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Two examples of planned research and development projects for Norwegian organic farming are given below. The first deals with the use of outlying fields (Outlying Field Project). The second deals mainly with the role of soil fauna in cultivated land in Norwegian organic farming (Soil Fauna Project). The biodiversity aspect is a functional link between those two projects


Only 3 percent of the Norwegian area is cultivated land and most animal farms are small. This is the background for the outlying field project. Earlier this was compensated with extensive use of outlying fields for grazing animals. With the industrialization of Norwegian agriculture the use of outlying fields was replaced with purchased concentrates. The outlying fields must once again be extensively used if the purchased fodder is to be replaced with local resources. However, much of the outlying fields are now overgrown and are inhabited by wild animals, both grazers and carnivores.

The objective of this project is to enhance sustainable utilization of outlying fields, taking the requirements of organic farmers, wildlife and the public into consideration.


Phase 1.

Data are collected from on-going projects, farm surveys, literature, etc. Criteria for sustainable utilization of outlying fields are defined.

Phase 2.

The information is systematically analysed and the main obstacles for enhanced and sustainable utilization of outlying fields are exposed.

Phase 3.

Development projects and research needed to overcome the main obstacles are conducted. The techniques to be used depend on the obstacles. Case studies and pilot projects on existing farms are important.


The main objective of the soil fauna project is to increase the knowledge about the role of soil fauna in Norwegian organic farming. In organic farming the supply of plant nutrients is mainly based on release of plant nutrients from soil organic matter. The soil fauna is likely to play an important role in this. In general the soil fauna cause 30-40 percent of the nitrogen mineralisation, but when nutrients are lacking the portion can be more than 80 percent (Brussaard, et al. 1996).

Little knowledge is available in Norway on soil fauna in agricultural fields. We want to study how the existing soil fauna, interacting with plant roots and micro-organisms, affects the breakdown of organic matter in different cultivation systems under Norwegian conditions. The aim of this is to find out whether we can enhance the decomposition and mineralisation of amended organic matter by improving conditions for soil fauna.


Phase 1.

Data are collected from on-going projects, farm investigations, literature, etc. The main objective of this phase is to get a broad overview of the soil organisms present on organic farms in Norway.

Phase 2.

This information is systematically analysed and used for the planning of a more detailed study. This study will concentrate on organisms that play a key role in transformation of organic matter. Case studies will be done on existing farms to study the effect of different agricultural practises on soil organisms. The main emphasis will be put on soil fauna. Different agricultural practices mean comparison between conventional and organic farms and between different farming practices within an organic farming system, such as crop rotation, soil cultivation and manuring strategies.

Phase 3.

The findings together with literature data will be discussed with farmers, advisers and scientists. The main topics are: Can knowledge about soil organisms be used to improve agricultural practises in Norwegian organic farming systems? Is soil fauna management an important tool to increase the decomposition and the utilization of added organic matter? Are there better ways of increasing the utilization of added organic matter? If we conclude that improving the conditions for the soil organisms in Norwegian organic agriculture is important for increased turnover of organic matter, how should we, in a holistic and sustainable approach, create farming systems that improve the conditions for turnover of organic matter by soil organisms?

Phase 4.

Field and laboratory investigations should be done to test if the suggestions generated in Phase 2 can improve the utilization of added organic matter and thus improve plant growth in organic farming systems.

Phase 5.

The consequences of obtained results are analysed and discussed with selected farmers, advisers and scientists.

Phase 6.

Improvement of cultivation practices within Norwegian organic farming systems are suggested and discussed with farmers through the organic advisory circles in Norway.


To answer the question raised in the proposed projects, many different methods are needed. The methodological challenges working with complex issues like these are large as discussed by Hansen and Ruissen (1998). This proposal is in a very early stage and we would be pleased to receive suggestions on methodology and to make contact with other groups working within these fields. We would be very interested in collaborating in studies such as these.


Brussaard, L., Bakker, J.P. and H. Olff (1996): "Biodiversity of soil biota and plants in abandoned arable fields and grasslands under restoration management", Biodivers. Conserv. 5, 211-221 pp.

Hansen, S. and T. Ruissen (1998): "Thoughts on research approaches within organic farming", Handout, European Workshop on "Research Methodologies in Organic Farming", Frick (CH): 30 September-3 October 1998.

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