Research Institute of Organic Agriculture
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Hungary's Research Institute of Organic Agriculture has a key role to play in future agriculture development

Furthering our research and advisory role, we will continue to disseminate best practice for Hungarian agro-ecology into 2021. Plans have been given a major boost by the induction of our On-farm research network into the European Network of Live Laboratories (ENoLL) last year.

The On-farm network, which currently works with more than a hundred partners in twelve research areas, covers topics where sustainability and competitiveness go hand in hand, thus creating future-proof farming systems. In addition to the continued spread of certified organic areas where agro-ecological methods are used, we also expect to see growth in domestic organic food processing in 2021, alongside an expansion of the local organic market.

In our constantly evolving project known as the On-farm research network, which involves more than one hundred producer partners, attempts are being made to develop organic farming and disseminate best practices in sustainable agriculture in a total of twelve agricultural and animal husbandry areas. As a member of the European Network of Living Laboratories (ENoLL), last year the On-farm network officially received Living Lab recognition. In 2021, we will continue research, using the tried and tested practical approach, operating in line with the goals of farmers, in areas such as the implementation of soil-regenerating, humus-preserving cultivation systems, the development of smarter animal husbandry methods using digital sensors, and the development of sustainable, organic potting soil, produced from domestic organic materials.

As a member of the European Network of Living Laboratories (ENoLL), last year the On-farm network officially received Living Lab recognition. Source: enoll.org

In the coming years, the European Union's Framework Program for Research and Development, Horizon Europe, will assign an increasingly important role to participatory research and innovation, in which not only producers and researchers but also agricultural advisory networks will be key players in sharing experience and helping to make domestic agricultural practices more sustainable. Last year, we expanded our number of active consultants to eight and – thanks to the consultancy tender supported by the Rural Development Programme – expanded our advisory activities considerably. Thus, in 2021, there are professionals in most regions of the country who can provide professional assistance to farmers operating in or converting to organic farming.

International role, Hungarian advocacy
In 2020, ÖMKi's international influence and role was significantly strengthened when our organisation's director, Dr. Dóra Drexler, was elected vice-president of the European umbrella organization for organic farming movements, IFOAM Organics Europe, which has more than two hundred member organizations. Thanks to this development, it has become possible for us to pay special attention to advocating for the interests of Hungary in particular, and the Central and Eastern European region in general. Thanks to the vice-presidency, in 2021, we will be in a strong position to build bridges between the Central and Eastern European countries, embarking on the path to a greener future, and Western European EU member states, where the green movement is traditionally stronger and more entrenched, thus strengthening Hungary both in terms of sustainability and competitiveness.

In 2020, Dr. Dóra Drexler, was elected vice-president of the European umbrella organization for organic farming movements, IFOAM Organics Europe. 

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have already started preparing for the development and implementation of agro-ecological methods, which are becoming more and more important in the new EU Common Agricultural Policy. In the BIOEAST initiative, which unites eleven CEE countries, we will continue to perform key coordination tasks in 2021, in cooperation with the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture, to develop and implement the regional agro-ecological strategy.

"By looking at international trends and examining local good practices, we are working to create a future-proof agriculture in which sustainability and competitiveness go hand in hand," said Dr. Dóra Drexler, Director of the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture. “The size of organic areas in Hungary has doubled in the last five years, but perhaps even more telling is the fact that the market for produced organic food has expanded by 30% in Europe during the same period. All this shows the growing economic importance of the sector, in addition to the known environmental and health benefits. Therefore, the goal in Hungary is not only to increase the area of land certified as organic, but also to dynamically expand the production of organic food, and the commercial presence of domestic organic products.”

Landrace tomato seedlings among the Highlights of Hungary
Organic production provides an ever-increasing range of excellent Hungarian ingredients for domestic gastronomy, as well as consumers and households. The landrace tomato varieties of which we have been offering seedlings to the general public for the past two years have been proven by time to be both delicious and healthy. In addition to the Máriapócs cocktail tomato, the Cegléd Yellow and the Tolna Straggler were added in 2020, and this spring the customers can get to know a pale purple, egg-shaped tomato with a special taste, which originates in the town of Fadd. It is a testament to the popularity and recognition of organic seedlings that the recently published list of candidates for Highlights of Hungary includes landrace varieties recommended by chef Richárd Farkas. The seedlings flew off the shelves almost immediately last spring, making it clear that the general public has a strong interest, so this year customers will be offered double the amount supplied last year.

The landrace tomato varieties of which the research institute has been offering seedlings to the general public for the past two years have been proven by time to be both delicious and healthy.


Bread grain renaissance – research into organic grains is taken to a new level
With the launch of the national small-plot organic wheat variety testing network, we also took a big step last year in the promotion of sustainable arable cropping, as it will be able to present results to producers committed to organic farming in seven regions of the country for successful variety selection. The small-plot organic variety testing sites are an excellent complement to the on-farm wheat variety tests carried out in cooperation with farming partners since 2012, where the performance of wheat varieties in organic farming is tested on large farm plots according to the ‘living laboratory’ methodology. Experts in this field also hope that some farms will convert to organic grain production based on the results of the research.

In addition to bread wheat trials, the dissemination of neglected landrace cultivars of ancient cereals will continue this year, in cooperation with farmers, millers and bakers, to examine landrace einkorn and emmer varieties, to test and market new ancient grain flours, and to further develop the ÖMKi farmer-miller-baker database. This last project will allow producers and other actors in the product chain to find each other more easily, so that healthy, residue-free organic flour can reach as many bakeries and households as possible.

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