the relevant information in order to complete one’s own action protocol and then to supply a protocol to the farmer (as with advice on manuring).

The second, i.e. working from a sense of personal commitment, may manifest itself in an over-involvement with the farmer’s problems. It is as if the adviser or researcher hijacks the problem in order to solve it for him. The result may be good (for example, the adviser is able to locate the source of a subsidy) or it may be bad (for example, by trusting to the advice of the adviser, the farmer may make the wrong investment; or, because the researcher was too absorbed in his own work as a hobby, the farmer’s collaboration was all to no avail).

When supporting a farmer in the process of reflection, the extensionist will constantly find himself in unexpected situations that call for intuitive action. Technical knowledge and personal commitment are both prerequisites in such situations. Facilitating empirical learning simultaneously requires and brings about equality in the discussions between the farmer and the researcher or extensionist.

A mixture of all three types of action is inherent to farm practice. In a particular area or at a particular moment, a farmer will work from his sense of personal commitment; in another he will take recourse to prescription-based action. At times there will be occasion for the development of reflective action.

The focus of the method described here is that developmental potential inherent to each situation should be identified. This enables you to develop new knowledge that is adapted to the farmer’s individual situation.


As a farm adviser or researcher, you are called in when there is a need for change or innovation. Against a background of facilitating empirical learning, we apply ourselves to the change or innovation that is appropriate to the person or his situation: in other words, we apply ourselves to a change or innovation that is latently sustainable. A sustainable innovation thus comes forth out of the action itself, out of action based on solidarity and the ability to surrender old patterns of thought. Inspiring ideas play a role in such innovation.

A characteristic of action is that it is performed almost entirely outside consciousness: it is embedded in habit. This makes it possible to act in a way that is applicable to this specific situation. Via action we can commit ourselves to a situation and thus we are able to act; via thought, we can only look at a situation from outside. In reflection upon an action that was unexpectedly successful, in other words, upon intuition and the situational action, the innovative action can become visible and manifest itself cognitively.

How do we Discover this Relationship between Action and Thinking in Practical Situations?

For example, someone may already have acted innovatively, but is not yet conscious of this. Such a person may then experience his intuitive action as a feeling of happiness, but without realizing precisely what he has done. Whether or not intuition will occur on a subsequent occasion is a question of luck and this intuition is not followed by a reflective process.

It is difficult to think reality, or put differently, it is difficult to think in accordance with reality. Someone has already created the new: at an individual physical level, it is already known. If the new can become conscious knowledge, it can be experienced as a liberation. The farmer may experience the researcher’s or extensionist’s attempts to identify (i.e. name) this action as irritating or woolly (‘I already knew that!’). However, it is only by being named that action is freed and that it thereby inspires new action, on your own part and on that of others. If it is possible to conceptualize the new action, then stability appears: a new habit, tradition, technique or system is created. If it is possible to conceptualize the dynamic of the innovative action, it can have an inspiring effect on further innovation.

It seems far easier to give form to reality via thought, for surely it is only then that we think clearly and concretely? But as our thinking is limited and also filled with judgement and prejudice, we are seldom able to think in harmony with reality in such a way that the action based on this thought leads either to satisfactory results or to sustainability.

Innovation will result from action when a boundary is experienced, i.e. when it is experienced that the habit or the tradition is no longer sufficient and that the action is no longer appropriate to the situation.

In certain cases, an innovate technique may come to a given person as from an external source. When this is directly applicable, no further innovation follows, but a tradition is applied. It is also possible that this technique will lead to an experience of the boundary and thereby that innovation comes about.

We can express this schematically as follows:

When unreflecting commitment-based action takes place, this action becomes increasingly self-willed and it becomes increasingly difficult to discuss. While this is not to say that the action itself is inadequate, the risk of failure grows, as does the wider intolerance of failure: ‘He shouldn’t have been so stubborn!’ To an extensionist or researcher, failure is extremely discouraging: ‘I put so much into it and now I never hear anything from them!’

If you fail to reflect on prescriptions, your actions become more and more of an automatism. Reflection enables the same action to become more authentic and situational adequacy to increase. In practical situations we encounter all manner of mixed forms.

A specific way of arriving at an understanding of reality that can inspire one to action is via empathetic observation, which is also an active, operative style of observation (in the sense that it is empirical and not based on scientific observation from an external viewpoint) (Van der Burgt and De Vries, 1998).


BAARS, T and A. DE VRIES (1998): De boer als ervaringswetenschapper. Elsevier, Doetinchem.

RÖLING, N.G. and J. JIGGINS (1998): The ecological knowledge system. In: N.G. Röling and A. Wagemakers (eds). Social learning for sustainable agriculture. Cambridge University Press.

VAN DER BURGT, G.J. and A. DE VRIES (1998): Development of farmers: search and learning processes throughout new ways of extension and research. Paper presented at IFOAM-Conference, Argentina.

