Author: Anne-Kristin Løes

An ongoing EU project, OK-NET Arable, aims at connecting farmers, advisors and scientists in finding practical solutions to increase the efficiency and productivity of arable organic farming systems.

The project is one of the first thematic networks funded by EIP-AGRI, the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability. Recently, a web-based portal was launched, where easily understandable, but evidence-based advisory material can be found.

Farmers are encouraged to share their experiences and good solutions, facilitated by advisors and researchers, to facilitate farmer-to-farmer learning. Fourteen farmer innovation groups are active in the project, distributed over the 12 participating countries.

Data collection revealed that weed management, soil fertility and pest and disease control were the most serious challenges for high productivity across all sites and countries. Further issues mentioned were lack of knowledge and research, nitrogen management, nutrient cycling, and availability of organic seeds and other propagation material as well as such material being adapted to organic growing conditions. Climatic change also impacts organic production significantly.

Coordinated by Dr. Bram Moeskops from IFOAM-EU, the project now presents identified best practice examples, in a format that is easy to find and consume. Tools tested by the project correspond to the needs and challenges expressed by farmers. Linking the perspectives of farmers with the knowledge and recommendations of researchers, and strengthening the direct, web-based communication between farmers, are important targets for OK-NET Arable.

The portal is nice and includes a lot of relevant and interesting information, grouped under Weed management, Soil quality and fertility, Nutrient management, Pest and disease control and Crop specific. For each theme, the user can find a range of tools, and on the search page, the user can find tools in their own language – until now, most tools are in English, German or French, but some can also be found in Italian, Polish and Spanish. The current tools range from other platforms, over decision support tools to videos, leaflets and fact sheets. Visitors are encouraged to suggest tools for the platform.

Even if the internet represents an excellent tool for farmers to find information when they (finally one day, or night) have time to search for it, it remains a big challenge to make them familiar in using it more actively. In the discussions forum, farmers who have developed a good practical solution may upload photos or share links for web pages and videos directly on the platform. For the tools, evaluation has to be performed by the project team before they are uploaded.

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   Visit the knowledge platform of OK-Net Arable