Organic and low-input farming are a cornerstone of fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food systems, as recognised by the European Commission in the EU Farm to Fork Strategy1. Organic systems tend to involve smaller farms than conventional operations, to be more diversified and multifunctional and to be managed with more sustainable practices, responding to the needs and preferences of consumers on local markets. Often, a greater variety of crops is grown over smaller areas. This further complicates the requirements for organic post-registration cultivar trials, as greater diversity of both species and cultivars should be tested. Expanding the current infrastructure and logistics for organic post-registration trials would require large investments which are not justified by the current size of the organic market, even under EU policy support. Besides, on-station trials would be unlikely to provide realistic cultivar information for the varied range of environmental conditions experienced on organic, low input farms. However, more organic seed will have to be produced in the near future, calling for the registration of new varieties, as the derogations currently allowing organic farmers to use non-treated conventional seed (when no organic seed is available) will be completely phased out by 2036. Cost-effective, innovative and decentralized models for cultivar evaluation under organic conditions are thus urgently needed. The LIVESEED project offered the opportunity to co-design effective and innovative cultivar evaluation models, applicable even to those European countries with limited or no infrastructure in place. Such models are based on: 1. on-farm decentralised evaluation, by which a diversity of crops can be tested in a range of real-life conditions; 2. participatory approaches that make the most of farmers’ knowledge of their environmental and value-chain needs and characteristics. The models recognise that farming encompasses both social and technical dimensions, they therefore include a variety of stakeholders in multi-actor networks, applying frugal innovation principles to address the issue of limited resources.
Abco de Buck (LBI) & Frédéric Rey (ITAB), Pierre Rivière (ITAB) & Matteo Petitti (RSR),Mariateresa Lazzaro (FiBL-CH), Judit Fehér (ÖMKI)