Demand of Research and Development in Organic Farming in Europe - H. WILLER and U. ZERGER


This paper gives an overview of the state of research and extension in the countries of the EU and EFTA and a more detailed view of the situation in the German language region, including information on the transfer of research results into agricultural practice, the transfer of the needs of agricultural practice to research and the state of applied research. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and its regional groups in Europe and their activities; needs in organic farming research from an IFOAM regional perspective, as well as European research networks are described. For this paper a number of sources were used: Input came from the IFOAM regional groups as well as from experts on organic agriculture in the countries of Europe. For the situation in the German language region a survey was conducted among organic advisers and inspectors.


Organic agriculture has developed at a very fast rate in Europe in the past 10 to 15 years. According to a survey conducted by Stiftung Ökologie and Landbau in 1999, 2.3 million hectares were managed organically by 92 646 farms in the member states of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association. This constituted 1.64 percent of the agricultural land and 1.18 percent of the farms (preliminary figures). There are however, substantial differences between the countries: In Austria 10.1 percent of the area is organic and in Liechtenstein it is even 17.7 percent. Portugal on the other hand only has 0.6 percent.

The reasons for success of organic farming in the individual countries of Europe are various, depending on the level of individual farm support, the existence of a state or a common logo, the existence of an action plan, the availability of organic products, consumer education, information for farmers/existence of an advisory service and the funding of research and research institutions.

Table 1. Organic Agriculture in the EU and EFTA-countries: Land under organic management 1999 (hectares) - Preliminary figures[10]









6 300

345 375




6 418



4 340

98 120



1 000

127 233



45 000

120 241



29 100

357 715




10 200



1 000

23 591







5 000

564 913











2 450

19 300




15 581




24 902



2 140

269 465



4 500

127 000



3 000

78 369


United Kingdom

6 000

106 829



111 160

2 298 689


Source: Lampkin (in Höök 1997) and Stiftung Ökologie and Landbau 1999 (survey conducted in January 1999; various sources)


An overview of research institutions, research projects, research needs and the advisory service in the countries of the EU and EFTA is given in the table attached. The information given in this table was supplied by experts on organic agriculture in the countries of Europe. This chapter summarizes the contents of the table.

Research Institutions

Research in organic agriculture is currently conducted in almost all countries of Europe. The amount of on-going research is highest in Scandinavia and the German speaking regions of Europe. It takes place in private institutions but also at university institutes and research stations, some of which dedicate all their activities to organic agriculture. In several countries research in ecological agriculture originated at independent institutes like FiBL (CH), Elm Farm Research Centre (GB) or Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute (A).

Especially in the German language region and in Scandinavia research and teaching in organic farming is being carried out at a large number of research stations, universities, etc. In Austria, Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands for instance, universities have founded university departments for the study of ecological agriculture. Many universities, institutes and research centres have facilitated research in ecological agriculture by making land and even entire farms available to researchers. The university of Kassel-Witzenhausen now has access to a 320 hectare farm, which should be the biggest trial farm in Europe.

In Southern Europe as well as in Central and Eastern Europe, research activities often depend on individuals. Money used for organic farming research was often allocated originally for other research fields (integrated farming).

An overview of research institutions dedicated to organic agriculture can be obtained via


In some countries research is mainly funded by the government; sometimes quite substantially. This applies to state research institutions, universities as well as private research institutes. The latter often carry out projects which are to a large extent funded by the state or by the EU. In some countries supermarkets play an increasingly important role in funding organic farming research related to quality, storage and processing. In Southern Europe little money is allocated specifically for organic agriculture. Researchers use research funds originally intended for other purposes like integrated farming.

Coordination of Research

Coordination of research occurs in some countries: there is the Nordic network, in the German language region every two years a scientific conference takes place. In Italy there is the network of GRAB-IT, in Austria the Forschungsinitiative Biologischer Landbau (Research initiative organic agriculture).

In Denmark and Sweden the state supports Research Centres for Organic Agriculture, which do not only do research but which also have a coordinating function in terms of a dialogue between advisory service, practitioners and research.

Research Fields

Research on organic farming focuses on production issues; i.e. rotations, fertilization, conversion to organic production, mechanical weed control, cultivation techniques and variety material for cereals, potatoes and green-manure crops, handling of manure as well as economic aspects. An overview of research projects that were completed up to 1996 is given by Niggli and Lockeretz (in FAO, 1997); an overview of on-going research worldwide can be obtained via the IFOAM conference proceedings (see list of proceedings at the end of the text).

Research in horticulture and viticulture and other special crops has gained importance in recent years as well as research on animal husbandry. Energy, natural resource management, agricultural ecology, quality, processing, market issues, political aspects, regional conversion, legislation are other issues.

Research Needs

In several countries work is being conducted to identify specific areas where knowledge is lacking and future research is needed (e.g. Austria, Ireland, Sweden). Areas with increased research priorities are energy supply and management of natural resources, animal husbandry and health, agro-ecology, biodiversity, marketing, processing, quality assessment techniques, social and environmental impact of conversion to organic agriculture, how to keep plant breeding, organic production and processing free from genetic engineering.

