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Photo: The Organic PLUS-team comprises 25 partners from 12 countries across Europe: Denmark, France, Germany, Greece,
Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.


The «Organic PLUS» project was kicked off in Padova, Italy on June 14-16, 2018 by coordinator Ulrich Schmutz from Coventry University (UK). 25 partners from 12 countries cooperate to use less antibiotics, toxic plant protection agents, peat, plastic and animal-derived fertilisers. A mapping of the actual use across Europe is the initial activity.

All partners were present among the 44 participants of the kick-off meeting. Intensive networking and thourough discussions are required to achieve the best project results. During 3 days, we also enjoyed Italian hospitality and visited several producers of high quality organic food.


The project has six work packages (WP) and a separate WP on Ethics. The WPs on Livestock, Plants and Soil will map the use of contentious inputs, and look out for alternatives. In other WPs, current and possible future solutions will be assessed both from a consumers’ perspective (WP Impact), and by modelling to ensure that the phasing-out of one solution actually implies better and more sustainable alternatives (WP Model). Lots of experimental studies will be carried out, in different livestock productions and several horticultural productions such as potato, tomato, aubergine and olives.

Contentious inputs of special interest in Organic PLUS are peat, soil-covering plastic, animal derived fertilisers, copper, sulphur and mineral oil for plant protection, antibiotics, non-organic bedding material and synthetic vitamins for livestock.

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Organic cows need high-quality feed to produce high-quality milk for parmesan cheese.


A total funding of 4.1 million Euro will be received from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.


Stakeholders are welcome to subscribe to the projects’ newsletter, and engage in the discussions about best methods for phasing out contentious inputs, and improve the integrity of organic agriculture.


ISOFAR board members are active in the international advisory board, and as work package leader. ISOFAR board members; Reza Ardakani (Iran), Mahesh Chander (India) and former ISOFAR president Sang Mok Sohn (S. Korea) was present as the member s of the projects’ group of international advisors as well as Marine Dorais (Canada) and Raymond Auerbach (S. Africa). An international advisory board will assure the project’s results are relevant in a global perspective. Also, Anne-Kristin Løes Treasurer (Norway) leads a work package on soil and fertility aspects, studying mainly horticultural crops.



reza ak og mahesh

From left: ISOFAR board members Reza Ardakani, Anne-Kristin Løes and Mahesh Chander visiting the organic farm “Hombre”

close to Padova, Italy during the kick-off meeting of the Organic PLUS project. In this farm, high-quality parmesan cheese is

produced from the milk of about 200 dairy cows.


Anne-Kristin Løes

ISOFAR Board Member;

Norwegian Centre for Organic Agriculture (NORSØK)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Relevant links



Minnesota is one of the northernmost states in the USA, and a hotbed for organic agriculture research, emphasizing production in cold climates and a short growing season.

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The latest annual Organic Confluences Conference in the United States brings together organic researchers, farmers, policy-makers, and industry to examine how information is communicated to organic farmers.


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Minnesota is one of the northernmost states in the USA, and a hotbed for organic agriculture research, emphasizing production in cold climates and a short growing season.

The University of Minnesota (UMN) is one of the most recognized public agriculture universities in the USA, with over 40,000 students learning together in a largely urban setting. The UMN Organic Program is a global leader in organic research, education, and community engagement. Recent research efforts take advantage of our northern location to develop new knowledge that ultimately helps farmers successfully grow organic crops in our challenging (and changing) climate.

Organic agriculture research at UMN is multidisciplinary, with projects ranging from soil science, to plant pathology, agronomy, animal science and entomology. In 2014 two new faculty members were hired in Horticultural Science to meet the growing demand for organic agriculture expertise in our region. Dr. Mary Rogers’ research program focuses on ecological strategies to improve production of vegetables and fruit, and Dr. Julie Grossman’s program works to improve soil fertility on organic farms via improved understanding of plant-soil-microbe interactions.


