ÖMKi: agroecology is not a utopia
Our successful projects envisage a future model for agricultural research
There are only a few years until the EU introduces its new agricultural policy (Common Agricultural Policy), and based on the outlines of the CAP we already know that it will not be enough to think only about quantity and to produce as much good quality food as possible. The countries that win tenders for agricultural funds will be those that can produce results using the methods preferred by the European Union. In other words, by using sustainable agroecological practices relying on local and territorial approach , with the participation of farmers. We have been working on projects like these ever since we started. And we will present some of them at our sector meeting in Kecskemét on 18 March.
On-farm network, “Living interrow seed mixes”, tomato landraces and ancient grain landraces. These are some of the key phrases that help us foresee the future of agricultural research. Our on-farm network, operating with the involvement of farmers and growing since 2012, is developing agroecological solutions in a structure that complies with the concept of “living laboratories”, which will be preferred by the EU from 2023.
Thanks to this network, with participatory research and practical experimentation, we have developed multiple novel agroecological solutions for Hungarian farmers. For example, we have created a seed mixture with optimal composition to give Hungarian vineyards an effective defence against soil erosion while increasing the biodiversity of their fields. The “Living interrow” seed mix was launched in 2018. Also, in the same future-oriented structure, and working as a “living laboratory”, we have achieved results in the reintroduction of tomato landraces, and we are continuously working on reintroducing ancient grain landraces as well.
Agroecology is more than just a line of research, a technology and an attitude encompassing socio-economic issues. By now it is more of an umbrella concept that has made its way into the EU’s policies over the last few years. Essentially, agroecology covers all the solutions aimed at making food production more sustainable, as well as the activities carried out to establish them. It goes beyond harmful industrial agricultural practices that increases productivity at the cost of harm to our natural resources, and it seeks to answer the question of which natural processes of nature humanity can benefit from to achieve increased effectivity with sustainable methods.
Agroecology emerged as a separate scientific discipline in the 1930s. Its applied methods are rooted in the principles of maintaining soil productivity, recycling nutrients, dynamic management of biodiversity and maximizing energy saving during production. Today, it has integrated the methodology of “living laboratories”, a concept which is already well established in the pharmaceutical and automotive industries. This allows researchers to develop agroecological projects based on participation, together with farmers, organized in networks. They adapt new practices promoting sustainable production within this system and facilitate the locally specific use of these practices.
Agroecology and the “living laboratory” methodology is not a utopia. So much so, in fact, that some countries working on agroecological projects in “living laboratories” will form an international network from 2023 to support efficient knowledge sharing and methodological transition. This process is likely to start this year. This may be an important advantage, because in the framework of the EU’s new common agricultural policy, it is most likely that the countries that win tenders for funding will be those that apply agroecological methods effectively and prefer ecological production.
We are leading an thematic working group within the Bioeast initiative bringing together 11 countries of the Eastern and Central European region in order to allow Hungary and its neighbours to be well prepared for the agroecological transition. In this initiative, ÖMKi is responsible for collecting the agricultural research priorities of the countries in the region in order to promote research projects that form the basis of the agroecological transition. The participants of the open agroecological section of the sector meeting in Kecskemét on 18th March can join the work and give their recommendations, which will help determine the future of Hungarian agriculture as well.