ICOAS 2013 was a huge success. Beginning with the Organic Policy Summit 2013 held in Budapest at Hungary’s Parliament, then moving to Eger for two days of presentations and forums by scientists and researchers from 4 continents, and ending with a tour including on-farm research sites in Tokaj, the four days of ICOAS 2013 proved that the science of organic agriculture is a critical component for Central Eastern Europe and beyond.
After serving as host for the Organic Policy Summit in Budapest, the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) with assistance from the Czech Technology Platform for Organic Agriculture (CTPOA) produced the bi-annual ICOAS under the theme of Targeting Global Sustainability – Food Security, Biodiversity and Climate Change. The ICOAS 2013 venue, Hotel Eger & Park in Eger, Hungary, provided room for three parallel tracts in addition to the plenary sessions and symposium on Biodiversity Assessment on Agricultural Farms. The conference was attended by about 120 participants.
Tracts “A” of the conference consisted of sessions on Perceptions of Organic Farmers, Novel Technologies in Organic Agriculture, and On-Farm Research, Binding Practice and Scientific Inquiry. Tract “B” hosted presentations in Organic Animal Husbandry, Organic Plant Breeding and Propagation, Sustainable Food Supply Chains, and Farmer Education. “C” tract centered on topics of Practice Oriented Research, Avoiding Hazards, Organic Quality Control and Food Safety, and Sustainability Assessment for Improving Agricultural Practice. Question and answer periods allowed those attending to engage with speakers around their topics of expertise.
In the opening Plenary Session, Prof. Urs Niggli of the Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), spoke about a new vision for organic agriculture. While FiBL has been championing organic research for 40 years, public opinion and market forces have yet to align to bring organic production into the mainstream. Prof. Niggli called for embracing the new paradigm of diversity that exists within organic agriculture production. He also urged taking up the tools of technology and leading innovation in organic agriculture by rethinking the processes we use based on all the knowledge and instruments available.
Prof. András Székács, Director of the Central Environmental and Food Research Institute in Hungary provided the key note for day two at ICOAS. The theme of his presentation, External Risks, Practical Implications and Pitfalls of Ecological Agriculture Practices and their Relation to Food Safety allowed Prof. Székács to show results of extensive water and soil testing projects in Hungary, in which he was involved in for a number of years. Prof. Székács questioned the continued allowance of synthetic pesticide use based on appearance of significant residuals in water and soil samples over the years. While organic agriculture substantially reduces the risks of both on and off site contamination, prior contamination may be an emerging issue for conversion from conventional to organic practices.
Not only was ICOAS 2013 packed with diverse scientific issues relevant to organic agriculture such as the effectiveness of fluorescent Pseudomonad against bacterial wilt (Ralstonia Solanacearum) in tomatoes in Indonesia, organic control measures for Varroa mites in Hungarian beekeeping, or authentication strategies for organic crops in the Czech Republic, but an additional 34 posters were presented. Poster presentations explained research on resistance of wheat varieties to Yellow Leaf Spot (pyrenophora tritici-repentis) in Russia, improved herbicide efficacy in organic vegetable production in Canada, and effect of essential oils on mycopathogen Agaricus bisporus in Hungary to name a few. Poster presentations carried on the conference themes of both the hard and social sciences as well to include research on educational programs, consumer behaviour, and public responses to climatic events within the realm of organic agriculture.
Not to be forgotten, the social programs of ICOAS 2013 were exceptionally well received. Both the Wednesday night welcome get together and Friday night gala dinner featured award winning wine from Gajdos organic vineyard. Manager Tamás Adorján presided wine tasting of his Eger varieties ranging from a light sparkling and dry white to dark red cuvee and bulls blood wines. Interested participants were treated to wine tasting and dinner on Thursday night as well at the Thummerer winery cellars in Noszvaj, 12 km from Eger.
For the final day of ICOAS, the optional program combined examination of practical on-farm research with cellar visits, a brief overview of the UNESCO World Heritage Tokaj landscape, and tasting of the world famous Tokaj varieties of wines. The organic and biodynamic certified vineyard of Pendits Winery in Abaújszántó was visited first where Ádám Donkó, researcher at ÖMKi, explained the multi-species cover crop trials now in their second year. Vintner Márta Wille-Baumkauff spoke about the challenges of becoming the first biodynamic certified winery in Hungary. A light lunch was paired with samples from her cellars before moving on to Tokaj-Oremus in Tolcsva. A quick cellar visit and tasting of vintages at Tokaj-Oremus was followed by another tour of on-farm trials of species rich cover crops. Although Tokaj-Oremus is not producing organic wines, their parent company is evaluating organic methods for possible conversion in the future. Weed, fertility, and water management is part of their evaluation so they were eager to add their trial area the cover crop research.
All participants at ICOAS received a printed version of the peer-reviewed book of abstracts, which is available for download here. Invitation of authors to submit full-papers will commence in due course, with the aim of peer reviewed special volume publishing. The next ICOAS will take place in 2015; venue will be another country of Central East Europe.