Improving the Science of Organic Agriculture
Canadian consumers are concerned with the quality of their food and how it is produced, and for this reason they are becoming more interested in "organic" agriculture.
Organic agriculture is a "branded" production system encoded within federal, provincial, and industry standards. Retail sales of organic food products on Canada have been experiencing rapid growth (more than 20 percent per year). Thanks to research being carried out by Canada Research Chair Dr. Derek Lynch and his team, the practice of organic agriculture in Canada will soon have more scientific backing.
Imported products supply over 85 percent of the domestic market of organic food products in Canada. At the same time, however, large export markets for certified Canadian organic products exist in the US, Europe, and Japan. To meet these market opportunities, Canadian organic producers must develop strategies to farm both successfully and sustainably. Lynch has already made significant progress in examining crop and livestock systems characteristic of organic agriculture, with an emphasis on system productivity, resource use efficiency, and soil quality. In addition, he has contributed to the development of innovative nutrient and crop management practices tailored to organic production.
In his present research, Lynch is continuing his work on crop and soil management practices that can help the growth of organic agriculture in Canada. As the organic industry grows, claims of benefits with respect to food safety, product quality, and environmental integrity are under increasing scrutiny, both nationally and internationally. While organic farmers face many of the same production challenges as other farmers, they must adopt a long-term, integrative approach to the special needs of their farming practice. With support from Lynch's multi-scale, on-farm, and station-based research program, they will be able to do just that.