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Researchers present best organic agricultural practices

In 45 thematic sessions with a total audience of around 5000 was held the first open day of the Research Institutes of Organic Agriculture.

The first joint conference of the Research Institutes of Organic Agriculture, the FiBL Open Day, was held with the participation of 1,700 participants from 90 countries worldwide, with presentations by leading European organic farming experts. At the online international conference, the Hungarian results were presented by the staff of ÖMKi. Participants at the event were able to learn about the current research areas and practical results of sustainable agriculture from more than a hundred lectures in more than forty sessions. The success of the conference has shown once again that the European network of research institutes for organic farming is contributing significantly to making the turn towards sustainability a reality.

Speakers from the six organic research institutes organizing the event (FiBL Switzerland, FiBL Germany, FiBL Austria, FiBL France, FiBL Europe and ÖMKi) presented the main agricultural research topics that most professionals and producers involved in organic farming are currently engaged in. Their presentations addressed a wide range of issues, such as how organic farming contributes to climate protection, the role that grazing can play in organic fruit production, what new alternative plant protection technologies are available in practice, and how European researchers contribute to sustainable cocoa production. At the event, ten team members of the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) gave talks on topics such as arable crop production, horticulture, animal husbandry and professional policies.

In the final panel discussion of the conference, internationally renowned Austrian, Italian, Swiss and Hungarian researchers discussed their views on future research trends: how much of a role so-called Living Labs, i.e. participatory real-life research, will play, and what the determining factors will be that persuade consumers to choose organic products.

In Germany, for example, the consumption of organic products has increased significantly during the pandemic – turnover figures show a 22% increase from 2019 to 2020 – and in other European countries, such as Hungary, the work of local farmers has become more esteemed, with more recognition and respect for the local food they produce. Experts at the conference agreed that pre-pandemic consumption patterns and trends will not fully recover. One interesting area for future research was also identified: What are the factors that would help or hinder people when it comes to choosing sustainable alternatives in the search for a healthy diet and lifestyle?

 Dr. Dóra Drexler, the director of ÖMKi, who shared her experiences with participants at the opening of the online event and in the closing panel discussion, summarized the importance of the open day as follows: “This was the first large-scale international event where we were able to reap the full benefits of online conferencing. Anyone from anywhere in the world could join, and the audience could listen to the lectures in German, French and Hungarian, with simultaneous English translation. The sessions involving ÖMKi Colleagues as speakers were also available in Hungarian. So neither travel costs nor language barriers prevented people from learning about the latest domestic and international results in organic farming research.” 

The conference once again highlighted the fact that with the ambitious goals of the EU (achieving an average of 25% organic agricultural land in EU by 2030) and the expansion of domestic organic areas, (Hungary is now the 10th most dynamically developing country in the world, and the 12th largest organic fruit-producing country) the role of research and development and knowledge transfer to support sustainable farming is further enhanced. 

Dr. Dóra Drexler stresses the important role of research institutes: “Organic farming is the ‘star student’ of agroecology, i.e. the best example currently in place of how to achieve good production results in a more sustainable way. European organic research institutes aim to further develop this knowledge and pass on good practice to the widest possible range of producers.”

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