Great Success for the Organic Track at the N Workshop Conference

The N Workshop conference, which brings together some of the world's leading researchers in the field of nitrogen, was held at Aarhus University from June 17 to June 21. For the first time in the history of the conference, the program included an organic track.

Judging by the attendance, the organic track at the N Workshop conference was a very popular new initiative.

A packed auditorium was presented with results and insights based on the overarching questions: How do we tackle the challenge of nitrogen supply in organic farming? What are the possibilities, and where are the barriers?

Christine Watson, Professor of Agricultural Systems at SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), delivered the keynote speech and emphasized that for organic farming to grow and develop, it is crucial to solve the issues related to the nitrogen supply. The nitrogen must come from sustainable sources, which means we need to consider alternative sources, such as urban waste.

We also need to further develop crop rotation plans, including, for example, the use of clover plants for nitrogen fixation, and we must ensure that nitrogen sold as part of crop and livestock products is replaced in a way that still achieves good yields and delivers high-quality products. Christine Watson stressed that unless we are able to maintain good yields and high quality, organic farming will simply not be an economic option for farmers.

Following the keynote speech, there were three 10-minute presentations:

Hanne Lakkenborg Kristensen, Section Leader at the Department of Food Science, AU FOOD, presented the results from the report ”Recycling and sources of nitrogen to double the organic farmland of Denmark – a knowledge synthesis”. The authors of the report had been asked by the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries to answer the question, "Is it possible to secure sufficient nitrogen to double the organic area from the current 300,000 hectares to 600,000 hectares (from 12 to 24 percent of Denmark's agricultural area)? The answer was: Yes, it is possible!

Jochen Mayer, Senior Researcher at Agroscope, Switzerland, presented the results of a research project that has, over 35 years, compared the efficiency of nitrogen utilization in organic and conventional farming.

Mette Goul Thomsen, Researcher at NIBIO (Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy), presented research results addressing the question, "Can mulch and cover crops provide better nutrient status in vegetables?" and concluded that green plant material cover delivers a high amount of nitrogen, but further work is needed to increase nitrogen recovery from mulch.

A lively round table moderated by Jakob Sehested, Centre Director at ICROFS, concluded this first organic track at the N Workshop conference, which was led by Hanne Lakkenborg Kristensen together with Stefaan De Neve, Professor at Ghent University.