564 research outputs found

    Determining the effect of organic and low-input production methods on food quality and safety. QLIF subproject 2: Effects of production methods

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    The objectives of QLIF subproject 2 were to: (i) identify the effect of production systems (organic, low-input and conventional) on food quality and safety parameters; (ii) identify agronomic parameters responsible for differences in food quality and safety; (iii) carry out a pilot study into the effect of consumption of organic crops on hormonal balances and immune status in a model experimental animal system. The results showed that organic food production methods resulted in: (a) higher levels of nutritionally desirable compounds (e.g., vitamins/antioxidants and poly-unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and CLA); (b) lower levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds such as heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticide residues and glyco-alkaloids in a range of crops and/or milk; (c) a lower risk of faecal Salmonella shedding in pigs. These nutritional benefits were linked to specific agronomic practices that are prescribed by organic farming standards. Pilot studies showed that these composition differences may translate into measurable health benefits in a model experimental system with rats. Further elaboration on the complex interaction between production methods and health benefits will have to be addressed in future studies

    Blight-MOP: Development of a systems approach for the management of late blight (caused by Phytophthora infestans) in EU organic potato production

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    Blight-MOP Late blight (caused by Phytophthora infestans) is the most devastating fungal disease affecting organic (and conventional) potato production in the EU. It kills the foliage and usually results in losses of yield which can be very large when infection is severe and occurs early in the season. The disease may be transmitted to the tubers which become unmarketable and these can lead to complete deterioration of the stored crop if put into storage with healthy tubers. To a great extent, conventional production systems rely upon frequent applications of synthetic fungicides with different modes of action for late blight control, but this is seldom completely successful. However, in organic systems, the availability of chemical fungicides is currently restricted to those which are ‘considered to be traditional organic farming practices’: these include copper hydroxide, copper oxychloride (tribasic), copper sulphate and cuprous oxide that have a protectant action and are reasonably effective. Their use is restricted by national legislation and organic certifying authorities and pressure has been mounting to withdraw them not only because of possible adverse effects on wildlife, the environment and human health but also their incompatibility with organic production principles. This led to a proposed ban on the use of copper fungicides for control of late blight in organic farming in the EU from March 2002 which had potentially serious implications for the potato crop. The resultant losses of yield and hence income in the absence of copper-based fungicide sprays were expected to threaten the economic viability of both organic potato enterprises and/or whole organic farming businesses in many areas of the EU in the medium to long term until effective, alternative methods are developed. In the meantime, two major approaches were adopted. One was to set a limit to the amount of copperbased fungicides permitted for application: until 31 December 2005, the maximum application was restricted to 8kg of elemental copper/ha/year for annual crops, declining to 6kg/ha/year from 1 January 2006 (but this could be changed at any time in the light of developments in viable alternatives or should there be proposals for withdrawal under the EC Review programme for existing active substances). Another was to promote further research to identify and develop effective alternative late blight control methods and strategies without the undesirable effects associated with copper-based fungicides. The Blight-MOP project – ‘Development of a systems approach for late Blight (caused by Phytophthora infestans) Management in EU Organic Production systems’ was initiated in March 2001 to achieve this aim and maintain yield and quality and hence commercial viability of organic potato crops without the use of copper fungicides. Such an approach involves integrated use of (i) resistant varieties (ii) existing agronomic strategies (iii) alternative treatments that can replace synthetic and copper-based fungicides (iv) use of existing blight forecasting systems to optimise control treatments and to maximise synergistic interactions between (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv). The specific objectives were to: 1. Assess the socio-economic impact of late blight and ‘state-of-the-art’ blight management practices in EU organic potato production systems 2. Assess varietal performance in organic production systems in different EU regions and interactions with local blight populations 3. Develop within field diversification strategies to prevent/delay blight epidemics 4. Optimise agronomic strategies for the management of late blight 5. Develop alternative control treatments to copper-based fungicides that comply with organic farming standards 6. Evaluate novel application and formulation strategies for copper- free/alternative and copper-based late blight treatments 7. Integrate optimised resistance management, diversification, agronomic and alternative control treatment strategies into existing organic potato management systems. To pursue these objectives, experiments were conducted over 4 seasons from 2001 to 2004 under organic cropping system conditions in seven countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and United Kingdom) spanning a wide range of aerial, soil, production and marketing environments. The rate and severity of the late blight epidemics in 2001, 2002 and 2004 gave a rigorous test of the different components of the integrated management system which gave broadly similar effects in the three years. In 2003, the very hot, dry summer (and August in particular) severely restricted the disease making it difficult to evaluate the efficacy of treatments in some regions, but in others where infection did occur the general trends were similar to those observed in other years