High tunnels are relatively inexpensive, greenhouse-like structures that allow growers to extend the season, control the environment, and increase crop yield and quality. Currently, both Rogers’ and Grossman’s programs have active projects to better understand the role of high tunnels in organic production in northern climates. Spotted wing drosophila is a recent invasive pest that causes great damage to fruit and is especially worrisome to organic producers since few control options are available. Recent results from the Roger’s lab show that high tunnels may be modified with fine mesh netting, rather than the standard plastic, to exclude these invasive pests. This option may be particularly promising to protect high value berry crops in our region. High-tunnel production may be characterized by increased productivity, but due to intense cultivation strategies, they also pose many challenges for sustainability, soil health, and environmental quality. Recent research efforts in the Grossman lab have worked with organic growers to identify and trial legume cover crops that fit within existing high tunnel vegetable rotations. Thanks to a new 1.5 million USDA grant, this work has now expanded to include a collaboration between soil scientists, economists and horticulturalists across the U.S. This new project will evaluate the effect of legume cover crops on soil microbial and nutrient cycling properties across a north-south U.S. transect from Minnesota to Kentucky, where high tunnels are prevalent. Results of this work will help high tunnel producers across the U.S. improve soil health while maintaining productivity and their bottom-line.


The University of Minnesota Organic Program has additional research efforts underway in diverse departments. Examples of these efforts include those in Plant Pathology to understand the effect of black rot on cabbage and verticillium wilt, in Soil Science to investigate how the manure rule - requiring waiting periods prior to crop harvest - affects soil pathogens, in Horticulture to identify summer cover crop options to improve soil quality in organic vegetable rotations, and in Agronomy develop new lucrative perennial grain rotations to ease the strain on farmers during the transition period. The UMN also continues to be a leader in organic milk production research, with researcher Dr. Bradley Heins at the helm. This program is improving organic dairy farms to provide nutritionally enhanced milk for consumers and using pastured chickens to control flies on organic dairy cattle.


Building on our research program, our 6 acre (2.5 ha) Cornercopia Student Organic Farm is a critical component of the Organic Program, providing a space for knowledge sharing and student experiential learning opportunities. We continue to offer a full-semester course in organic production, as well as a spring and summer apprenticeship program for those interested in an advanced leadership opportunity. New in 2018, the UMN Organic Program has launched an expansion plan for Cornercopia called Northgate Commons. Northgate will be a physical gathering space for students, including a venue for outdoor classes and workshops, a kitchen garden, and an area to showcase novel edible plants and innovative growing techniques. The site will be a community space for students and adult learners within the University and beyond to learn about sustainable agriculture and food production through hands-on and experiential learning.


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Organic dairy research focuses on herd quality and milk improvement


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High tunnels are a growing part of the Minnesota landscape, but struggle with soil fertility issues


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Summer cover crops help occupy empty niches of horticultural crop rotations and can improve soil nutrient cycling properties 


Julie Grossman, Associate Professor Soil
Agroecology and Organic Agriculture, University of Minnesota

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

https://grossmanlab.cfans.umn.edu/ and https://www.organicag.umn.edu/

The latest annual Organic Confluences Conference in the United States brings together organic researchers, farmers, policy-makers, and industry to examine how information is communicated to organic farmers.


This year’s annual Organic Confluences Conference was held by the Organic Center, eOrganic, and the United States Department of Agriculture on May 21-22, 2018 in Washington D.C., United States. The conference is attended by a wide diversity of stakeholders, including farmers, researchers, industry members, policy makers, educators, among others. This year the conference will focus on how best practices and technologies are communicated to organic producers – taking a deep look into successful, innovative techniques, as well as how to improve and connect current strategies for transferring knowledge to organic farmers.


Organic farmers are expected to farm in a sustainable manner using techniques that decrease the use of off-farm inputs, reduce resource consumption, increase biodiversity, and preserve productivity while simultaneously tackling a diverse array of on-farm challenges including fertility management, weed and pest control and agro-economic challenges such as yield constraints, crop failure and supply chain shortages. While organic and conventional farmers face many of the same agronomic concerns and rely on technical assistance and educational support to help them maintain successful operations, organic farming is fundamentally different from conventional farming. Because the majority of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are prohibited from use in organic, organic producers must instead rely on complex biological processes in lieu of chemical inputs. This dichotomy between the needs of organic growers and the conventional farming community has constrained the ability of the traditional extension system to successfully communicate and collaborate with organic farmers. While this is problematic for all organic farmers it can put new and transitioning organic farmers at a particular disadvantage.