Often research results from the core of Europe cannot be transferred to other climatic regions. This applies for example to the Mediterranean countries, where a lot of research on production techniques is still needed. In Ireland for instance organic farmers have problems with fluke and worms in their herds, research on this is urgently needed. Iceland needs more information on nitrogen fixation and supply of organic fertilizers under Icelandic conditions.

Advisory Service

The advisory service plays an important role in the transfer of scientific results into agricultural practice, ideally it should be the link between practice and research. The organic advisory service is quite well developed in the German language region and in the Nordic countries. Here the advisory service is partly integrated into the conventional advisory service. Most development in terms of advisory service is needed in the countries of Southern Europe: where only a few advisers are available and are mainly private consulting firms or advice through seminars of the producers organizations or exchange between farmers. A good overview of the organic advisory service in some countries in the European Union is given by Ferester and Gruber (1998).


The transfer of research results into agricultural practice or of the needs of practitioners into research is organized in very few countries only. Exceptions are the research institute in Switzerland where researchers and advisers cooperate closely, or Norway: here a fixed procedure for the dialogue research, advisers, practice exists. In Iceland the Organic Science Council unites farmers, advisers, researchers and ministry officials in order to coordinate needs. In Denmark and Sweden the state funded organic research centres also have a coordinating function.

Networks and Cooperation in Research

Presently at numerous research stations, universities and institutes all over Europe, research on organic agriculture is conducted. There is, however, a need for improvement of the communication between researchers as well as between researchers and practitioners, both at national and transnational level. Networks are a very efficient tool for stimulating research and disseminating results in the scientific community as well as among extensionists, in spite of the fact that many of the requirements are quite site specific (Wynen, 1997, Zanoli, 1997, in FAO, 1997).

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements was originally founded with the aim to coordinate research in organic agriculture and several IFOAM regional groups now exist in Europe. The aims of the groups are various; some of them were founded specifically to coordinate research activities (Nordic group, Mediterranean group). The IFOAM regional formations are briefly introduced with their respective research situations and perspectives.

Several research networks exist which are funded by the EU.


Research Situation in the German Language Region

Research on organic farming in the German language is conducted at a number of institutions. Some of these dedicate all their activities to organic agriculture. Many other research institutions carry out research on specific questions of organic agriculture, even if their main activities are related to general agriculture (state research stations, various university institutes).

Every two years a scientific conference (“Wissenschaftstagung”; Zerger, 1993; Dewes, 1195, Köpke, 1997) takes place where researchers from the German language region meet.

In order to find out whether research carried out at these institutions was relevant to the needs of agricultural practice, a survey was conducted among the organic advisers and inspectors in the German language region in the summer of 1998, for they should know best what the expectations and needs of the agricultural practice are. The questionnaire was returned by 25 percent of the 214 organic advisers and 50 inspectors.

Recent Research Results and their Use for Agricultural Practice

The advisers were asked which research results had been taken up successfully by agricultural practice in recent years. Among the answers were:

When analysing these answers it becomes clear that a part of these innovations (e.g. weed control techniques, new cultivation techniques for winter wheat, development of crop protection agents) were developed by agricultural practice and not by scientific research. If this is taken into consideration, university and other state funded research on organic agriculture has not been very successful so far. Some of the respondents were of the opinion that so far no scientific research results had been transferred successfully into agricultural practise.

Research Needs

The next question was in which areas research is needed. Numerous potential research fields were named; the most important were:

Other subjects were:

Sixty per cent of the answers referred to crop production, 24 percent to animal husbandry, 6 percent to economical questions, 4 percent to cultivation techniques and machinery, 4 percent were other answers. It is notable that hardly any need was seen for research relating to the systems approach in organic agriculture.

Information on New Research Results

Another question was how advisers obtain information themselves about new research results in the field of organic agriculture. Apart from direct contacts to research institutions, mainly specialized magazines were named (both conventional and organic). Other sources of information are the exchange with colleagues and the attendance of seminars, conferences, etc. Apart from these classical sources the internet was named as a medium of information. Some of the advisers said that the information was too scattered and that too much time was needed for information retrieval.

Deficiencies in Research

Fifty-five per cent of the respondents saw deficiencies in research whereas only 7 percent saw none. Thirty-eight per cent did not answer this question. The following deficiencies were named:

Quality of Research

When asked about the quality of applied research, 37 percent of the respondents said that many research results were not relevant to agricultural practice; another 37 percent said that at least parts were useful. Only 20 percent said that research was fully meeting the needs of agricultural practice; 6 percent did not respond to that question. The following reasons for these deficiencies were named:

Communication Research - Agricultural Practice

Finally it was asked how the transfer between research and practice could be improved. The advisers called for a more intensive cooperation between research and agricultural practice. The respondents said that for some research projects it could be useful to install an advisory committee of practitioners to accompany such projects. The importance of personal contact between research and agricultural practitioners was mentioned. Some advisers said that it was important for them to have their own research facilities. The existence and further development of demonstration farms and networks of demonstration farms like the Leitbetriebe in Germany and the Pilotbetriebe in Switzerland was seen as important.

