The project BIOFRUITNET has held a workshop at the international conference ECOFRUIT on the 22nd of February 2022. Because of the current sanitary situation, the two-day conference ECOFRUIT has been organized entirely online. About 62 participants from the European organic fruit growing scene joined the workshop.

During the workshop, BIOFRUITNET partners presented their work and results obtained fromthe beginning of the project: Francois Warlop (GRAB) presented the results from the participatory research survey on technical needs in organic fruit growing that the project carried out in 2020 throughout Europe. Jutta Kienzle (NATURLAND and organizer of ECOFRUIT) presented the main research needs that the consortium could extract from the survey and the multi-actor assessment of its results carried out in 2021. Eligio Malusa (INHORT) presented the work carried out to map the European knowledge networks in organic fruit production and the SWOT analysis of the network situation per country. After the interventions of the BIOFRUITNET project partners, Peter Rolker (European Biofruit Forum EBF) spoke about what fruit growers expect from an European network. He presented some of the problems faced by growers in terms of soil acidification, the presence of phosphonates in fruit that has never been treated with phosphonates and which shows its persistence in the soil and its impact on the environment, food, and health, etc. He also presented his views on market balance and periodical overproduction and pointed out the risks represented by a political pressure pushing farmers to convert to organic, which might overrun the ability of the demand for organic product to adapt to the production level.

William Walker (USDA-ARS, Wapato, USA) referred about the situation of organic fruit production in the USA, mainly based in Washington for apple production and California for the rest.

Focuses of the future network

Jutta Kienzle moderated a debate on a future Intensification of Further Networking in Europe and with USA. The focus of this future network will be:

  • A better communication and exchange of knowledge and tools between researchers, advisors and farmers.
  • Improve the access to specialized training.
  • Concentrate the research work at a global level and avoiding duplication through more collaborative research projects.
  • Improve the transfer of scientific knowledge into practice.
  • Extend the network in and beyond Europe.

Participants in the discussion also pointed out that networks should facilitate the exchange of information on the farm-to-fork strategy and its impact on organic fruit farming, authorizations, etc. An important point to note was the need to improve the connection with some of the EIP research groups as their research results are often not easily found and their availability is limited.

How to extend the network

The network should be extended to countries where there is also an important organic fruit production with the aim to increase synergies. In this sense, William Walker agreed to be the contact point in the USA and to work on building up networks in the US to be integrated into the network. The idea would be to organize an exchange programme between networks to share experiences, knowledge and carry out collaborative projects.

Vincenzo Verrastro (CIHEAM Bari) proposed the possibility of integrating the citrus production network with an international presence beyond Europe into the temporate fruit network, with the aim of integrating more countries outside Europe that may have similar problems to those faced by producers of the same fruit species in other countries around the world.

Regarding the organization of the future network, aspects such as the possibility to put the network under the umbrella of IFOAM Organics Europe has been discussed. The Organic Farm Knowledge (OFK) platform was also identified as an extremely important tool for the future to enable universal access to scientific knowledge on organic fruit growing.

To conclude, the need to establish a core group was discussed, which would be initially constituted by  the organizers of the ECOFRUIT, and which will be completed by other participants.