Importance of international training and exchange in knowledge and attitude dissemination in organic research
By Geert-Jan H.M. van der Burgt and Jan-Paul Wagenaar Louis Bolk Instituut
||Knowledge about organic agriculture is constantly changing and growing. Research related to organic agriculture at EU level nowadays plays an important role. Organic agriculture, being an integrated, holistic and multi-target approach, needs researchers who are trained to investigate poly-factorial and multi-level problems.
Skills required for research in organic farming
Associated with a growing market for organic products in the EU is growing national and EU support for research and research training dedicated to organic farming systems. Also, there is a growing number of researchers who are, partly or fully, engaged in organic research.
For early stage researchers (ESR) entering the area of organic farming R&D often realise that their previous research education/training has not provided them with sufficient knowledge and skills to address the challenges and problems in organic agriculture which is generally characterized as an integrated, holistic and/or multi-target approach with multi-level interrelationships within the system.
As a results training schemes are required to prepare ESR for handling multi-level research questions directly within the context of the agriculture system itself. The skills and knowledge base require can be taught and integrated with the existing research skill and knowledge base and attitudes of ESR new to research on organic/ecological farming systems.
Important aspects on research in organic agriculture
In the research dedicated to organic agriculture, three aspects on how research is carried out are of particular importance.
- First there is the awareness that what is done here and now, has its effects on later and elsewhere (Brundtland, 1987). Of course this is not typical for organic agriculture, but within the organic movement it is an explicit part of the approach.
- Secondly, ethics and values such as naturalness (Verhoog et al., 2002) and integrity (Verhoog, 2005) play an important role in the way organic agriculture is implemented.
- Thirdly, knowledge development directly focussed on farm practice should involve farmers in every phase, as is documented by Baars and De Vries (1999) and scientifically elaborated by De Vries (2004).
Training seminars by the QLIF project
The EU framework 6 “Quality Low Input Food” (QLIF) project has allocated a specific budget for activities related to training and exchange of junior scientists. In training courses, students and junior scientists are introduced by senior scientists to existing knowledge, research questions, research attitudes and research techniques which are appropriate for organic agriculture.
So far, three 3-day seminars have been organised, all coordinated by the Louis Bolk Instituut in Driebergen, the Netherlands. In February 2005 the first 1st QLIF-ESR training seminar was organised and focused on “soil quality management (Van der Burgt, 2005). In February 2006 the 2nd QLIF-ESR training seminar focused on “rearing of young farm animals” (Wagenaar and Bestman, 2006). And the third seminar on Measuring food quality: concepts, methods and challenges” was held 12-14 February 2007 (Van de Vijver et al, 2007).
QLIF will organise two further seminars in February 2008 and 2009. The 2008 seminar will again focus on soil quality, with emphasis on nitrogen dynamics. Further details and program can be obtained from the website.
Scientific research for organic farming requires more than (a) what is taught in conventional farming focused University and college courses and (b) the often monofactorial approaches used in conventional agriculture focused R&D. It requires additional integrated, multidisciplinary, holistic and/or poly-factorial research methodologies, farmer participatory approaches and often an adapted attitude towards the subject studied.
Training and exchange programme for ESR are therefore essential to improve the link between research and knowledge transfer specialists and the expanding organic industry.
Acknowledgement and disclaimer - click here...
Baars T. and de Vries A. (1999). De boer als ervaringswetenschapper. Elsevier, ISBN 90 5439 076 X, pp 168.
Brundtland G.H. (1987). Our common future. World Commission on Environment and Development WCED.
Burgt G.J.H.M. van der (2005): Healthy soil, healthy crops, healthy people. Proceedings International Training and Exchange workshop, 2-4 February 2005, Louis Bolk Instituut, Driebergen, the Netherlands.
Verhoog H., Matze M., Lammerts van Bueren E. and Baars T. (2002). The role of the concept of the natural (naturalness) in organic farming. In: Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 16, 2003, p. 29-49.
Verhoog H. (2005). Animal integrity In: Animal bioethics (M. Marie, S. Edwards, G. Gandini, M. Reis & E. von Borell, eds.), pp. 97-112. Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen.
Vijver, L. van de (2007). Measuring food quality: concepts, methods and challenges. Proceeding International Training and Exchange Workshop, 12-14 February 2007, Louis Bolk Instituut, Driebergen, The Netherlands (In prep.)
Vries A. de (2004). Ervaringsleren cultiveren. Onderzoek in eigen werk. Dissertation, University Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Wagenaar J.P. and Bestman M. (2006): Towards animal oriented rearing methods in organic production systems. Proceedings International Training and Exchange workshop, 20-22 February 2006, Louis Bolk Instituut, Driebergen, the Netherlands.
A previous elaborated version of the present paper is archived at http://orgprints.org/10386