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A review of UK research and development for organic food and farming

Anon, (2003) A review of UK research and development for organic food and farming. Elm Farm Research Centre .

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Online at: http://www2.defra.gov.uk/research/project_data/More.asp?I=OF0338


The objective of the project is to draw together information on current levels of funding for organic research throughout all UK public sector, private and charitable sources. A list of 268 potential organic food and farming research funders and contractors throughout the UK was drawn together and questionnaires were mailed to them in the week of 24th February 2003. With regular follow up of all recipients to achieve the best return rate possible a response rate of 41% was achieved.
We asked for details on all projects that were ongoing in the period between Jan 2000 and March 2003. The survey identified 168 individual projects. The total cost of this research was £23,578,902 of which nearly £20M was solely from the public purse with 72 per cent of this funding provided by DEFRA. However, nearly £3M was funded by sources other than the public purse including a range of charities and companies. There was also £0.75M of joint funding by public and non-public sources.
Of the 168 projects 151 were purely organic with a further 17 of relevance to organic systems. The majority of the research undertaken was field or bench research followed by desk studies.
The overwhelming majority of the research undertaken had been covering aspects of production. Whole farm systems, soils & nutrient cycling, cropping and livestock systems accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the total funding.
There were also a surprisingly small number of projects investigating the environment (8 projects) and funding only accounted for about 8 per cent of the total spend, although environmental considerations would be investigated in other topic areas such as soils & nutrient cycling. The amount of research undertaken on off-farm activities in the organic food production chain was limited. Only a small amount of research had been directed at processing, marketing or food quality. These three areas accounted for only 12 projects and 7 per cent of the total funding.
Understanding the other (non-environmental) benefits or disbenefits of organic farming have also been studied to a lesser extent. Only six Economics and rural development projects have been undertaken and account for only 4 per cent of the total funding.
It is recommended that DEFRA and the Organic Action Plan Group:
• Establish an Organic Research Priorities Board (ORPD) to work with all stakeholders including funders to ensure identification and a co-ordinated implementation of the research and technology transfer necessary to help achieve the objectives of the Action Plan.
It would then be appropriate for DEFRA , the Organic Action Plan Group and/or the ORPD to intiate;
• A consultation on organic R&D priorities, particularly focussing on the needs of the businesses that may be willing to participate in LINK or other joint funded projects.
• Further assessment of the benefit arising from the projects identified.
• Analysis of the intensity of research and the value to the end user (government, farmers, processors etc.) from the point of view of the priority research areas (crops, livestock etc) and the different types of research and development (desk, field, extension etc.). This should aim to define the most beneficial approach to organic research and development.
• Analysis of the quality and extent of the dissemination of the research results from the projects.
• An investigation into the possible conflict between organic research funding and the objectives and approaches of LINK programmes need to be addressed and if a real barrier is identified a solution must be found.
However, it is believed that it is important that research continues directed towards improving production methods and efficiency (financially, socially and environmentally) in those enterprises where the technical challenges are greatest or where the proportion of UK sourced farm products is relatively low.

EPrint Type:Report
Type of Facility:Other
Keywords:research, funding, policy, action plan,
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Knowledge management > Research methodology and philosophy > Research communication and quality
Research affiliation: UK > Organic Research Centre (ORC) - Elm Farm
UK > Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Deposited By: Defra, R&D Organic Programme
ID Code:6666
Deposited On:27 Mar 2006
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:32
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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