Organic agriculture grows in Euskadi, in land destined for cereal, pastures fodder and wine grape and fruit crops

20 October 2021

Organic agriculture grows in Euskadi, in land destined for growing cereal, pastures, fodder and wine grape and fruit crops

  • Yesterday, we celebrated the second annual visit to its experimental trials of organic crops as part of the works that fall under the Organic Production Enhancement Plan (FOPE is the acronym in Spanish), promoted by the Basque Government
  • The consumption of ‘bio’ food in Europe has increased: in Europe the average annual consumption is 84 euro per person, compared to 68.91 euro per person in Spain, although in recent years, it is estimated that bio food is being consumed in 40% of Spanish homes
  • Between 2014 and 2020, the number of operators that have converted to organic agriculture has gone from 434 to 658 in Euskadi, while the usable agricultural land has nearly tripled

According to data from the European Union, in the year 2030, between 15% and 18% of crops in the community will be organic. With the aim of promoting the production of these products, this past April the European Commission presented the European Action Plan for Organic Agriculture 2021-2027, a document that provides a series of tools designed for achieving 25% organic crops and which ultimate objective is to gradually increase the contribution of organic agriculture to environmental sustainability.

Currently in Euskadi, organic production has experienced more of a limited development compared to other European regions, and therefore plans such as the Organic Production Enhancement Plan (FOPE), promoted by the Basque Government and spearheaded by NEIKER and the Organic Agriculture and Food Council of Basque Country (Ekolurra), are essential to incentivise organic production in Basque Country and meeting society’s growing demand for organic products. Thanks to the effort made by producers as well as institutions, more hectares of land are increasingly being used for organic crops in Euskadi.

In this context, the Arkaute Agrofood Fields (Alava) of the NEIKER, yesterday, for the second time in 2021, became a showcase to see the present and future of organic agriculture. The main players in the agricultural sector had the opportunity to meet at our installations to conduct the traditional official visit to the plots where we conduct our experimental trials of organic crops as part of the work they are spearheading for FOPE.

As explained yesterday during the event by Amaia Ortiz Barredo, head of the Plant Production and Protection Department and researcher for NEIKER, the consumption of organic food is a reality that is increasing in Europe. Specifically, “the average spend per person on ‘bio’ food in Europe is 84 euro. Although in the Spain, it is a bit lower at 68.91 euro per person, it has been growing at such a pace that some recent studies suggest these products are already being consumed in nearly half of the homes, approximately 40%, she pointed out. This is the reason why NEIKER is carrying out their activity in organic agriculture as demanded by the production sector, to resolve uncertainties in the management of crops as well as selecting new alternatives.

Personnel visiting NEIKER’s crops had the chance, together with Roberto Ruiz de Arcaute, a researcher from NEIKER and organic agriculture expert, to see the work conducted at the technological centre in the transition to organic crops with the objective of showing farmers how to apply these techniques at their farms. During the visit, the presence of Jorge Garbisu, director of the Agriculture and Livestock farming area of the Basque Government was noteworthy.

Wheat, fodder or quinoa

The event provided a chance to present the latest developments of our trials on summer crops, the results of the trials from previous campaigns as well as make proposals for future trials. Amaia Ortiz was the person in charge of contextualising the work conducted by the technological centre in the organic production field within the FOPE Plan.

Specifically, Ortiz explained the lines of research at NEIKER regarding organic plant production and emphasized organic agriculture based on scientific data. Among the trials presented by Ortiz, there were wheat crops as well as other cereals, fodder and vegetables that were currently being worked at the technological centre; as well as their experiences using paper padding (an alternative to the problem posed by plastic waste) and in developing new crops such as quinoa, wheat, buckwheat or crotalaria.

“Our work puts the focus on extensive crops, which is the less developed part of organic agriculture, and all extensive crops producing animal feed for organic livestock farming. Also, the increase in the consumption of vegetables has opened the door to new initiatives and opportunities promoted by the sector”, explained Ortiz during her presentation.

Afterwards, the official visit took place of the experimental organic crops that the centre has at their farm in Arkaute: a total of nine hectares where trials are carried out of varieties of soy for human consumption or buckwheat, as well as the researching of new fertilisers, among others.

“These trials are essential to meet the major challenges posed by FOPE: help the agricultural sector increase their organic production and develop the transformation and sale chain while strengthening the demand for local organic product”, affirms Roberto Ruiz de Arcaute.

Towards the organic reconversion of agricultural farms

These open house days to showcase trials that take place twice a year, are part of the Organic Production Enhancement Plan (FOPE) and are also used as a networking opportunity for the different players in the industry.

Implemented in 2014, the plan has the overall goal of increasing organic production and developing the associated transformation and commercialisation chain. Likewise, increasing the number of operators, transformers and boosting local consumption, together with expanding the surface area and profitability of organic production are a few of the medium and long-term goals.

In this sense, according to estimates made by the Council, between 2014 and 2020, the number of operators that have converted to organic agriculture has gone from 434 to 658, while the usable agricultural land has nearly tripled, with organic production currently using 4.3% of the total agricultural surface of Euskadi.

Also, last year the surface area of registered organic farmland in Basque Country reached 6,789 hectares; in other words, 3,915 hectares more than in 2014. According to the Council’s sources, this shift, notably includes the expansion of surface area dedicated to cereal, pasture and fodder, as well as wine grapes and fruits, which have practically doubled in the last 5 years.