RO-2 :: A healthy living environment. Organic farming fits the current state of the soil quality and land use in the country? Well, yes.

Introduction or maintenance of organic farming is often, together with extensive farming systems, applied in order to maintain and enhance soil functionality. Organic farming tends to conserve soil fertility and system stability better than conventional farming system, mainly due to higher organic matter contents, higher biological activity and higher erosion control potential. Soil pollution associated with manufactured pesticides is absent. Moreover, organic farming performs better than conventional farming in respect to natural ecosystems, floral and faunal diversity and provides potentials that result in positive effects on wildlife conservation and landscapes. In response to the recent increasing concern for the environmental issues, particularly with regard to biodiversity loss, climate change, soil, water and air pollution and depletion of natural resources, organic farming has become an important aspect of the European agri-environmental policy. The positive effects of organic farming practices to the environment have been systematically studied during the last decades. Since late 90’s, Romania has also joined the European research area concerning the environmental benefits of organic farming but not much has been done lately in terms of continuity and systematic approaches. Even if Romania the share of “potential fertile soils” is significant (Chernozems and Phaeozems are roughly 1/3 of UAA), the present use is highly unsustainable (degradation, poor management, nutrients depletion etc).
Specific research questions:
Net impacts
• Establish at least two long term trials/demo fields (in plain and hilly side, respectively) for organic vs. conventional farming, to get a multidisciplinary approach in terms of soil quality, environmental impact of inputs use, energy consumption, productivity levels, biodiversity conservation or restoration and trends of GHG emissions.

Why: DG-AGRI noted in September 2014 on the observations on the Rural Development Program 2014-2020 in Romania that particular attention should be paid to the aid calculation as consistent technical and economical information on organic farming are not available in the country and the calculation is based primarily on expert assumptions. Romania should set in place the necessary systems to collect and reinforce data on the Romanian situation for any future revision of the aid calculations under the measure for organic farming. Moreover, as the calculation is made at country level only, the regional specificity is almost missed and there are debates whether Romania should tackle the support for organic farming on a regional based approach.

• Improve the level of awareness and understanding regarding the environmental benefits of organic farming in agricultural schools and universities and among farmers by a multi-leveled curriculum developed for technical, vocational and continuing training.

Why: Still in schools and universities the Agro-chemistry topics overwhelming prevails and prejudgments for scholars/students are set on long term without a drafted choice balanced curriculum. There is a need for including theoretical and practical topics environment oriented and an increased societal awareness (with stakeholders in the first place) on the side-effects of the chemical inputs use. On the other hand, the public advisory agricultural system (significantly small sized famers oriented), lacks a proper expertise on organic farming.
Natural capital
• Develop a large-scale research, extension and implementation program for small and medium grassland holdings converting to organic farming.

Why: Over the last years, Romania has seen a steady and rapid rise in the amount of land and number of holdings adhering to organic standards but yet the organic farming national share is almost three times less then EU average. The relative low level of pollution in Romanian’s agriculture continues to provide good opportunities for conversion to organic practices. In spite its highest bio-geographical diversity in EU-27 as well as its semi-natural ecosystems cover (47% of the entire area of the country), the amount of 3.4 mil ha grasslands plus 1.5 mil hayfields (34 % of the entire Romanian agricultural area) is very, very low converted to organic (less than 100,000 ha). Organic farming provides also better employment rates than conventional agriculture in rural areas.
• Develop a private-public partnership cluster research/inspection bodies/farmers associations for organic farming inputs certification.

Why: More diversified organic farming inputs await to be certified (fertilizers and pest-control inputs). The research institutions have the needed expertise and share a certain public trust on its findings; the private inspection bodies have the legal means for certification whilst the farmers associations have the larger practical experience of input use. A legal and clear frame for organic farming inputs is very much needed.