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Organic Farming and its Benefits for the Biodiversity: the Experience of Austria and Croatia

The benefits of the organic farming for the maintenance and increase of the biodiversity were presented through the experience of Austria and Croatia during the annual meeting of the focus groups of the New Thracian Gold (NTG) in November in the village of Stambolovo.

Two foreign experts - Barbara Steurer from the Austrian Council for Agricultural Engineering and Rural Development, a leading Austrian organisation dealing with agri-environment and nature conservation and Sonja Karoglan from Ecologica, a Croatian organisation working at the cutting edge between agriculture and nature protection – made presentations.

Benefits of organic farming are not only in the well-known facts like: no use of chemical synthetic pesticides, reduced livestock per area (extensive grazing), gentle care for soil, higher proportion of semi-natural area, but also it causes benefits for the biodiversity, as Barbara Steurer pointed out. She presented a table demonstrating the positive effect of the organic farming on plants, birds, mammals, bees, butterflies, etc.The history of the organic farming in Austria is a story of success. Nowadays, the organic farms in Austria are 22 058, which is 14 percent of all farms in the country. The percentage of the arable land maintained by the organic farms is 14% and 24% of the grassland. The example of the region Trumer Seenland was particularly interesting for the farmers of NTG-network. The regional initiative “Organic-Hay-Region Trumer Seenland“ brings together organic farmers, butchers, bakers, fruit juice producers and tourism (60 organic farms, 30 businesses). The joint advertising leads to increased demand of organic products and higher prices.

Sonja Karoglan also presented data for the positive influence of the organic farming on the nature providing concrete examples.  She shared information why higher biodiversity is good for the farmers:

- Habitats with more species better adapt to environmental changes - stable yields during dry period

- Higher number of bees and bumblebees-better pollination -  higher yields

- Higher number of beneficial insects that reduce pests - reduction of yield loses

- More diverse flora and fauna in soil bring revitalized, more active soil life - reduction of soil pests 

The success of the organic farming in Croatia is proven by the following facts at a regional level – the farm with organic olive grove are 167 vs. 43 conventional, 123 organic vineyards vs. 28 conventional ones!

In 2012, within the component organic farming in New Thracian Gold the first ever in Bulgaria baseline survey on the impact of organic farming on agro-biodiversity in a specific target area as the Eastern Rhodopes has been conducted. The preliminary data shows a positive effect of NTG-organic farms on the biodiversity in the region - higher number of insects, mammals and birds compared to the conventional farms. The research will continue in 2013 with individual studies of agro-biodiversity done by NTG organic farmers.

Barbara Steurer

Sonja Karoglan


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