Organic research: research reviews

IOTA Research into Practice: A review of organic research and what it means for practical organic farming. You can download each review as word document or a PDF, whichever suits you best.

Advisory tools

Advisory tools for use in organic farming – Download the review here (PDF 100KB) or here (.DOC 163KB).
Advisory tools are an invaluable aid for advisers in providing farmers with the necessary information for analysis and planning of all aspects of the farm. The review of Advisory Tools provides access to and a comprehensive list of all the templates, calculators and analytical tools available to organic advisers, covering the environment, business, soils and animal husbandry.

Nutrient budgets for organic farming – Download the review here (PDF 135KB) or here (.DOC 287KB).
This review identifies the research done on nutrient budgeting and presents the latest input and output data for use in nutrient budgeting on farm to support rotation and soil management decision making. It includes a guide to nutrient budgeting on organic farms.

Financial performance, benchmarking and management for mixed organic farming – Download the review here (PDF 106KB) or here (.DOC 227KB).
This Review of several research projects which focus on the financial performance of organic farming, demonstrates the profitability of organic farming businesses and how they compare with conventional farms. It analyses the factors which affect profitability and explores how the data can be used in benchmarking as a means of identifying the level of performance of individual farms and what changes in management can be made to improve profitability.

Arable and crops systems

Cereal variety and population selection – Download the review here (PDF 109KB) or here (.DOC 120KB).
Cereal breeding over the last half century has resulted in significant improvements in overall production. This review describes variety characteristics suitable for organic conditions, approaches to cereal breeding for organic systems, and finally the scope for the future.

Combinable protein crop production – Download the review here (PDF 138KB) or here (.DOC 143KB).
This research topic review summarises research knowledge and observational experience of combinable protein crop production in organic farming systems for the UK. European research on peas, faba beans and lupins is included; considering their role in the rotation, nitrogen fixation, varieties, establishment, weed control, yields, problems experienced and intercropping with cereals.

Management and sustainability of stockless organic arable and horticultural systems – Download the review here (PDF 93KB) or here (.DOC 121KB).
Stockless organic farming involves the use of green manures and green waste compost to replace clover leys, livestock and animal manures. This review draws on the research into stockless systems and addresses the challenges of conversion planning, rotation design, maintaining soil nutrient status, weed control, pest control and economic return.


Wildlife and biodiversity: integration and management of farming and wildlife for their mutual benefit – Download the review here (PDF 105KB) or here (.DOC 160KB).
This Review looks at a wide range of research, much of it focused on the wildlife impact of organic farming and draws out key practices which can benefit both the wildlife and farm productivity.

Monitoring and management of energy and emissions in agriculture – Download the review here (PDF 114KB) or here (.DOC 163KB).
This review collates the results of research into energy use and emissions in organic farming, and provides advisers with an analysis of the results, access to the data used and a review of the benchmarking methodologies available. The review will inform those working in the development of benchmarking tools and advising farmers on practices to improve their performance.

Food quality

Strategies for enhancing organic food quality – Download the review here (PDF 136KB) or here (.DOC 134KB).
Production methods affect the quality of food and it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that, in order to meet market expectations, organic food achieves high standards of quality in all aspects. This review identifies food quality parameters and draws on research to identify how quality may be influenced in organic farming.

Forage management

Grass clover ley species and variety selection and management – Download the review here (PDF 135KB) or here (.DOC 144KB).
Grass clover leys form the basis of most organic farming systems yet the selection of seed mixtures is often founded on tradition or cost. Based on a review of recent and past research this review provides a wealth of information on grass and legume species and varieties, mixture selection, ley establishment and pasture management.

The role of management of herbal pastures for animal health, productivity and production quality – Download the review here (PDF 176KB) or here (.DOC 242KB).
This review seeks to address the role and management of herbal pastures for animal health, productivity and product quality. It involves a review of research and focuses on the use of herbal ley mixtures and varieties and their role in animal health and growth, meat quality, production and yield and climate change issues.

The role and management of whole-crop forage for organic ruminants – Download the review here (PDF 107KB) or here (.DOC 127KB).
Whole-crop forage plays an invaluable role in supporting the productivity and health of ruminants. This comprehensive review of over 60 references and research projects provides a thorough yet succinct analysis of the key issues concerning cereal and pulse species and variety selection, mixtures, management, quality and use in organic farming systems.

Horticultural crops

Organic plant raising – Download the review here (PDF 190KB) or here (.DOC 273KB).
This review identifies the research on propagation composts and plant raising and suggests ways in which organic propagation can move towards less reliance on peat, addresses the problems of nutrient supply and considers alternative methods of plant raising.

