Improving quality and safety and reduction of cost in the European organic and "low input" food supply chains (QLIF)

The Integrated Project QualityLowInputFood ended in April 2009. The project aims were to improve quality, ensure safety and reduce cost along the organic and "low input" food supply chains through research, dissemination and training activities. The project focused on increasing value to both consumers and producers using a fork to farm approach. The project was initiated on March 1, 2004. It was funded by the European Union with a total budget of 18 million Euros. The research involved more than thirty-one research institutions, companies and universities throughout Europe and beyond. The main issues addressed were Quality and safety issues associated with organic and "low input" farming aiming:

    1. to understand the relative importance for different groups of consumers of different "added value" benefits of foods, as a necessary prerequisite to effectively improve the benefit/cost ratio.

    2. the ability to provide food of high sensory and nutritional quality with good shelf life, with minimal spoilage due to pathogen/pest attack, while avoiding excessive or unacceptable processing.

    3. to understand, and if relevant alleviate, actual and perceived health risks from enteric pathogens and noxious compounds (e.g. mycotoxins, heavy metals).

    4. to document, improve or disprove alleged health benefits related to differences in food composition that are determined by the type of production system.

    5. to ensure or improve impacts on the environment and animal welfare.

    6. the need to optimise production efficiency to satisfy actual and potential consumer demand.

Our main work in the project was in Subproject 3 in which strategies to improve quality and safety and reduce cost of production in organic and "low input" crop production systems were developed. We focussed on fertility management systems to improve production efficiency/reduce costs and to increase suppressiveness of soils to diseases.

Improving soil fertility by management

Soil management such as soil tillage, crop rotation, and organic amendments has an obvious impact on soil fertility as properties such as erosion stability, nutrient availability, or water-holding capacity are strongly affectted. We examined the impact of site, longterm management, and short-term fertility input strategies on soil physical, chemical and biological parameters. Long-term management with organic-matter-based inputs (e.g., farmyard manure) had a profound impact on soil fertility. In the short term, however, the input of organic matter based manures did not alter the soil biological parameters significantly, suggesting that the maintenance of high soil fertility levels needs consequent management over decades. For instance, the soils that had been managed biodynamically consistently released more N from the added amendments than the other treatments. This suggests that through adaptation of management practices, soils can be developed with an improved potential to release N from added amendments.

Suppressiveness of soils to diseases

Soil properties affect the occurrence and severity of soil-borne diseases and diseases on foliar parts of the plant. We studied the impact of site, long-term management, and short-term fertility input strategies on the suppressiveness of soils to soil-borne as well as foliar diseases under controlled conditions. We found pronounced differences between the soil types under examination. Furthermore, site-specific suppressiveness can be modulated by long-term soil management, and, to a lesser extent, by short-term fertility inputs. However, site-specific factors that cannot be influenced by agronomic practices were found to have a greater impact than cultivation-specific effects within the same site. Nevertheless, short-term, but in particular long-term management strategies have been shown to have the potential to influence suppressiveness of soils to economically important diseases. 


Participants at FÖL

  • Christian Bruns

Duration

March 2004 to April 2009

Sponsored by

EU commission under the 6th Framework program, 506358

Cooperations

  • University of New Castle, Prof. Dr. C. Leifert (coordinator)
  • in total 35 partners, for more details

Publications/final report

  • Tamm L., Thürig B., Bruns C., Fuchs J.G., Köpke U., Leifert C., Mahlberg N., Laustela M., Schmidt C. and Fließbach A. (2010). Soil type, management history, and soil amendments influence the development of soilborne (Rhizoctonia solani, Pythium ultimum) and airborne (Phytophthora infestans, Hyaloperonospora parasitica) diseases. Eur J Plant Pathol., 127: 465-481.
  • Fließbach A., Schmidt C., Bruns C., Palmer M., Nietlispach B., Leifert C., Tamm L. (2007) Soil biological quality in short- and long-term field trials with conventional and organic fertility input types. In: Niggli, U. Leifert, C., Aföldi, T., Lück, L., Willer, H. (Eds.): Proceedings of the 3rd International congress of the European Integrated Project 'Quality Low Input Food': Improving Sustainability in Organic and Low Input Food Production Systems, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, March 20-23, 2007, pp.158-162.