Development of Research in Organic Farming F1
Niggli, Urs1; Lockeretz, William2.
1) Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, CH-4104 Oberwil, 2) Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts 02155
|Rather, committed individual agronomists and
advisors, together with small groups of farmers, developed practical organic agricultural
methods empirically, despite many obstacles. Its scientific basis is the work of Justus
von Liebig, Sir AlbertHoward, Raoul H. Franc, Hans Peter Rusch and others. This work
covered soil fertility, crop rotation, organic plant nutrition, composting and plant
At first, organic agriculture had to prove its long-term efficiency as a system of food production. Mainstream researchers were convinced that organic farming would lead to exhaustion of soil nutrients and to severe pest and disease problems. Therefore, several trials using classical designs were started in the 1970s to compare the soil and plant performance of organic and other agricultural systems. Researchers soon realized that small plots cannot give an appropriate image of an organic farm, and therefore began to compare entire farms instead of plots. This "on-farm research" enabled them to investigate socio-economic as well as agronomical and ecological questions. More recent studies have even dealt with whole landscapes and regions and with the regional or national economy. New crop breeding programs, plant protection research and farm machinery development have improved organic farming techniques considerably. However, important gaps remain, particularly regarding ethologically oriented animal husbandry and animal breeding programs. The success of organic farming research has led to important changes in the objectives of mainstream research. To ensure a critical evaluation of new techniques, research activities must be embedded in the context of the whole farm, or even better, of ecologically optimized regions. As with all research, organic farming research risks losing contact with farmers and their daily practice. Paying adequate attention to the transfer of knowledge between researchers and farmers in both directions should be a high priority in agricultural science.