Organic agriculture

NIBIO contributes with research-based knowledge to the development of organic agriculture. NIBIO expands its knowledge in specific disciplines within the field of agronomy, animal nutrition, and economics, and on a more integrated level, by studying production systems and environmental effects.

WP_20160712_14_56_51_Økologisk-landbruk
Photo: Randi B. Frøseth
Contacts
Employees
Definition of organic agriculture

"Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved."

IFOAM 2005

Publications

To document

Abstract

Soil fertility building measures should be explored at the short and long-term for an adequate evaluation of their impact on sustaining yields and of its environmental consequences in crop rotations under organic farming. For such a purpose, process-based crop models are potential useful tools to complement and upscale field observations under a range of soil and climatic conditions. Organic rotations differ in soil fertility dynamics in comparison to conventional farming but very few modelling studies have explicitly considered this specific situation. Here, we evaluate the FASSET model to predict the effects of different fertility management options in organic crop rotations on dry matter (DM) and nitrogen (N) yield, and soil N dynamics, including N2O emissions. For that, we used data from seven short and long-term field experiments in different agro-climatic environments in Europe (Norway, Denmark, Poland, Switzerland, Italy and Spain) including climate, soil and management data. Soil fertility building measures covered fertilization type, green manures, cover crops, tillage, crop rotation composition and management (organic or conventional). Model performance was evaluated by comparing observed and simulated values of crop DM and N yield, soil mineral N and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions using five complementary statistical indices. The model closely reproduced most observed DM and N yield trends and effects of soil fertility building measures in arable crops, particularly in cereals. Contrary, yields of grass-clover, especially N, were generally reproduced with low degree of accuracy. Model performance for simulating soil mineral N depended on site and the availability of soil and management information. Although high uncertainty was associated to the simulation of soil N dynamics, differences of cumulative N2O emissions between fertility building measures were reflected in model outputs. Aspects for modelling improvement include cover crop growth and decomposition, biological N fixation (BNF) or weed and pest soil-crop interactions. It is concluded that FASSET can be successfully used to investigate the impact of fertilization type, green manures, tillage and management (organic or conventional) on crop productivity and to a certain extent on soil N dynamics including soil N2O emissions at different soils and climates in organic farming in Europe.

To document

Abstract

Multilocation testing remains the main tool for understanding varietal responses to the environment. Here, Latvian and Norwegian hull-less and hulled barley varieties were tested in field experiments in Latvia and Norway in order to assess the varieties adaptability across environments (sites). Two Latvian (cv Irbe and cv Kornelija) and one Norwegian hull-less barley variety (cv Pihl) were tested along with one Latvian (cv Rubiola) and one Norwegian hulled barley variety (cv Tyra) under conventional and organic management systems. The grain yield, together with physical and chemical grain parameters were compared, and variety yield and protein stability detemined. Overall, grain yield of hull-less barley varieties was significantly lower than for hulled barley varieties regardless of climatic conditions and management system. However, in the organic farming systems this difference between barley types was less pronounced. The hull-less barley varieties cv Pihl and cv Irbe, along with both hulled varieties, had good yield stability across environments and were well adapted to both cropping systems. Hull-less barley varieties tended to contain more protein and β -glucans than hulled barley varieties. Despite being bred for local conditions in Norway and Latvia, our study shows that all the varieties used may be successfully transferred across countries.

Abstract

This study examines the relationships between profitability, nitrogen (N) surplus, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and energy intensity and factors influencing these relationships in dairy farming. In-depth data from 10 conventional and 8 organic dairy farms in Western Norway were analyzed. Organic farms had lower N surplus per hectare (local, onfarm) and per unit output (global, cradle-to-farm-gate), and lower estimated GHG emissions and energy intensity per unit output, whereas labor input and farm profits did not differ. Higher profitability tended to be associated with improved performance of the environmental indicators examined. Intensification through increased use of concentrates tended to improve profit and reduce N surplus, GHG emissions, and energy intensity per unit output within each farming system while N surplus per hectare could be negatively affected. To ensure a balanced representation of the environmental consequences of both organic and conventional farming systems,our results give support to extensive examination of both area and product-based environmental performance indicators.