Many advisers called for a central institution which collects relevant research questions, gives an overview of on-going research as well as of research results. It was said that to this end new tools of communication like the internet should be used.


In order to improve the research in Europe (Wynen, 1997 in FAO, 1997) recommends the setting-up of research networks, to install databases, avail of technical consultancies and to publish studies.

To the findings of this paper the following suggestions could be added:


AKSOY, U. (1998): “Organic Agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Present Status and Research Needs” Ege-University, Izmir.

DEWES, T. UND L. SCHMITT (Hrsg.) (1995): Wege zu dauerfähiger, naturgerechter und sozialverträglicher Landbewirtschaftung. Beiträge zur 3. Wissenschaftstagung zum Ökologischen Landbau vom 21. bis 23. Februar 1995 an der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel. Wissenschaftlicher Fachverlag, Gießen.

FAO: Biological Farming Research in Europe. REU Technical Series No. 54. FAO Regional Office for Europe, Rome, 1997.

FAO: Report about the FAO/IFOAM Meeting on organic agriculture in Rome, 19-20 March, Rome 1998.

FERESTER, S. AND A. GRUBER (1998): Beratungsstrukturen für die biologische Landwirtschaft in Österreich im Vergleich mit ausgewählten europäischen Ländern. = Forschungsauftrag L 1068/97 des Bundesministeriums für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, Wien.

HÖÖK, K./SWEDISH COUNCIL FOR FORESTRY AND AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH (1997): Ecological Agriculture and Horticulture. Research in Seven European Countries. Stockholm, October 1997.

IFOAM (1997): IFOAM Basic Standards of Organic Agriculture and Food Processing: (available in English, Spanish and German), US$10, 15 DM, Tholey-Theley.

KÖPKE, U. UND J.-A. EISELE (Hrsg.) (1997): Beiträge zur 4. Wissenschaftstagung zum Ökologischen Landbau 3. - 4. März 1997 an der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn, Verlag Dr. Köster, Berlin ISBN 3-89574-225-2, S.224-230.

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TYBURSKI, J. (1997): The present state and proposal for future research in the field of organic agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe. In: FAO: Biological Farming Research in Europe. REU Technical Series No. 54. FAO Regional Office for Europe, Rome, 1997.

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WYNEN, ELS VAN: A Framework for Analysis of Organic Farming Contribution to Food Security and Sustainability. Rome, 27 p.

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IFOAM Worldwide

IFOAM represents the worldwide movement of organic agriculture and provides a plat-form for global exchange and cooperation. IFOAM has more than 690 member organizations in more than 100 countries of the world. IFOAM membership is open to associations of producers, processors, traders and consultants as well as to institutions involved in research and training committed to organic agriculture.

Its magazine “Ecology and Farming” informs IFOAM members of international developments in organic agriculture. “Ökologie and Landbau”, the German IFOAM magazine, is published by Stiftung Ökologie and Landbau. Since 1997 it has been published in cooperation with the Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, FiBL.

Aims and activities of IFOAM are to:

Since its beginnings one of IFOAM’s main aims has been the coordination of research and the dialogue of agricultural practice-research. The coordination of research was actually the reason why IFOAM was founded in 1972, in Versailles, France. Almost since its beginnings IFOAM has organized, always in cooperation with an organic organization in one country, the IFOAM International Scientific Conference. The first IFOAM International Scientific Conference took place in Sissach, Switzerland in 1977. These conferences reflect the state of organic research agriculture worldwide. The conference proceedings are published by the organizing organization or by IFOAM.




1. Conference 1977

Sissach, Switzerland

Towards Sustainable Agriculture

2. Conference 1978

Montreal, Canada

Basic Techniques in Ecological Farming

3. Conference 1980

Brussels, Belgium

The Maintenance of Soil Fertility

4. Conference 1982

Boston, USA

Resource-concerning Environmentally Sound Agricultural Alternatives

5. Conference 1984

Kassel, Germany

The Importance of Biological Agriculture in a World of Diminishing Resources

6. Conference 1986

Santa Cruz, USA

Global Perspectives on Agro-ecology and Sustainable Agricultural Systems

7. Conference 1989

Ougadoudou, Burkina Faso

Agricultural Alternatives and nutritional Self Sufficiency

8. Conference 1990

Budapest, Hungary

Socio-economics of Organic Agriculture

9. Conference 1992

Sao Paulo, Brazil

A Key to Sound Development and a Sustainable Environment

10. Conference 1994

Christchurch, New Zealand

People, Ecology, Agriculture

11. Conference 1996

Copenhagen, Denmark

Down to Earth and Further Afield

12. Conference 1998

Mar del Plata, Argentina

Organic Agriculture: Credibility for the 21st Century

13. Conference 2000

Basel, Switzerland

The World Grows Organic

The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) is staging the 13th International Scientific IFOAM Conference from 27-31 August 2000. The motto “The World Grows Organic” indicates the intent of the Conference to explore ways in which organic agriculture can gain global momentum. At the threshold of the new millennium organic agriculture, although it has reached a high level of acceptance, still faces many challenges, which the Conference will address. The Conference is open to everyone interested in organic agriculture and in sustainable development: farmers, scientists, teachers, advisers, processors, manufacturers, retailers, consumers, policy makers, officials, etc. The Conference will include lectures, workshops, posters and panel debates.

