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Organic horticulture: Expanding globally

From August 22 to 27, 2010, the 28th Congress of the International Society of Horticultural Sciences (ISHS) took place in Lisbon, Portugal. Over 3300 participants attended the Congress and more than 4000 abstracts were submitted. Issues and results related to all aspects of horticulture were presented in various seminars, thematic sessions, and workshops, including presentation of the latest developments in organic horticultural research.

from left to right: Dr. Robert K. Prange, president of the ISHS Commission on Sustainabilty through Integrated and Organic Horticulture CMOR, Professor Uygun Aksoy and Professor Isabel Mourão, conveners of the Symposium on Organic Horticulture, Dr. Franco Weibel, Vice-President of the CMOR

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The symposium “Organic Horticulture: Productivity and Sustainability” discussed issues such as plant breeding and propagation material, soil fertility and nutrient management, rotation programmes and cover crops, pest and disease management strategies, post-harvest handling and food quality, sustainability indicators, economics and trends on organic farms.

The symposium started with a presentation on the current status of organic horticulture world-wide, based on data collected by FiBL and IFOAM in the framework of the global survey on organic agriculture. Horticultural crops do not only include fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants, but also nuts, olives, medicinal and aromatic plants, root crops such as potato and cassava, and beverage crops such as coffee, tea, and cocoa. According to the FiBL/IFOAM data, organic horticulture accounts for 2.2 million hectares or approximately one percent of the world’s 200 million hectares of horticultural land. However, since data on organic crops from many important horticultural producers are missing, it may be assumed that the organic horticultural area is higher. Since 2004, when data on organic horticultural land use/crops were collected for the first time, the organic horticultural land has more than doubled.

The most important categories are:

  • coffee (22  percent of organic horticultural land);
  • olives (20 percent);
  • fruits (tropical and temperate, berries, strawberries, citrus fruit: 17 percent);
  • and vegetables (11 percent).

In many countries, the share of land used for some horticultural crops is higher than the overall organic share. Also, growth of the organic areas for horticultural crops has been higher than for the organic agricultural land since 2004; the highest increase was noted for tropical and subtropical fruit - with a growth of 300 percent since 2004.

In the organic market, horticultural crops play an important role. Fruits and vegetables are the most important category by constituting 38 percent of the US organic market, which was worth 24.8 billion US Dollars in 2009. Other horticultural crop groups have also attained considerable share in the overall market share. In Switzerland, 11 percent of all vegetables sold are organic and seven percent of all fruit. 

For many developing countries the export of organic horticultural crops is becoming increasingly important. The example of Peru shows that more than three quarters of the booming segment of organic exports (more than 220 million US Dollars in 2009) consists of horticultural crops, especially: coffee, bananas, and cocoa.

For more details see the presentation by Helga Willer of FiBL (link below).

Symposium “Organic Horticulture: Productivity and Sustainability”

The symposium on organic horticulture was organized by the ISHS Commission on Sustainability through Integrated and Organic Agriculture and organised by Professor Isabel Mourão, from the School of Agriculture at the Polytechnical Institute of Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo ESAPL, Portugal, and Professor Uygun Aksoy of Ege University in Turkey.

ISHS Commission on Sustainability through Integrated and Organic Agriculture

The ISHS Commission on sustainability through Integrated and Organic Agriculture convened its first symposium in 2006 during the ISHS Congress. According to Franco Weibel, who has been Commission Vice-chair since its inception and will give up the position this year, the commission has gained considerable acceptance within ISHS, despite initial hesitation. An important event of the commission in recent years was the organisation of the successful organic fruit conference, which took place in 2008 within the framework of the 16th IFOAM Organic World congress in Modena, Italy.  

The International Society of Horticultural Sciences (ISHS)

The ISHS, dating back to 1864 and formally establishing in 1959, has more than 7000 members representing some 150 countries. It is the world's leading independent organization of horticultural scientists with the aim "...to promote and encourage research and education in all branches of horticultural science and to facilitate cooperation and knowledge transfer on a global scale through its symposia and congresses, publications, and scientific structure." Membership is open to all interested researchers, educators, students, and horticultural industry professionals.

ISHS publishes three journals: Acta Horticulturae, Chronica Horticulturae, and Scripta Horticulturae. 

The next ISHS congress will take place in 2014 in Australia; the 2018 congress will take place in Istanbul, Turkey.

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