While the existing body of literature provides a clear picture of the educational challenges faced by organic farmers 10 and 20 years ago, the last decade seen very little formal evaluation of the effectiveness of extension and education for organic farmers in the U.S., creating a significant knowledge gap. The Organic Confluences Conference addressed this knowledge gap through panels, case studies and discussions, while providing a venue for scientists, farmers, policymakers and organic stakeholders to assess barriers to knowledge transfer in the organic community.

The Conference included the following sessions:


Extension: Past, Present and Future

This panel examined the history of the Extension system in the United States in the context of organic, and look at where organic Extension stands today.


Public-Private Partnerships

Industry can have an important role in ensuring that organic farmers have the knowledge and technology they need to succeed. This panel highlighted a few such partnerships, and discussed their importance in the technology transfer landscape.


Importance of Communication Among Diverse Stakeholders

Because the organic sector includes farmers from a wide variety of backgrounds, it is important that knowledge transfer techniques do not exclude underrepresented groups in the organic farming community. This panel explored the importance of inclusive communication in the organic sector.


Assessing the effectiveness of extension requirements in organic agriculture research funding

Funding requirements for education and extension are a driving force behind much of the organic information transfer to farmers. This panel explored those requirements, their efficacy, and how researchers have incorporated them into current and past organic research projects.


Information Transfer to Transitioning and Split Operations

To succeed as a sector, organic must be able to recruit farmers that are new to organic techniques, and be amenable to farmers who are interested in producing both organic and conventional products. This panel examined ways that extension and other information transfer can connect with farmers who currently use conventional techniques without alienating them.


Innovation in Information Transfer

In addition to the above panels, the conference included a lightning-session where stakeholders shared innovative programs for information transfer. This session included short presentations from a wide diversity of individuals actively engaged in education and extension with organic farmers.


Synthesis Discussion and Development of Recommendations

One of the most successful parts of the Organic Confluences Conference is the engagement of attendees. Stakeholders who attended this year’s Confluences Summit participated in small group discussions targeted at tackling the challenges addressed in the conference, and helped develop recommendations for improving the outlook for organic as a whole. This is one of the only venues where stakeholders from all parts of the organic sector can converge and address issues that need cross-sector input and involvement to overcome large-scale challenges.

Recommendations derived from discussions among attendees included additional networks at the national level, partnered with region and crop-specific information. Attendees highlighted the need for increased farmer participation and ownership of research and extension activities. Discussion outcomes also detailed the role of technology in information-sharing among organic farmers.


Meanwhile, The Organic Center has prepared a White Paper from discussions emanating from the 2017 Organic Confluences: Making Research Count. Entitled “Making Organic Research Count: Outcomes from the 2017 Organic Confluences Summit,” it can be downloaded here


More information about this year’s Summit and The Organic Center is available on The Center’s website.


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Dr. Alex Racelis of University of the Texas Rio Grande Valley discusses diversity in organic farming


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Dr. Mathieu Ngouajio, of the United States Department of Agriculture, discusses extension requirements in USDA funded grants


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ISOFAR Board Member, Prof. Dr. Victor I.O. Olowe, Nigeria attended the conference as a participant, and is pictured here with the Director of Science Programs for the Organic Center and ISOFAR Board Member, Dr. Jessica Shade, and Associate Director of Science Programs at the Organic Center, Dr. Tracy Misiewicz


Dr. Jessica Shade, The Organic Center

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



A total of forty one young and budding academics (young lecturers and graduate students) attended a one day Workshop on “Steps to writing sound scientific papers in Organic Agriculture” (March 13, 2018). The workshop was aimed at addressing the immediate and remote causes of high rate of rejection of manuscripts emanating from the tropics by the Organic Agriculture Journal with a view to teaching the participants how to write publishable articles in high impact factor journals.

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