IFOAM EU Working Group

The IFOAM EU Working Group was founded in 1990 as part of the IFOAM regionalization process. Each EU country is represented by one person; Norway and Switzerland are observers. The IFOAM EU Group’s main activity is to comment on the EU regulation on organic production and is in close contact with EU officials. It is mainly due to the work of the EU Group that the EU regulation is very much in line with the international IFOAM standards.

The Commission of the European Union has asked the IFOAM EU Group to submit its views on the main priorities on research and development for organic food production. This was done in relation to the EU’s FAIR5-Projects from 1999. The required list from the IFOAM EU Working Group is meant to serve as a tool for the EU Commission to judge applications for research projects. This list is based on the input of the members of the IFOAM EU Group, on consultation of researchers in organic agriculture as well as on several reports (FAO, 1997, FAO, 1998, Wynen, 1997, Lindenthal et al., 1996).

The research priorities were formulated especially in the light of new developments of the EU Regulation 2091/92. The list covers aspects of crop production, animal husbandry, conversion, development of organic farming, marketing, quality, socio-economic aspects and research methodology; for example the reduction of copper salts, pest and disease control in horticulture and viticulture with regional adaptations, alternatives to chemical medicines, long-term monitoring on pilot farms and impact of EU-regulations on the development of organic farming. The full list is available in Internet under

IFOAM-Mediterranean Group

Since 1990 the IFOAM members from the Mediterranean area have met and organized the so-called Agrobiomediterraneo conferences, because most research and other activities related to organic farming in Central and Northern Europe were not of relevance to the Mediterranean area. The Mediterranean countries are united by climatic similarities and common crop production patterns. After successive meetings the IFOAM Mediterranean Group was formally established in 1997. Its aims are:

Since 1997 the Secretariat has been at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute (IAM) in Bari, Italy. It is one of the four institutes of CIHEAM, an intergovernmental organization founded in 1962. The institutes do research for example, on the use of water in agriculture and on Mediterranean crops. They also coordinate research. The IAM Bari intends to play the same role in organic agriculture.

In the European Mediterranean countries the increase in organic production has been very substantial: e.g. 20-fold in Italy (1990 to 1996) and 10-fold in Turkey (1990 to 1996). Horticultural commodities play a major role in the organic production of the Mediterranean countries. Despite the expansion of the area under organic management and that of the market, systematic research on organic agriculture is still lacking. The review of present research projects shows: organic agriculture is still comparatively ignored by general research; there is no coherent research strategy; there is no analysis of farmers’ needs; climatic peculiarities sometimes limit the applicability of research results; there is an urgent need to carry out multidisciplinary applied research work.

Potential fields of research are among others:

IFOAM Central and Eastern European Initiative

A first meeting of pioneers from several Central and Eastern European countries took place in 1989. After the fall of the totalitarian powers the first producer associations were set up and in 1990 the IFOAM Scientific Conference took place in Budapest.

The IFOAM Central and Eastern European Group represents widely varied agriculture, both in terms of climate conditions (Estonia to Bulgaria) and in terms of the agricultural structure: small peasant farms in Poland (average seven hectares) or Croatia (three hectares) contrast with huge agricultural-industrial enterprises. Environmental pollution is a problem in some areas, due to former extensive and chaotic industrialization. On the other hand there are areas with excellent natural value with relatively low use of chemicals and biodiversity reserves. There is, however, a common element: the political and economical crisis after the fall of the communist regimes. The situation for the farms is difficult for several reasons:

Topics for future research in Central and Eastern Europe are according to Tyburski (1997):

IFOAM Italian Members Coordination

The Italian IFOAM members coordination works out common positions on IFOAM-issues, EU-regulations, standards and the AgriBioMediterraneo region. IFOAM Italia coordinates the delegates in various committees. The coordination is based on a coordinator and a small office. A web site is available with a discussion forum (reserved to IFOAM Italian members, but it will be available in the near future also for IFOAM-EU and AgriBioMed members) and a newsletter.

Nordic Research Network - Ecological Agriculture

The Nordic countries, especially Denmark, Finland and Sweden have seen a fast increase in organic farms in recent years. They hold, together with Austria and Switzerland, the highest percentages in Europe. In the Nordic countries a “Nordic research network - ecological agriculture” exists (it is not an IFOAM group). Apart from coordinating teaching activities at university level, the Network also develops research, focusing on multidisciplinary research for the development of the organic farming system.