Controlling pests and diseases in organic field vegetables – Download the review here (PDF 183KB) or here (.DOC 201KB).
This review provides a summary and analysis of the most recent research on pest and disease control in organic field vegetables. Recognising that organic farming involves a whole systems approach it focuses on: Management (forecasting, seed treatments) and rotations to prevent pests and diseases, varieties and breeding for organic systems, products being developed for organic systems, biological control measures (fungi, compost, biofumigants), other strategies (predator support, distractants) and potential for new products.


Dairy cow breeding for organic farming – Download the review here (PDF 169KB) or here (.DOC 172KB).
Organic farming requires that in the choice of breeds or strains, account must be taken of the capacity of animals to adapt to local conditions, their vitality, and their resistance to disease. In addition, breeds or strains of animals shall be selected to avoid specific diseases or health problems associated with some breeds or strains used in intensive production. This review considers the research into organic dairy cow breeds and breeding, it discusses the need for a specific organic approach to breeding and cross breeding and makes some clear recommendations for selection priorities.

Dairy cow nutrition – Download the review here (PDF 77KB) or here (.DOC 62KB), the appendices here (PDF 25KB) or here (.DOC 25KB), and the Organic Dairy Cow Nutrition workshop (Nov 06) here (PDF 147KB) or here (.DOC 34KB).
This review pulls together the results of over 40 research projects and brings us up to date with the latest in thinking on dairy cow nutrition, incorporates the findings of a wide range of organic trials and draws some clear recommendations on appropriate strategies for forage type and management, supplementary feeding, ration formulation and farming systems. It raises important issues around sustainability versus optimum production and highlights future research priorities.

Management of trace elements and vitamins in organic ruminant livestock nutrition in the context of the whole farm system – Download the review here (PDF 69KB) or here (.DOC 64KB).
This review collates and summarises the organic research into trace elements and vitamins in organic ruminant livestock. It covers the role of trace elements and vitamins in animal health, their requirements (where known) and the extent and effect on health of known trace element and vitamin deficiencies. It also considers strategies for improving the level of trace elements available to ruminant livestock in forages as well as the role of supplements in various forms in treating established deficiencies.

Organic poultry nutrition and rations – Download the review here (PDF 75KB) or here (.DOC 73KB).
The scope of the review is to consider recent sources of information relating to the feeding of organic laying hens, broilers and turkeys. In particular it reviews all the research commissioned by Defra together with other UK and European work and collates the results of that work in the light of commercial experience, providing advisers with a summary of the key recommendations.

Poultry management – Download the review here (PDF 104KB) or here (.DOC 145KB).
This review of the research into organic poultry management focuses on breeding, rearing, housing, health and disease, medication and to a lesser extent nutrition which is covered in another Review. The results are analysed and practical recommendations made for the development of organic poultry systems and their management.

Soil and nutrient management

Compost: the effect of nutrients, soil health and crop quantity and quality – Download the review here (PDF 173KB) or here (.DOC 148KB).
Compost is considered by many to be the holy grail of organic farming and growing. This review looks at the research and explores how compost varies according to the ingredients and the way it is made. It studies the evidence for compost improving plant health, quality and promoting disease resistance and summarises the situations in which compost is most useful.

The role, analysis and management of soil life and organic matter in soil health, crop nutrition and productivity – Download the review here (PDF 304KB) or here (.DOC 432KB).
The concept of a “living soil” in which biological activity makes nutrients available to plants and fixes nitrogen is central to organic farming. This Review considers the research into the complex role of soil life and looks at the analytical techniques and management strategies which are available to us in the organic management of soils.

Laboratory mineral soil analysis and soil mineral management in organic farming – Download the review here (PDF 218KB) or here (.DOC 1.5MB).
The supply of nutrients to plants is dependent on the complex relationship between soil mineral levels, soil structure and type and biological activity. This review looks at the soil analysis techniques available to organic farmers and the supply and availability of nutrients to plants through the use of mineral additions and soil management.

Nitrogen supply and management in organic farming – Download the review here (PDF 212KB) or here (.DOC 189KB).
Optimising the management and supply of nitrogen to crops remains one of the greatest challenges for organic producers. This Research Review covers a large number of research projects and summarises key aspects of nitrogen accumulation, management and utilisation through the use of legumes, catch crops, manures, cultivations and soil management.


Non-inversion organic arable cropping – Download the review here (PDF 142KB) or here (.DOC 233KB).
“Non-Inversion Tillage” (NI) involves any cultivation system which does not seek to substantially invert the soil profile. For the purposes of this review, literature that refers to minimum, conservation and reduced tillage and also direct drilling techniques have been consulted. The review identifies the likely benefits and possible challenges inherent in moving away from inversion tillage and points towards some very successful commercial experience of NI.


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