    Integration of fertility management, cultivar selection and alternative spray treatments to optimize control of foliar diseases of greenhouse grown tomatoes

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    Powdery mildew caused by Leveillula taurica (Lev.) Arn. is one of the most serious foliar diseases of greenhouse and open field tomato. The disease is currently controlled with the use of organic fungicides and sulphur, the latter being the only product permitted in organic crops. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential of controlling the disease by integrating: a) hybrids of low susceptibility to the disease, b) organic fertilisers (chitin) and c) alternative spray treatments. Some of the combinations of the above factors were highly effective in decreasing the percentage of disease severity. Specifically the combination of the hybrid of low susceptibility with the addition of chitin in the substrate and the spray treatment Milsana®+chitosan, was equally effective to sulphur. These results indicate that the combination of the above factors could probably be used as an alternative to sulphur for control of L. taurica in the greenhouse

    Development of strategies to improve quality and safety and reduce cost of production in organic and ‘low input‘ crop production systems

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    The overall aims of organic and low input crop production include the economically viable and environmentally sound production of high quality food and feed. Technological bottlenecks in such systems include insufficient and instable yields and in some instances unsatisfactory processing, sensory and/or nutritional quality of the final product. Recently, concerns have also been raised that the intensive use of manures may lead to increased risk for contamination of food by enteropathogenic micro-organisms. Crop production in low input systems is based on key pillars, i.e. (i) a fertile soil which provides sufficient capacity to allow for plant growth while preventing soil-borne diseases, (ii) high quality, disease-free seeds and plant material, (iii) a crop-specific soil fertility management to provide sufficient nutrients for optimum plant growth, and (iv) adequate crop protection techniques to prevent damage due to noxious organisms. In the QLIF project we develop improved component strategies to overcome technological bottlenecks in annual (wheat, lettuce, tomato) and perennial (apple) crop production systems. In this paper we report the progress achieved so far

    The Effects of Crop Type and Production Systems on the Activity of Beneficial Invertebrates

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    Beneficial invertebrate activity (13 groups) was assessed in five crop types on a split-plot experimental system in northern England using pitfall trapping and suction sampling in May-October 2005. Very significant differences were detected in activity between crop type, and in the preference of groups for individual crops. Within crop types, differences in fertiliser and crop protection approaches appeared to significantly affect activity, with preferences for either organic or conventional management differing between groups. In general, inorganic fertiliser application had more effect on activity than pesticide, herbicide and fungicide use

    Effect of alternative seed treatments on seed-borne fungal diseases in tomato

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    The fungus Didymella lycopersici infects tomato seed and results in great losses before and after germination. To control the disease, seed companies use thiram preventively, although human allergy problems have been reported. For this reason as well as to address needs in organic agriculture, this study has focused on the effects of alternative methods of control. Nitrite solutions and resistance inducers were tested in a growth chamber. Results showed that soaking the seed in a nitrite solution with a concentration of 300mΜ (in citric acid buffer, pH 2) for 10 minutes reduced losses due to low seed germination and disease incidence in the germinated seedlings completely. When applied for longer intervals sodium nitrite proved phytotoxic whereas in shorter intervals it was not as effective. The resistance inducer Tillecur (mustard seed extract) at the rate of 0.05g/ml was as much effective as sodium nitrite inhibiting disease incidence in germinated seedlings. None of the above treatments was significantly different to thiram and they could replace the fungicide in the control of seedborne D. lycopersici in tomato