IFOAM German language Group

The IFOAM German Language Group (IFOAM-Regionalgruppe deutschsprachige Länder) has existed as an informal group since 1991. The countries participating: Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland are united by the German language, hence its name. The main purpose of the meetings of the regional group is information exchange. This includes issues of general importance to the organic movement in the region as well as issues related to IFOAM. At the meetings members of IFOAM committees report on their activities. These representatives are invited to the meetings of the regional group. Other important aspects of these meetings are country reports as well as the discussion of topics relevant to the organic movement like genetic engineering or organic seed production. It has not been active in the field of research/coordination of research yet.

Proceedings of the International IFOAM-Conferences

Most of the proceedings are available at the IFOAM head office (see also IFOAM's internet page).

IFOAM Addresses

Research Networks and Research Projects on a European level

In recent years the EU has funded several research networks and research projects in organic farming. Those that are known to the authors of this paper are briefly introduced.

Effects of the CAP-reform and possible further developments on organic farming in the EU

The research project “Effects of the CAP-reform and possible further developments on organic farming in the EU” was commissioned by the EU in order to provide an assessment of the impact of the CAP reform and of possible policy developments in organic farming in the European Community. Five universities and scientific institutions are working for the first time on a complete inventory of organic farming at the European level.

In detail, the project will focus on the economic performance of organic farms and on marketing conditions in the organic sector with respect to all EU member states plus the Czech Republic, Norway and Switzerland. Environmental consequences of organic farming are also considered. The researchers also analyse the impact of the CAP-reform on organic farming in the EU. Several computer simulation programmes are used to assess the further development of organic farming in the EU. This will lead to policy recommendations for the organic sector in Europe.

It is planned to establish an international research network on organic farming in 18 European countries, where the researchers will cooperate with organic farmers, marketing experts, advisers and administration officers. The project started in March 1997 and is financed by the European Commission with an amount of ECU1.13 million for 40 months. Participating institutions are:

Contact: Prof. Dr Stephan Dabbert (Coordinator), Matthias Stolze (Project manager), Universität Hohenheim, Institut für Landwirtschaftliche Betriebslehre (410A), Schloß, D-70593 Stuttgart, Germany, Tel.: +49-711-459 2543, Fax.: +49 711 459 2555, e-mail: [email protected],

Landscape and Nature Production Capacity of Organic Sustainable Types of Agriculture in the EC

The concerted action “The landscape and nature production capacity of organic sustainable types of agriculture in the EC” (1993-1997) gives clear indications to the EU/CAP for potential and feasible values of environment, nature and landscape and set standards for sound/acceptable styles of agriculture. Targets were to:

- give an overview of the state-of-the-art of agricultural landscape production;

- identify the different patterns of research of those participating in concerted action;

- develop proposals and parameters to comply with disciplinary and regional demands.

Project Director: Mansvelt, Dr J.D. van and D.J. Stobbelaar, Landbouwuniversiteit Wageningen, Vakgroep Ecologische Landbouw, Haarweg 333, NL-6709 RZ Wageningen, Tel.: 31-317-483522; Fax.: 31-317-484995; Email: [email protected], internet

DOCEA - Documentation Ecological Agriculture

DOCEA is a concerted action funded by the European Union in which various documentation centres and user-representatives were working on better availability of literature relevant to ecological agriculture. A strategic plan for the future was developed. The DOCEA-Project Phase I ran in the period 1995-1997 and included several workshops. Outputs of DOCEA so far:

It is now hoped that further EU-funding can be made available for DOCEA II in order to unite existing databases and make them available in the Internet. DOCEA is related to another concerted action on ecological farming, ENOF, which focuses on exchange and knowledge of research projects on ecological agriculture in Europe.

Contact: Henk Slijkhuis, Marja Duizendstraal, Postbus 9100, NL-6700 HA Wageningen, Tel. +31-317-483052, Fax.:+31-317-484761, e-mail: [email protected], Internet:


Several field experiments have been conducted investigating the long-term effects of different kinds and intensities of fertilization in organic farming systems compared with mineral fertilization. The widest investigations were or still are carried out in Darmstadt (Germany), Oberwil (Switzerland) and Uppsala (Sweden). This concerted action (1995-1997) merged experiences from the long-term field experiments. Five meetings took place, and the results of each were documented in a publication. The participants were:

Contact/Final report available from: Dr Joachim Raupp, Institute for Biodynamic Research, Brandschneise 5, D-64296 Darmstadt, Tel.: +49-6155-842119, Fax.: +49-6155-842125; [email protected], Internet:


ENOF is the acronym of the European Network for Scientific Research Coordination in Organic Farming. It is funded by the Commission of the European Communities and managed by the Direction General of Agriculture (DG VI). Its main objective is to put in contact and establish collaboration between the institutions working on education, research, experimentation, demonstration or diffusion of organic farming techniques. This includes universities and state and private research centres. It gathers information on organic agriculture and the state-of-the-art of research in this field, in order to identify the priorities and the needs of organic farming. ENOF establishes relationships with similar networks. ENOF has a steering committee with a coordinator and five sub-coordinators, one for each area of research:

The Network publishes the newsletter NENOF and organizes workshops. The first one took place in Bonn (Germany) in November 1995 (“Land Use and Biodiversity: the Role of Organic Farming”). The second one took place in Barcelona (Spain) in October 1996 (“Steps in the Conversion and Development of Organic Farms”); the third one was held in Ancona (Italy) in June 1997 (“Resource Use in Organic Farming”).

