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Exchanging knowledge to improve organic arable farming: an evaluation of knowledge exchange tools with farmer groups across Europe

Abstract

Organic farming is knowledge intensive. To support farmers in improving yields and organic agriculture systems, there is a need to improve how knowledge is shared. There is an established culture of sharing ideas, successes and failures in farming. The internet and information technologies open-up new opportunities for knowledge exchange involving farmers, researchers, advisors and other practitioners. The OK-Net Arable brought together practitioners from regional Farmer Innovation Groups across Europe in a multi-actor project to explore how online knowledge exchange could be improved. Feedback from the groups was obtained for 35 ‘tools’, defined as end-user materials, such as technical guides, videos and websites informing about practices in organic agriculture. The groups also selected one practice to test on farms, sharing their experiences with others through workshops, exchange visits and through videos. Farmers valued the same key elements in face-to-face exchanges (workshops and visits) as in online materials. These were the opportunity for visual observation, deeper understanding of the context in which a practice was being tried and details about what worked and what did not work. Videos, decision support tools and social media can provide useful mechanisms for taking knowledge exchange online, enabling farmers and researchers to share experiences and practical implications. Visual information, economics, details of the context, successes and failures were considered to be critical factors in good knowledge exchange tools. Online platforms and forums should not be expected to replace but rather to complement face to face knowledge exchange in improving organic farming.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    https://ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/sites/agri-eip/files/eip-agri_brochure_multi-actor_projects_2017_en_web.pdf

  2. 2.

    Three tools were evaluated in discussions, but no scores were provided, which explains the difference between the total numbers evaluated and the scores.

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Acknowledgements

The work presented here was carried out as part of the OK-Net Arable project. This communication only reflects the authors’ views. The Research Executive Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

We would also like to acknowledge the input from all Farmer Innovation Group Members and Coordinators, from the Project Partners at FIBL, ICROFS and AIAB and from our Co-ordinator Bram Moeskops at IFOAM EU and his team and the helpful comments of two anonymous reviewers.

Funding

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 652654.

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Correspondence to Susanne Padel.

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Bliss, K., Padel, S., Cullen, B. et al. Exchanging knowledge to improve organic arable farming: an evaluation of knowledge exchange tools with farmer groups across Europe. Org. Agr. 9, 383–398 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13165-018-0238-6

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Keywords

  • Knowledge exchange
  • Internet
  • Peer-to-peer
  • Video
  • Technical guide
  • Organic arable farming