    Potentials to differentiate milk composition by different feeding strategies

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    To investigate the effect of the dietary intake of the cow on milk composition, bulk-tank milk was collected on 5 occasions from conventional (n = 15) and organic (n = 10) farms in Denmark and on 4 occasions from low-input nonorganic farms in the United Kingdom, along with management and production parameters. Production of milk based on feeding a high intake of cereals, pasture, and grass silage resulted in milk with a high concentration of α-linolenic acid (9.4 ± 0.2 mg/ kg of fatty acids), polyunsaturated fatty acids (3.66 ± 0.07 mg/kg of fatty acids), and natural stereoisomer of α-tocopherol (RRR-α-tocopherol, 18.6 ± 0.5 mg/kg of milk fat). A milk production system using a high proportion of maize silage, by-products, and commercial concentrate mix was associated with milk with high concentrations of linoleic acid (LA; 19.7 ± 0.4 g/kg of fatty acids), monounsaturated fatty acids (27.5 ± 0.3 mg/kg of fatty acids), and a high ratio between LA and α-linolenic acid (4.7 ± 0.2). Comparing these 2 production systems with a very extensive nonorganic milk production system relying on pasture as almost the sole feed (95 ± 4% dry matter intake), it was found that the concentrations of conjugated LA (cis-9,trans-11; 17.5 ± 0.7 g/kg of fatty acids), trans-11-vaccenic acid (37 ± 2 g/kg of fatty acids), and monounsaturated fatty acids (30.4 ± 0.6 g/kg of fatty acids) were higher in the extensively produced milk together with the concentration of antioxidants; total α-tocopherol (32.0 ± 0.8 mg/kg of milk fat), RRR-α-tocopherol (30.2 ± 0.8 mg/kg of milk fat), and β-carotene (9.3 ± 0.5 mg/kg of milk fat) compared with the organic and conventional milk. Moreover, the concentration of LA (9.2 ± 0.7 g/kg of fatty acids) in milk from the extensive milk production system was found to approach the recommended unity ratio between n-6 and n-3, although extensive milk production also resulted in a lower daily milk yield

    Effects of organic and ‘low input’ production methods on food quality and safety

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    The intensification of agricultural production in the last century has resulted in a significant loss of biodiversity, environmental problems and associated societal costs. The use of shorter rotations or monocropping and high levels of mineral fertilisers, pesticides and crop growth regulators may also have had negative impacts on food quality and safety. To reverse the negative environmental and biodiversity impacts of agricultural intensification, a range of different ‘low input’ farming systems have been developed and are now supported by EU and government support schemes. A range of recent reviews concluded that switching to low input, integrated or organic farming practices results in significant environmental benefits and increased biodiversity in agro-ecosystems. Some recent studies also reported higher levels of nutritionally desirable compounds (e.g. vitamins, antioxidants, mineral nutrients) in foods from organic and ‘low input’ production systems compared to food from conventional systems. The increasing demand and current price premiums achieved by foods from low input and especially organic production systems were shown to be closely linked to consumer perceptions about nutritional and health benefits of such foods. However, there are other studies reporting no significant differences in composition between low input and conventional foods, or inconsistent results. There is currently a lack of (a) factorial studies, which allow the effect of individual production system components (e.g. rotation design, fertility management, crop health management, variety choice) on food composition to be assessed and (b) dietary intervention or cohort studies which compare the effect of consuming foods from different production systems on animal and/or human health. It is therefore currently not possible to draw overall conclusions about the effect of low input production on food quality and safety. This paper will (a) describe the range of organic and other ‘low input’ standards, certification and support systems currently used, (b) summarise the currently available information on effects of organic and other low input crop production systems on the environment, biodiversity and food quality, and (c) describe the methodologies and results from subproject 2 of the EU-funded Integrated project QualityLowInputFood. This project focused on improving our knowledge about the effect of organic and low input crop and livestock production systems on food quality and safety parameters

    Effect of organic, low-input and conventional production systems on yield and diseases in winter barley

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    The effect of organic, low-input and conventional management practices on barley yield and disease incidence was assessed in field trials over two years. Conventional fertility management (based on mineral fertiliser applications) and conventional crop protection (based on chemosynthetic pesticides) significantly increased the yield of winter barley as compared to organic fertility and crop protection regimes. Severity of leaf blotch (Rhynchosporium secalis) was highest under organic fertility and crop protection management and was correlated inversely with yield. For mildew (Erysiphe graminis), an interaction between fertility management and crop protection was detected. Conventional crop protection reduced severity of the disease, only under conventional fertility management. Under organic fertility management, incidence of mildew was low and application of synthetic pesticides in “low input” production systems had no significant effect on disease severity

    The effect of short term feeding with organic and conventional diets on selected immune parameters in rat

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    There is currently no evidence for beneficial health impacts being associated with the consumption of organic rather than conventional foods. This preliminary study was therefore aimed at using haematological parameters, white blood cell (WBC) number and splenocyte proliferation as sensitive assays to evaluate influence of the organic, low input and conventional components in the diet on rats’ immune system function. The results of a short term feeding trial with two rat generations indicates a potential effect on immune system function, which has to be confirmed by longer-term exposure studies
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