Abstract

To improve environmental sustainability it is important that all sectors in a society contribute to improving the utilization of inputs as energy and nutrients. In Norway, dairy farming contributes with an important share to the added value from the agricultural sector, although there is little information available about utilization of energy and nitrogen (N). Many results on sustainability have been published on dairy farming. However, due to Norway’s Nordic climatic conditions, mountainous and rugged topography and an agricultural policy that can design its own prices and subsidies, results from other countries are hardly representative for Norwegian conditions. To bridge this gap, the objective of this study was to analyse if the utilisation of nitrogen and energy in dairy farming in Norway can be improved to strengthen its environmental sustainability. Data were collected from 2010 to 2012 on 10 conventional and 10 organic farms in a region in central Norway with dairy farming as the main enterprise. The farms varied in area, number of dairy cows and milk yield. For nitrogen, a farm gate balance was applied and supplemented with nitrogen fixation by clover and atmospheric N-deposition. The total farm area was broken down into three categories: dairy farm area utilized directly by the farm, off-farm area needed to produce imported roughages and concentrates, and free rangeland that only can be used for grazing.

Abstract

Phosphorus (P) should be recycled from organic wastes as much as possible, and input is needed in stockless organic agriculture. Seven organic residues were assessed and compared them to mineral P fertilizer and rock phosphate as fertilizer for barley. P availability in the mixtures and residual P availability were also assessed by diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT). The best availability was found in digested liquid manure followed by wood ash, fish sludge, composted solid manure and composted food waste. Meat and bone meal, the commercially available product Ladybug plus and rock phosphate had low P availability at the same level as no P. Only wood ash had significant P available for the next crop. The pH level of the soil did not affect P availability for any of the P sources. DGT predicted P availability moderately well, as it measures P supply over a short period without any biological factors.

To document

Abstract

Demand for organic meat is partially driven by consumer perceptions that organic foods are more nutritious than non-organic foods. However, there have been no systematic reviews comparing specifically the nutrient content of organic and conventionally produced meat. In this study, we report results of a meta-analysis based on sixty-seven published studies comparing the composition of organic and non-organic meat products. For many nutritionally relevant compounds (e.g. minerals, antioxidants and most individual fatty acids (FA)), the evidence base was too weak for meaningful meta-analyses. However, significant differences in FA profiles were detected when data from all livestock species were pooled. Concentrations of SFA and MUFA were similar or slightly lower, respectively, in organic compared with conventional meat. Larger differences were detected for total PUFA and n-3 PUFA, which were an estimated 23 (95 % CI 11, 35) % and 47 (95 % CI 10, 84) % higher in organic meat, respectively. However, for these and many other composition parameters, for which meta-analyses found significant differences, heterogeneity was high, and this could be explained by differences between animal species/meat types. Evidence from controlled experimental studies indicates that the high grazing/forage-based diets prescribed under organic farming standards may be the main reason for differences in FA profiles. Further studies are required to enable meta-analyses for a wider range of parameters (e.g. antioxidant, vitamin and mineral concentrations) and to improve both precision and consistency of results for FA profiles for all species. Potential impacts of composition differences on human health are discussed.

To document

Abstract

Under Norwegian conditions, diets based on primary growth (PG) silage typically increase milk yield compared to silage prepared from the regrowth (RG). Organic PG, dominated by immature grasses, is often high in energy and low in crude protein (CP), whereas the opposite is the case for organic RG harvests, dominated by clover. Here, we tested the hypotheses that increasing proportions of RG will reduce the total supply of metabolizable energy, but increase the CP intake, and that there is a dietary optimal mix of PG and RG to meet requirements for optimal milk production. Sixteen Norwegian Red cows were used in an experiment designed with four balanced 4 × 4 Latin squares with 21-day periods to evaluate the effect of incremental replacement of PG with RG on feed intake, nutrient digestion, and milk production. Silages were prepared from PG and RG of an organically managed grassland. Treatments comprised silages fed ad libitum with RG replacing PG in ratios of 0, 0.33, 0.67, and 1 on dry matter (DM) basis. Additionally, concentrate was offered with 8 kg for pluriparous and 7 kg for primiparous cows. The PG had higher content metabolizable energy (ME), potentially degradable neutral detergent fiber (NDF), and water-soluble carbohydrates, while RG contained more CP and indigestible NDF. The already mentioned characteristics led to higher intakes of DM, organic matter, NDF, and ME and lower intakes of CP and indigestible NDF with increasing proportions of PG in the diet. Milk yield tended to be higher when PG and RG were offered as a mixture than when fed alone. The milk fat concentration decreased linearly with increasing proportions of RG proportion, while protein concentration was unaffected by diet. This led to a similar production of energy-corrected milk among cows fed diets containing PG while cows fed pure RG diet produced 0.9 kg less daily. Silage energy concentration and energy intake influenced milk production more than CP supply.

