Professional field day in Szár – on the topic of diversification
On June 22, 2021, we held a professional day entitled ‘Diversified biological foundations and agrotechnologies serving sustainability’ at the Csoroszlya organic farm in Szár, Western Hungary.
The event was attended by more than seventy professionals, including growers, seed companies, breeders and advisors.
At Csoroszlya Farm, on-farm and small-plot experiments were presented in connection with several research topics, which ÖMKi is implementing within the framework of various domestic and EU projects. One of the defining themes of the event was the diversification of crop rotation, which was presented using the examples of soy and husked grains, after different pre-crops, and sown using different tillage systems. As part of soil-protecting agrotechnology, in addition to the tillage variables, plots with and without green manure were also established, with which changes in the physico-chemical and biological properties of the soil can be monitored.
Participants were also able to view the local site of the nationwide post-registration variety experiment with more than twenty varieties of winter wheat, sown in small plots. The aim of the post-registration variety tests is to examine the suitability of the different varieties for organic cultivation. Details of the small plot experiments can be found here. The small-plot test of different husked grain species and varieties, including landraces, presented during the professional field day also serves the cause of diversification, not only by expanding the biological bases of field diversity, but also by broadening the range of raw ingredients for quality foods.
The Field Day program began with an interactive tour, during which participants saw medium-sized research plots of sunflower, potato, soy sown in winter barley mulch, an excavated soil profile, and also the small-plot experiments.
Following the inspection, Ágoston Nobilis introduced Csoroszlya Farm, outlining the challenges and technological solutions involved in their organic farming practices. In addition to arable land, the farm also cultivates orchards, striving for diversification and a high level of processing to maximise added value.
Dr. Péter Mikó, breeder at the Research Centre of Agricultural Sciences, presented the organic winter wheat small-plot testing network, established in cooperation with ÖMKi, covering the specifics of each involved site and its impact on the crop. He explained that the goal is a list of recommended varieties that would allow growers to implement site-specific variety selection, thus reducing production risk and helping to achieve optimal yield and quality. Disease resistance is also an important aspect, since it is a key indicator of suitability for organic farming.
Dr. Mária Megyeri, breeder at the Research Centre of Agricultural Sciences, presented the ECOBREED project, within the framework of which the organic breeding of arable species (namely winter wheat, soy, and potatoes) takes place with the participation of several countries. The aim is to breed and disseminate stress-tolerant, adaptable heterogeneous varieties, which is a pioneering initiative in Hungary.
Dr. Szilvia Bencze, researcher at ÖMKi, gave a lecture on ancient grains, and the peculiarities and cultivation properties of einkorn and emmer wheat, highlighting their agronomic properties that differ from traditional wheat cultivation. She outlined the locations of ÖMKi's on-farm research on this topic and the typical characteristics of varieties. Seeds for landrace varieties of emmer and einkorn were sourced as courtesy of the National Center for Biodiversity and Gene Conservation and Pro Specie Rara.
Mihály Földi presented the results of the ÖMKi winter wheat variety tests, outlining the correlations between yield quantity and yield quality, and how these can vary from year to year and place to place. In his presentation, he highlighted that the ranking of varieties may differ from place to place, but that it is also possible to highlight varieties with a yield stability that is above average.
Dr. Éva Hunyadi Borbélyné drew attention to the importance of growing legumes, including soy, and referred to the on-farm research carried out by ÖMKi, which examines the possibilities for alternative cultivation technologies, such as sowing soy as a second crop. Although these methods often entail high degrees of risk, there are now super-early varieties that are worth investigating and can be good alternatives for increasing the volume of soy production. ÖMKi also deals with the topic of growing soybeans and other legumes within the framework of international (DiverIMPACTS) and local (EIP-AGRI, MNVH) projects.
Dr. Judit Berényi-Üveges gave a presentation on the effects of alternative tillage technologies on soil condition, which ÖMKi is also examining in the framework of on-farm research and in the Szár testing area as part of EU (Best4Soil) and local (MNVH) projects. Diverse soil life is a basic prerequisite for soil fertility, so the pursuit of this must be reflected in both crop rotation and tillage.
The program ended with a participatory breeding workshop related to the SolACE international project, led by Dr. Szilvia Bencze and Dr. Mária Megyeri. Participants were also able to see the mill at Csoroszlya Farm, in which a production line suitable for processing husked grains was installed in order to create the widest possible product range. The program was closely related to the farmer-miller-baker workshop initiated by ÖMKi, the result of which was, among others, a database that was expanded with a farmer-miller-thresher-baker map.
Based on the feedback, the participants found the professional program valuable and useful, and it showed their need for practical yet scientifically based information. We plan to hold our professional day at a similar date next year, and look forward to seeing those interested in the subject!