Pathways to Better Crops - whatever the weather:
Almost 50 delegates listened to OGA Chairman Alan Schofield and The University of Sheffield's Professor Jonathan Leake giving their thoughts about the future of food production, and then debated the top priorities for low-input organic horticulture research at our meeting in Sheffield on 6th March 2013.
Watch highlights of the event here
Read a summary of the meeting and it's conclusions here
OGA research topics:
The Organic Growers Alliance consists of many commercial organic growers who have a variety of research objectives.
We engage with universities, colleges and research institutes on projects of all sizes. Our members grow a very wide range of crops and have holdings across the UK on every soil type. If you have a research project that would benefit from such a facility, or if you want to collect diverse samples, contact us and we may be able to help if your project addresses one or more of the issues that we wish to research.
If you are a student of organic farming, horticulture, biological sciences, environmental sciences, ecology, geography, marketing or any other discipline, why not consider linking with us for a project or thesis? This could be a desk study or we may be able to match you up with farms to act as case studies or for field work. In return we may put the reports on our website and they could be summarised for publication in our journal, The Organic Grower – all great for the CV! We offer a prize for the best student project each year.
Here are some examples of the range of research topics currently being discussed by OGA members. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will give you an idea of the sort of projects that are of value to us.
See also the OGA Organic Research Needs Survey 2012, highlighting pest, weed and disease issues here
Plant raising, propogation and breeding
- Breeding new, robust varieties suitable for organic growing in our unpredicatable climate
- Understanding and implementing ideal germination temperature and humidity for vegetable seeds
- Developing reliable peat-free growing media
- Practical ways of growing bush tomatoes
Control of diseases
- Downy mildew control and management
- Onion white rot control and management
Control of pests and management of natural enemies & beneficial insects
- Flea beetle control
- Leek moth control
- Carrot fly control
- Cabbage root fly control
- How can we manage beneficial insects in tunnels?
- Ways of encouraging pollinators.
- Understanding links between soil health and pest/disease resistance.
- Anything to get rid of couch grass (especially in min-till/ploughless systems)
- Understanding the value of weeds in crops
Soil and crop management
- Undersowing - practicality, and comparison of crop yields with & without undersown plants
- Intercropping - does it stack up?
- No-dig / min-till techniques to optimise nutrient retention in soils and maintain soil fauna
- What is the impact of green manures on the yield and quality of follow-on crops?
- Understanding ventillation - when do we need to do it? How much difference does it make?
- Optimisation of tunnel design
Economic and social
- Research on the best crops to grow for shops/restaurants/markets - what do people actually want to buy/eat?
- What do most people think 'local' and 'seasonal' mean? Is it only within a mile radius & grown in the fields "au naturel", and is 75 miles away grown under cover cheating?
- What's the maximum return you can acheive on a 10m2 plot in spring, summer, autumn & winter, keeping an organic rotation?
- How do keen, landless, growers get started, given the price of land?
- Growing alternative protein crops for human and/or livestock e.g. sweet lupins.