To document

Abstract

Quality traits are highly focused upon in the marketing of organic food products. There is a need to define and measure quality as consumers seem to have preconceived notions about the superior health value and taste of organic compared to non-organic products. A commonly held opinion among many consumer groups is that organic farming guarantees optimum quality, despite the fact that this remains unproven. The aim of this paper is to contribute to a better understanding of the complexity of quality traits in a plant-based food product, using carrots as an example. Selected designated quality aspects are presented to describe the complexity of quality and discuss the challenges of using these aspects in differentiating between organic and conventional products. The paper concludes we have insufficient tools to be able to adequately authenticate organically produced carrots. The same may be the case for most vegetables and fruit products. Suggestions for further studies include the soil and location aspect (terroir), in order to trace a product back to its origin in an organically or conventionally farmed field by finding a unique fingerprint for chemical constituents of samples.

To document

Abstract

Embodied energy in barns is found to contribute to about 10–30% of total energy use on dairy farms. Nevertheless, research on sustainability of dairy farming has largely excluded consideration of embodied energy. The main objectives of this study were to apply an established model from the residential and commercial building sector and estimate the amount of embodied energy in the building envelopes on 20 dairy farms in Norway. Construction techniques varied across the buildings and our results showed that the variables which contributed most significantly to levels of embodied energy were the area per cow-place, use of concrete in walls and insulation in concrete walls. Our findings are in contrast to the assumption that buildings are similar and would show no significant differences. We conclude that the methodology is sufficiently flexible to accommodate different building design and use of materials, and allows for an efficient means of estimating embodied energy reducing the work compared to a mass material calculation. Choosing a design that requires less material or materials with a low amount of embodied energy, can significantly reduce the amount of embodied energy in buildings.

To document

Abstract

The calculation of the embedded energy (EE) of twenty barns shows that there is a considerable variation of EE per cow, where the lowest values were one fourth of the highest. Use of timber instead of concrete in walls had most effect to reduce the amount of EE. Cold barns can contribute to reduce the amount of EE, while the amount of EE is higher in free-stall than in tie-stall barns.While for an existing building the amount of EE is nearly fixed, calculating the anticipated amount for a new building can contribute to reduce this value considerably. This progress can help to reduce energy use in organic agriculture and thus contribute to a more sustainable production. Incorporating EE in planning new buildings should be of special importance for organic farming, since regulations demand for more area per animal than in conventional farming. In addition to building new, renovation and extension as well as recycling of building materials should be considered. Planning a new building should also include other topics as operational energy, as well as working conditions, animal welfare and economic considerations.

Abstract

This ESEE 2011 conference paper examines attitudes to private and public goods and bads from agriculture in Norway with a particular focus on organic agriculture. The issue is based on a survey among 939 Norwegians. The results show that the respondents strongly value public attributes of agriculture like a vivid countryside and cultural landscapes. Almost 60 percent of the sample emphasise that the government should aim to increase the production and sale of organic food. Respondents’ behaviour as consumers were investigated by collecting and analysing data that indicate which conditions respondents find most important when they buy milk, eggs, carrots and ketchup. Important conditions were taste, fresh, produced in Norway and no use of pesticides or fertilizers. The most important reasons for buying organic food were avoidance of pesticides, health and environmental concerns.

To document

Abstract

In the iPOPY project (innovative Public Organic food Procurement for Youth), one of the tasks was to map the challenges linked to the supply chains of organic food, and to which extent the participating countries have developed any form of certification of out-of-home food serving. For primary production and processing, regulations have been developed on the EU level. Norway, as a member of the EEA, is obliged to follow these EU regulations. However, the EU regulations on organic agriculture do not comprise catering, restaurants and other out-of-home food service. Hence, various countries have developed different systems to certify e.g. restaurants wanting to market their organic menus. This report describes the systems in Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway and Germany. Germany has been used as a reference, since this country is especially familiar to the first author of the report, Dr. Carola Strassner, due to former work and analyses. The report is based on information acquired from certification bodies and experts in each country by questionnaires communicated via e-mail, and subsequent telephone interviews.

