FiBL Newsletter March 2017

1 Animal welfare and global food supply: Discover the new FiBL activity report!

One of FiBL’s particular strengths is sharing its knowledge – in Switzerland, in other European countries and especially in emerging and developing countries. Several pages of FiBL`s activity report 2016 are covering the activities on knowledge transfer and international cooperation as well as animal welfare and the global food supply. There is also a feature article dedicated to FiBL’s interdisciplinary research on peas, soybeans, lupines and Co. – after all, 2016 was named the International Year of Pulses by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).


2 Research

2.1 Cacao agroforestry systems increase farmers’ income

A long-term study in Bolivia comparing different cacao production systems shows that in addition to enhancing biodiversity as well as farmers’ food security and nutrition, agroforestry systems and organic management may also be more profitable than full-sun monocultures and conventional management in young cacao plantations. The study was carried out by FiBL in cooperation with partners in Bolivia.


2.2 Organic farming in sub-Saharan Africa is productive, economically viable and resource-conserving

A long-term study in Kenya shows that maize yields and nutrient uptake in the organic farming systems are quite similar to conventional systems. Due to premium prices, organic systems are more profitable for farmers than conventional ones. The study was carried out by FiBL in close cooperation with partners in Kenya.


2.3 Organic Chinese medicinal plants for Europe

A new cooperation platform aims at promoting organic cultivation of Chinese medicinal herbs in China, ensuring the quality of Chinese medicinal materials and facilitating their entrance into the European market. In February FiBL Switzerland signed the bilateral cooperation agreement with Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants (GBGMP) China.


2.4 First sociological study of the emerging organic sector in the post-socialist country of Bulgaria

A book summarises the main findings of a Swiss-Bulgarian research project, coordinated by FiBL. Applying the methods developed in earlier projects on Central and Eastern European organic agriculture, the socio-economic department of FiBL collaborated with their partners at Sofia University to analyse the institutional development and the policy networks of the Bulgarian organic sector.


2.5 Another record year for organic agriculture worldwide: 50.9 million hectares of organic agricultural land

The positive trend seen in the past years continues: Consumer demand is increasing, reflected in the significant market growth of 11 percent in the United States, the world’s largest organic market. More farmers cultivate organically, more land is certified organic, and 179 countries report organic farming activities, as shown in the 2017 edition of the study “The World of Organic Agriculture” (data per end of 2015) published by FiBL and IFOAM – Organics International.


2.6 Organic in Europe: Organic market grows by double digits and organic area reaches 12.7 million hectares in 2015

The organic market in Europe continues to grow. In 2015, it increased by 13 percent and nearly reached 30 billion euros (European Union: 27.1 billion euros). Almost all the major markets enjoyed double-digit growth rates. At BIOFACH, the world’s leading trade fair for organic food, FiBL and the Agricultural Market Information Company AMI presented the 2015 data of the European organic sector.


2.7 Report from Science Day 2017 at BIOFACH

On February 17, 2017, the fifth Science Day took place at BIOFACH in Nuremberg, Germany. It was a joint event of TIPI, the Technology Innovation Platform of IFOAM and TP Organics, the European Technology Platform for Organic Food and Farming.


3 Other News

3.1 Ukraine receives considerable attention at BIOFACH 2017

Seventeen Ukrainian companies participated as exhibitors at BIOFACH 2017, the biggest trade fair for organic products worldwide, with more than 2,500 exhibitors from almost 90 countries. The companies offered a wide range of organic products, including cereals, oil crops, pulses, sunflower seeds and oil, essential oils, groats and flakes, wild and cultivated berries and berry paste as well as certification services. FiBL has supported the Ukrainian organic sector since 2004.


3.2 SFIAR Award 2016

The Swiss Forum for International Agricultural Research (SFIAR) presented its award 2016 on 15 December. The “SFIAR PhD/Post-Doc Award” went to Gina Garland (ETH Zurich) for her PhD research on maize-pigeon pea intercropping in Malawi. The award for the best Master Thesis went to Fritzi Hartung-Hofmann for her case study in Nepal on land use changes in the context of agricultural abandonment. SFIAR president is Beate Huber, the head of the Department of International Cooperation at FiBL.


4 Publications and videos

4.1 New basic guide: Shaping the relationship to the soil

The Organic Research Centre ORC and FiBL produced a basic guide that offers a view on soil fertility from different angles. It deliberately avoids offering universal “instructions”, but rather seeks to provide information to stimulate new thinking about a sustainable relationship to the soil.


4.2 New technical guide: Successful control of creeping thistle in organic farming

Creeping thistle has become an increasing problem especially for organic arable farms with soils of higher organic matter content. Wherever it grows, it competes with the crops for water and nutrients. The Organic Research Centre ORC and FiBL produced a technical guide that provides step-by-step recommendations to farmers for prevention and direct control of thistles in crops and fallows.


4.3 New technical note: Decomposition study using tea bags

This new technical note explains how to compare the decomposition of green tea as a fast-decomposing material with rooibos as a material, which is difficult to break down. This method provides information on the capability of the soil as a living organism to transform organic residues back into plant-available nutrients and make some contribution to the build-up of soil humus. The technical note was produced by FiBL in the FertilCrop project.


4.4 New FiBL videos

4.4.1 Video: Parasite control for organic ruminants

Gastrointestinal parasitism is a major challenge to the health and welfare of organic livestock. Although considerable research has taken place on alternative parasite control, farmers are still hesitating to implement novel approaches. In this video, Spiridoula Athanasiadou explains how PrOPara – a research project with FiBL-participation – wants to change this.


4.4.2 Video: Stubble cultivation to control root-weed in organic agriculture

In organic agriculture, minimal tillage is more challenging than conventional farming using herbicides. There is an increased risk of volunteer crops, problems with grasses and root weeds. This film was realised by FiBL in the framework of the projects OK-Net Arable as well as Boden- und klimaschonender Bioackerbau BKBA.


4.4.3 Video tutorial: Phosphorus recycling for organic agriculture

The CORE Organic II project Improve-P recently ended. Else Bünemann (FiBL), Astrid Oberson and Kurt Möller from the Improve-P team summarized the project outcomes in a 30-minute video tutorial with the following eight chapters: Introduction, inventory of available technologies, P availability, risk assessment, life cycle assessment, regulations, stakeholder survey and conclusions.


4.4.4 Video: The Science behind the Organic Movement

The keynote speech at the Organic Science Conference in Canada was held by Urs Niggli, director of FiBL in Switzerland and president of TIPI – the Technology Innovation Platform of IFOAM – Organics International. The video-recorded speech is available on YouTube and covers a wide range of aspects of organic farming research, including its current status and importance for the development of the organic sector, the challenge of the yield gap, and the innovation potential of organic farming research.


5 Events

FiBL events in further languages can be viewed at


6 FiBL on Facebook, Twitter & Co.

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> New FiBL publications in the OrganicEprints archive: and FiBL homepage:, below the news.

Yours sincerely,
Helga Willer and Andreas Basler
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
Ackerstrasse 113 / Postfach 219
CH-5070 Frick
Phone +41 62 865-7272
Fax +41 62 865-7273