Coordinator: Dr Juan Isart, Laboratory of Entomology and Environmental Analysis-Agroecology, Centre of Research and Development (CID), Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), Jordi Girona 18-26, E-08034 Barcelona, Spain, Tel.: +34-3-4006100; Fax.: +34-3-2045904; e-mail [email protected], internet

On-Farm Development and Evaluation of Organic Farming Systems: The Role of Livestock and Agroforestry (AIR3-CT93-0852)

An EU-project under AIR3 with five European partners from France, Germany, Greece, Spain and United Kingdom. The Department of Ecological Agriculture of the University of Kassel coordinated the group over a timespan of 42 months. The German contribution to the cooperation resulted in the assessment of plant performance through a series of on-farm trials for the evaluation of plant extracts and a long-term rotational trial for the elaboration of the nutrient management in an organic arable growing system.

Overall Goal

To increase the uptake of organic production in the EC to meet market, environmental, social and production aims.


a) Through on-farm research and farmer participation, increase the potential for organic production in regions where there are limited viable livestock enterprises and/or where it is necessary to protect sensitive Mediterranean environments.

b) Through detailed study, improve nutrient supply and weed control systems for organic arable crops

Objective A4: Assessment of the role of plant extracts on various crops: Procedure: On-farm trials on plant extracts applied to winter wheat, spring barley, potatoes and red beets

Objective B2: Management of nutrient supply: Procedure: Rotational plots {clover grass, potatoes, winter wheat, spring barley} for the evaluation of the effect of legumes and various off-farm nutrient sources: a) no amendment, b) biogenic waste compost, c) sugar beet vinasse, d) combination of b) and c), applied to grain crops


Objective A4 (Assessment of the role of plant extracts on various crops) was carried out over three years as on-farm research on fields of organic farms in Northern Hessia (three farms, East of Kassel) and Lower Saxony (two farms, North of Hannover). The extracts were used as foliar applications, twice applied in the early growth development of crops. Test crops were winter and spring wheat, spring barley, potatoes and beet roots. The plant extracts were provided by the company PLANTGRO, Bensheim and consisted of various species of the botanical family of the carryophyllaceae; according to specific target plants or groups of plants, the formulation differed (CEREALIN for wheat, HORDENIN for barley, POTANIN for potatoes, VEGETALIN for beetroots).

The summary of all trials resulted in a fairly low efficacy of the different extracts towards improving efficiency for crop yield and quality. The effects on yield were mainly positive. 64 percent of all trials resulted in promoted yields, but the extent was not higher than 6.2 percent for the group of positive differences to the controls and 3.8 percent for the total means of the specific crops. The higher frequency of positive reactions was only reflected in the total mean of spring barley (+3.8 percent over the control) whereas all other means ranged from -0.1 percent to +2.3 percent. Of the quality parameters the influence on the nitrate content of tubers and roots was distinctly higher than on the seed protein content. Ten of 13 trials revealed increased reductions of nitrate in the potato tubers; the total mean of all treatments was 14 percent below the controls. This fact is noticeable, but only true for the potatoes. The nitrophilic beetroots, however, accumulated higher nitrate concentrations in treated plants, especially with increasing N fertilization rates. The total mean exceeded the control by approximately 7 percent.

Objective B2 (Manipulation of N management through crop rotation and additional nitrogenous material) was part of a long-term field trial on stockless organic crop rotation, established at the research farm Neu-Eichenberg of the University of Kassel in 1991. Main topics of the project were effect of rotational structure and N input on the N dynamic and N nutrition, plant development and N losses through nitrate leaching in the soil profile.

The crop rotation was built up by an annual clover grass-crop as set-aside followed by three saleable crops, potatoes, winter wheat (WW) and spring barley (SB). The rotational structure consisted (1) of 50 percent non cereals and 50 percent cereals, (2) of 25 percent leguminous and 75 percent non leguminous crops. Oil mustard and phacelia were grown as catch crops twice, (1) after clover grass and (2) after winter wheat. Four treatments were included: (A) unamended control {in comparison to additional, external N inputs} (B) source separated compost from organic compostable household residues, (C) sugar beet vinasse, a by-product of fermentation processes from the bakery yeast or citric acid production, (D) a combination of (B) and (C). Only the cereals were fertilized by different dosages: (B) 100 kg N/ha to winter wheat and 60 kg N/ha to spring barley, (C) 60 kg N/ha to winter wheat and 40 kg N/ha to the catch crop preceding spring barley, (D) combination of (B) and (C). Each crop of the rotation was annually grown and could be investigated under similar growing conditions. Experimental design (randomized block) and plot size (9 x 15 m) were suited for the use of usual mechanical tools of practical farming.

