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Long-term Organic Agriculture Studies in Switzerland

Paul Maeder, The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Switzerland

Switzerland has a well-established organic sector with over 6000 organic farms, 200 biodynamic farms and approximately 10% of the agricultural land. BioSuisse and Demeter are recognized organic and biodynamic certifiers. Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Finland, Sweden and Denmark all have more than 5% of their agricultural land in organic production.

FiBL, the Institute for Organic Farming in Switzerland has been operating at Frick for over 30 years. They have a 30 ha experimental farm, and 200 on-farm collaborators. They study plant and animal production, food quality and socio-economic issues.

The DOK experiment takes a systems approach to compare biodynamic and organic systems with conventional systems that use either farmyard manure or mineral fertilizers. Researchers work with farmers, who do the actual field operations.

Biodynamic and organic systems used approximately half the energy of conventional systems that used mineral fertilizers. Wheat yields in biodynamic and organic systems were 80% or more of conventional systems; yields of potato tubers were 60% or more of conventional.

Soil fertility was greatly enhanced on biodynamic and organic farms, as indicated by numbers of earthworms, number of mycorrhizae and a number of biological activity measurements. Diversity of organisms was increased in organic and especially biodynamic systems relative to conventional systems. Soil organism activity continued to increase in organic systems for more than 20 years after conversion to organic. System performance continued to improve over this time.

Organic systems were more energy efficient, using less than half the energy inputs to yield about 80% of the grain of conventional systems. As measured by a number of indicators, such as ground and surface water quality, soil biological activity, structure and resistance to erosion, biodiversity and landscape diversity, energy efficiency, animal health, food quality and air quality, organic systems had better ecological performance than conventional systems.

1st Canadian Organic Agriculture Research Workshop, University of Guelph, January 2004

Contact Info
Paul Maeder, Dipl.-Ing. agr. ETH, Annual Crop Production, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau (FiBL), Ackerstrasse, CH-5070 Frick, Switzerland
Email: paul.maeder@fibl.ch
Website: http://www.fibl.org/english/

en français

Posted February 2007


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