Overview of Project Progress
The project began in August 2002 with a fairly open remit to consult organic stakeholders and address organic weed management issues. Organic farmers were invited to participate in the project initially through a mail shot inviting them to attend an open discussion day at HDRA in December 2002.There was a huge response to the invitation, and a database of some 200 interested farmers was formed. At the stakeholder day over 70 farmers, researchers and advisors identified, discussed and prioritised weed management issues across all organic farming systems. Minutes from these meetings are available here.
Farmers were asked how they would like to participate in the project, some were prepared to provide information, others trial sites and others to form the focus groups. The workshops and on-going consultations highlighted three priority areas that could be taken forward by the project. Focus groups were formed for each of these topics which included groups for a) docks and other perennial weeds, b) system studies and c) knowledge collation and dissemination.
To address these topics the project is currently taking various approaches. The work being undertaken under each approach is briefly reviewed below:
- learning from and gathering of knowledge relating to weed management from organic farmers has been undertaken by a case studies of organic weed management on a range of organic farms (currently 52) and by organising open days and field walks (3-4 per year). Knowledge gathering and learning is also an integral part of the various meetings and workshops organised under the project banner (3-5 per year).
- a comprehensive review of the scientific literature and other sources of information has been undertaken and has been made available through this website on the weed information and weed management pages. Much of this knowledge is also being tempered with farmer experience and all pages on the website provide an opportunity to comment on the information available using the add comments buttons.
- identifying (and prioritising) the main problems related to weeds in organic farming systems has been developed through focus group meetings held once or twice per year)
- monitoring and trialing weed management strategies or technologies on-farm has involved developing methods for helping farmers evaluate weed management strategies on their farms. A range of trials and surveys (currently 11) have been offered on various topics. This work is intended to help farmers and growers develop their own experimental work that they would normally do while adapting research knowledge to their farm conditions and to provide practical feedback to researchers.
- promoting the sharing of knowledge through the organic (farming) community has been undertaken by organising practical open days focussing on weed management, through website development and, increasingly through development of leaflets that aim to capture and combine research knowledge and farmer experience.
The methodology and processes of this participatory project are being monitored and documented from within the research team. At the initial stakeholder meeting farmer opinion on transfer of research results was canvassed by means of a series of questions. This will be used as a baseline and opinions reassessed towards the end of the project. Researchers in the team are collaborating with DEFRA project ‘Developing a participatory approach to seed production and varietal selection’ (OF0330) to evaluate the participatory approach to organic farming research. All researchers from both projects undertook a joint training day in September 2002 in participatory techniques and farmer field school approaches.
Presentation of the project objectives and methodology was made to farmers
attending the Stakeholder day 3rd December 2002. Further presentations
were made to the Focus group meetings in February, March and November 2003.
The project was presented to the UK Weed Liaison Group 15th January 2003 a meeting of all British researchers involved in weed control.
A presentation was made to the Mercia Organic Producers group 20th January 2003 and farmers recruited for the project.
The project was presented at the HRI Kirton Organic Day 17th July 2003.
A presentation was made to the Duchy College Organic Crop Production event 22nd July 2003 and forms distributed for farmers to register their interest in the project.
The project formed part of a poster display at Soil Association Organic Food
and Farming Conference, 3-5th January 2003 and 9-11 January 2004.
The project was promoted and discussed with a stand at ADAS/Syngenta Vegetable day 29th January 2003.
At the RASE Royal Show 29th June-2 July 2003 a joint IOR-HDRA/EFRC stand promoted the two DEFRA funded participatory projects. Organic farmers were encouraged (by means of a free prize draw) to provide information on their views of organic research and how they would like to interact with/receive scientific research findings.
News pieces have appeared in:
Turner B (2003). Farmers set agenda. News, Organic Farming, Summer 2003,
Issue 78 p6.
Turner B (2003). Organic Weed Management. Commercial and Professional Members News, Issue 8 August 2003, p4.
Articles about the project were published in:
Turner B (2003). Organic Weed Management. The Vegetable Handbook 2003, p33-35.
This website has been developed.Major development of this site will continue in the coming year.