The main results can be summarized as follows:

The average N fixation capacity for clover grass was assessed at 120 kg N/ha. Due to stress situations through pests and diseases and extreme climatic conditions from 1994 to 1996 there was a range from 20 to 260 kg N/ha.

N nutrition and the length of growing period were the main yield factors of the potatoes. The latter were determined by the planting date and time of potato blight induced decay. The N nutrition was mainly effected by the N accumulation of the preceding set-aside green fallow and by an early soil management till beginning of April, at least three weeks before planting. In unfavourable conditions the retarded N mineralization enabled a yield level of 170 dt/ha (saleable tubers). The mean yield level was found at 270 dt/ha.

Climatic conditions and the N nutrition were the main yield factors of winter wheat. The latter was essentially influenced by the Nmin accumulation after potatoes and nitrate leaching during winter. The average yield level (seeds) was 48 dt/ha (34-64 dt/ha). The protein content did not exceed 10.9 percent.

The yield of spring barley was mainly influenced by the sowing date and the length of growing period. Being sown at the beginning of April the N provision enabled yields to 43 dt/ha, but in two seasons the yield was less 20 dt/ha and the quality for malting purposes insufficient due to unfavourable sowing conditions. Early soil management in February led to better conditions for N mineralization in spring, adequate in time and quantity.

The applied source separated compost to winter wheat and spring barley was found as a very minute N source. Only 6 percent of the total nitrogen was taken up by the seeds. The increase of yield was approximately 5.7 dt/ha. The protein content was unaffected by the fertilization. Of the soil parameters the humus content and the pH value were significantly increased by the low quantity of applied compost. Within the first stage of the rotational project long lasting effects to succeeding crops could not be found.

Sugar beet vinasse was applied within the third year of the rotation: (A) to winter wheat in spring (60 kg N/ha), (B) to the catch crop after winter wheat (40 kg/ha). Of the applied vinasse-N 21 percent was used by the seeds of winter wheat and spring barley. The cereals responded by significant increases of the seed yield [3.7 dt/ha (WW) and 4.3 dt/ha (SB)] and the protein content [+0.4 percent (WW)]. The uptake of other nutrients was also increased due to the higher yields, not due to higher nutrient contents. Influences on soil parameters and succeeding crops (to some degrees) could not be stated.

The combination of both fertilizers led to additive effects, mainly determined by the vinasse efficacy.

The nutrient balance of a stockless rotation is highly dependent on the N fixing capacity of the leguminous set-aside. The average N fixation was estimated as 125 kg N/ha (18 to 263 kg N/ha). The N balance of the four year crop rotation achieved negative differences for all treatments apart from the combined fertilization of compost and vinasse. It ranged from -70 to +88 kg N/ha which corresponds to -18 to +22 kg N/ha/a. These annual figures can be assessed as balanced. Analogous trends were found for the nutrients P, K and Mg ranging between &plusmn;20 kg/ha/a apart from -42 kg/ha/a for potassium in the untreated control.

Towards the development of the soil parameters clear trends could be shown after a period of four years: Vinasse significantly compensated the exhaustive effect of four unfertilized crops on the available soil potassium and caused positive differences between soil data of 1996 and 1992. pH and C were similarly affected by the use of compost. The pH decline was significantly lower and the increase of the C content was significantly higher when compost was applied.

Susceptibility of nitrate leaching below 90 cm could be restricted to the period from end October to end May based on measurements of soil moisture. The average rate of nitrate leaching in the investigated crop rotation was found at 11 kg N/ha. Variations were mainly determined by the precipitation-dependent volumes of seeping water and the different rotational segments. Highest levels of downward movement were measured by 32 kg N/ha in the segment potato-winter wheat whereas all other segments showed negligible extents. Fertilization, regardless type and quantity of fertilizer, had no effect on the nitrate leaching.

The findings of the project have preliminary character with regard to long lasting effects of the organic stockless growing system. But the experimental design enable the assessment that the N provision of stockless, organic crop rotations can mainly rely on a 25 percent clover grass set-aside and in the case of need, on the restricted use of minor quantities of organic fertilizers. In the long-term, balanced nutrient balances should be achievable by such a rotational design.

Further Information: PD Dr. Peter von Fragstein, Gesamthochschule Kassel, Fachgebiet Ökologischer Landbau, Nordbahnhofstraße 1 a, 37312 Witzenhausen, Tel. +49-(0)5542-981567, Fax.: +49-(0)5542-981568, e-mail [email protected].


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[10] Official statistical figures may be obtained from Dr. Nicolas Lampkin, University College of Wales

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