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Improving the Availability of Organic Forage Seed in Wales

Marshall, Athole and McCalman, Heather (2004) Improving the Availability of Organic Forage Seed in Wales. Organic Centre Wales, University of Wales, Aberystwyth and IGER, Aberystwyth.

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Summary

The EU regulation requiring organic farmers to use 100% organic herbage seed is looming closer. Currently they are ‘enjoying’ a derogation from this because suitable seed is not available. For 2004 seeds mixtures had to contain at least 50% organic seed. This breathing space before full 100% organic seed is required is giving the organic industry time to improve the availability of suitable species and varieties. Historically there was a viable herbage seed production industry in the lowland and southern areas of Wales. This area turned to livestock production during its more profitable periods, with specialist arable and herbage seed production switching largely to south east England. The agronomic potential remains in Wales but now needs to be developed to meet specific organic needs.
A recent survey of organic farmers in Wales (see Gwlad issue 26) identifiedpersistence, total annual yield and early spring growth as the most important characters in a seeds mix. Sourcing organic seed of such forage varieties is essential for the continued development of the organic sector. Following a series of farmer discussion group meetings where these concerns were highlighted a feasibility project funded by Farming Connect, is looking at the potential of producing organic forage seed in Wales.
Experimental plot work at IGER has been addressing some of the challenges in organic forage seed production. Four farmers from organic discussion groups, with a range of farm types and systems are involved in developing this work by hosting field scale demonstration plots. Field plots, designed with farmer involvement, have focused on the feasibility of different approaches to forage grass seed production (plans are in Appendix A). Initially the emphasis has been on weed control, crop nutrition and integration of forage seed production into the farming systems using seed crops of perennial ryegrass, hybrid ryegrass and timothy. Harvesting, drying and cleaning of seed have also been addressed. The first demonstration area of the hybrid ryegrass
variety AberLinnet was successfully harvested in 2003, with further areas harvested in 2004.
To involve all stakeholders, the project included Organic and Seed Certification bodies, as well as seed companies to progress organic forage seed production in Wales and to develop a better understanding of the challenges involved.
Achievements to date:
• Successful farmer participation and development of this as a route to developing organic herbage seed production agronomy and harvesting techniques.
• Inclusion of other stakeholders in meetings
• Herbage seed yields at potentially commercially viable levels on most sites
• Identification of areas for further work
• Publication of results and project progress at a range of levels from Gwlad and organic e- bulletin to scientific and farmer conferences in Wales, UK, Europe and Australia. (Details in Appendix B)
• Dissemination of results obtained at farmer group meetings in England and Wales.
• An overview factsheet is in progress
Identification of the gaps:
• Lack of farmer confidence to proceed to commercial enterprise.
• A need to address further technical issues highlighted as a result of the initial work (eg clover variety, weed control).
• Designing sound rotations that meet with certification standards (organic and seed) needs to be addressed.
• Integration of seed production into a range of arable and or livestock systems is important to the viability and practicality of organic herbage seed production.
• The expertise and confidence of the organic growers needs to be developed.
• Developing farm scale harvesting, drying, distribution and marketing with farmers, and other stakeholders.
• Lack of active organic seed processor and marketing presence in the area
The next Phase
This should be viewed in two parts; in the short term we need to ensure continuity of cropping on the farm sites and dissemination of information, building on the successes of the initial project; the longer term aims are the development of infrastructure, cooperation of interested stakeholders (eg seed companies, machinery rings, certification bodies) and scaling up to a commercially viable level from the farm.


EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:seed; forage; availability
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Production systems > Pasture and forage crops
Knowledge management > Education, extension and communication
Crop husbandry
Research affiliation: UK > Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER)
UK > Other organizations
UK > Univ. Aberystwyth > Organic Centre Wales (OCW)
Deposited By: Powell, Ms Jane
ID Code:11082
Deposited On:31 Jul 2007
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:35
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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