Defra project investigates how organic can help make UK farming a world leader

ORC will investigate how organic ideas can help make UK farming become a world leader
ORC will investigate how organic ideas can help make UK farming become a world leader

The UK’s leading research charity has been awarded two new research projects by Defra to gather evidence on organic farming.

Both projects, by the Organic Research Centre (ORC), aim to identify how organic food production techniques can help the UK build on its position as a leading food and farming nation.

The first project will look at how a selection of organic farming practices can deliver wider sustainability benefits for conventional farming systems.

The second project will help provide an evidence base for future policy direction of organic agriculture in the UK following EU exit as well as exploring the issues surrounding the potential implications of introducing an independent organic labelling system.

The project will also assess opportunities and barriers for translating best practice management techniques from organic to conventional farms, including examining potential impacts on farm incomes, productivity and risks.

The research will also review what is already adopted within conventional systems, or is actively promoted through initiatives such as Agricology, Integrated Farm Management and LEAF Marque.

The ORC will collaborate with the GWCT’s Allerton Project, the Soil Association, Organic Farmers and Growers and LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming).

During the course of the research the project will identify and actively involve the farming community and relevant industry stakeholders.

A key element is to develop future actions to promote sustainable farming practices across all agricultural systems.

Organic regulations

With the UK's imminent exit from the EU, the second project provides information from which to review national organic regulations for England and Wales following EU exit.

The project will review regulatory approaches controlling organic production and provisions for trade in other countries and summarise their strengths and opportunities.

In addition, the project is tasked with exploring the organic labelling used by other countries such as those in USA and Norway.

Dr Susanne Padel from the Organic Research Centre said it is a "fantastic opportunity" to see how some farming techniques developed by the organic sector can "provide the impetus" for mainstream farmers to become more sustainable.

Dr Padel said: "Although organic farming accounts for a relatively small proportion of UK food production the sector has emerged as hugely innovative, employing novel solutions to reduce reliance on inputs while maintaining production but with limited resources.”