To document

Abstract

The objectives of this study were to investigate whether there were differences between Norwegian Red cows in conventional and organic farming with respect to reproductive performance, udder health, and antibiotic resistance in udder pathogens. Twenty-five conventional and 24 organic herds from south-east and middle Norway participated in the study. Herds were matched such that geographical location, herd size, and barn types were similar across the cohorts. All organic herds were certified as organic between 1997 and 2003. All herds were members of the Norwegian Dairy Herd Recording System. The herds were visited once during the study. The relationship between the outcomes and explanatory variables were assessed using mixed linear models. Results: There were less > 2nd parity cows in conventional farming. The conventional cows had higher milk yields and received more concentrates than organic cows. Although after adjustment for milk yield and parity, somatic cell count was lower in organic cows than conventional cows. There was a higher proportion of quarters that were dried off at the herd visit in organic herds. No differences in the interval to first AI, interval to last AI or calving interval was revealed between organic and conventional cows. There was no difference between conventional and organic cows in quarter samples positive for mastitis bacteria from the herd visit. Milk yield and parity were associated with the likelihood of at least one quarter positive for mastitis bacteria. There was few S. aureus isolates resistance to penicillin in both management systems. Penicillin resistance against Coagulase negative staphylococci isolated from subclinically infected quarters was 48.5% in conventional herds and 46.5% in organic herds. Conclusion: There were no large differences between reproductive performance and udder health between conventional and organic farming for Norwegian Red cows.

Abstract

The frequency with which ewe lambs lay on wooden surfaces at two levels, called ``double bunks,"" was documented by video recording at 6, 11 and 18 months of age: the number in each of 4 pens (n = 4) lying either on double bunks (DBs) or on the expanded metal floor (EMF) was recorded. At 6 months, lambs were sheared half way through the research period and DBs of two different heights (50/60 cm) and depths (60/75 cm) were tested. At other ages the lambs were sheared before testing and all DBs were the 60 cm 60 cm design. Fully fleeced lambs aged 6 months preferred to lie on EMF rather than DB (P < 0.001). After shearing, the use of EMF for resting declined (P < 0.05) and no significant preference between EMF and DB was found. The lambs tended to lie less when newly sheared (P = 0.06). At 11 months, sheared lambs used DB just as much as EMF, whereas 18 month old sheared ewe lambs tended to choose DB to lie on (P = 0.09). At 6 months, there was a tendency for more lambs to rest at ground level in the DB when headroom was higher at 60 cm (P = 0.1). No other preferences between DB designs were found. The results are discussed according to the regulations for organic sheep farming in Norway. The lambs showed little preference for resting on a DB compared to EMF, so there is insufficient evidence to recommend a two-level, wooden lying area for sheep.

Abstract

Temporal changes in the scores of selected soil fertility indices were studied over six years in three different cases of organic crop rotation located in southern, eastern and central Norway. The cropping history and the initial scores of fertility indices prior to conversion to organic cropping differed between the sites. Crop yields, regarded as an overall, integrating fertility indicator, were in all rotations highly variable with few consistent temporal trends following the first year after conversion. On the site in eastern Norway, where conversion followed several years of all-arable crop rotations, earthworm number and biomass and soil physical properties improved, whereas the system was apparently degrading with regard to P and K trade balances and contents in soil. On the other two sites, the picture was less clear. On the southern site, which had a relatively fertile soil before conversion, the contents of soil organic matter and K decreased during the six-year period, but the scores of other fertility indices showed no trends. On the site in central Norway, there were positive trends for earthworm-related indices such as worm biomass and tubular biopores, and negative trends for soil porosity. The results, especially those from the eastern site, illustrate the general difficulty in drawing conclusions about overall fertility or sustainability when partial indicators show divergent trends. Consequently, the study gave no unambiguous support to the initial working hypothesis that organic farming increases inherent overall soil fertility, but rather showed that the effect varied among indicators and depended on status of the cases at conversion. It is concluded that indicators are probably better used as tools to learn about and improve system components than as absolute measures of sustainability.