Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL

Frick, Switzerland

Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL

Frick, Switzerland
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Schmitt E.,ETH Zurich | Schmitt E.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | Barjolle D.,ETH Zurich | Barjolle D.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | And 2 more authors.
Bio-based and Applied Economics | Year: 2016

Local food generally has a positive image, supported among consumers by the perception of reduced negative impacts on the environment and other dimensions. However, a critical analysis of local food chains’ performance in comparison with more global ones is still needed to objectively assess the real benefits and drawbacks of local and global food chains. A careful analysis needs to be conducted to compare the sustainability performance of local food value chains with global ones. In this paper, the methodology of selecting a set of attributes and indicators of performance to compare the multi-dimensional performance of a local with a global food chain is presented. A specific selection of attributes of performance around five sustainability dimensions (economic, social, environmental, health and ethical) is used to measure and evaluate two Swiss milk chains’ performances and compare the local chain with the global one. © Firenze University Press.


rednicka-Tober D.,Newcastle University | rednicka-Tober D.,Warsaw University of Life Sciences | Baranski M.,Newcastle University | Seal C.,Northumbria University | And 24 more authors.
British Journal of Nutrition | Year: 2016

Demand for organic meat is partially driven by consumer perceptions that organic foods are more nutritious than non-organic foods. However, there have been no systematic reviews comparing specifically the nutrient content of organic and conventionally produced meat. In this study, we report results of a meta-analysis based on sixty-seven published studies comparing the composition of organic and non-organic meat products. For many nutritionally relevant compounds (e.g. minerals, antioxidants and most individual fatty acids (FA)), the evidence base was too weak for meaningful meta-analyses. However, significant differences in FA profiles were detected when data from all livestock species were pooled. Concentrations of SFA and MUFA were similar or slightly lower, respectively, in organic compared with conventional meat. Larger differences were detected for total PUFA and n-3 PUFA, which were an estimated 23 (95 % CI 11, 35) % and 47 (95 % CI 10, 84) % higher in organic meat, respectively. However, for these and many other composition parameters, for which meta-analyses found significant differences, heterogeneity was high, and this could be explained by differences between animal species/meat types. Evidence from controlled experimental studies indicates that the high grazing/forage-based diets prescribed under organic farming standards may be the main reason for differences in FA profiles. Further studies are required to enable meta-analyses for a wider range of parameters (e.g. antioxidant, vitamin and mineral concentrations) and to improve both precision and consistency of results for FA profiles for all species. Potential impacts of composition differences on human health are discussed. © The Authors 2016 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited..


Rodionov A.,University of Bonn | Rodionov A.,Sudan University of Science and Technology | Nii-Annang S.,Sudan University of Science and Technology | Fischer T.,Central University of Costa Rica | And 6 more authors.
Soil Use and Management | Year: 2014

Application of hydrophilic polymers composed of cross-linked polyacrylate can improve soil water-holding capacity and accelerate the restoration of post-mining substrates. In this work, we studied the persistence of a polyacrylate polymer incorporated into a soil and its impact on plant nutrients at a reclamation site of former lignite mining in Lusatia (Germany). In contrast to autumn application, the incorporation of the polymer enhanced the sequestration of plant-derived carbon in the soil, which was reflected by a significant increase in the concentration of a lignin marker. Attenuated total reflexion-Fourier transform infrared spectra (ATR-FTIR) and total elemental contents in the applied polymer suggested an intensive cation exchange between the polymer framework and the soil-forming substrate. In addition, there was an enrichment of carbonaceous material, which seems to reduce the swelling and thus the water-holding capacity of the cross-linked polyacrylate. Conversely, this process protected the polymer structure from rapid decomposition. © 2014 British Society of Soil Science.


rednicka-Tober D.,Newcastle University | rednicka-Tober D.,Warsaw University of Life Sciences | Baranski M.,Newcastle University | Seal C.J.,Northumbria University | And 24 more authors.
British Journal of Nutrition | Year: 2016

Demand for organic milk is partially driven by consumer perceptions that it is more nutritious. However, there is still considerable uncertainty over whether the use of organic production standards affects milk quality. Here we report results of meta-analyses based on 170 published studies comparing the nutrient content of organic and conventional bovine milk. There were no significant differences in total SFA and MUFA concentrations between organic and conventional milk. However, concentrations of total PUFA and n-3 PUFA were significantly higher in organic milk, by an estimated 7 (95 % CI -1, 15) % and 56 (95 % CI 38, 74) %, respectively. Concentrations of α-linolenic acid (ALA), very long-chain n-3 fatty acids (EPA+DPA+DHA) and conjugated linoleic acid were also significantly higher in organic milk, by an 69 (95 % CI 53, 84) %, 57 (95 % CI 27, 87) % and 41 (95 % CI 14, 68) %, respectively. As there were no significant differences in total n-6 PUFA and linoleic acid (LA) concentrations, the n-6:n-3 and LA:ALA ratios were lower in organic milk, by an estimated 71 (95 % CI -122, -20) % and 93 (95 % CI -116, -70) %. It is concluded that organic bovine milk has a more desirable fatty acid composition than conventional milk. Meta-analyses also showed that organic milk has significantly higher α-tocopherol and Fe, but lower I and Se concentrations. Redundancy analysis of data from a large cross-European milk quality survey indicates that the higher grazing/conserved forage intakes in organic systems were the main reason for milk composition differences. © The Authors 2016 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited..


GANGNAT I.D.M.,ETH Zurich | LEIBER F.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | DUFEY P.-A.,Institute for Livestock Science | SILACCI P.,Institute for Livestock Science | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Agricultural Science | Year: 2016

On steep slopes, grazing is associated with elevated physical activity. This is assumed to influence muscle metabolism, carcass and meat quality in beef cattle. However, there is a lack of experiments which allow distinguishing between physical activity and other factors of influence. In the present experiment, a setup was applied which excluded other factors as best as possible. Two groups of 12 Angus-sired suckling calves were each kept on high altitude pastures with either steep (whole area with about 40% inclination; S-calves) or with flat areas (0% inclination; F-calves). The two areas offered forage of similar nutritional quality. The calves, initially 18 ± 2·5 weeks old, were kept with their dams on the pastures for 11 weeks in a rotational grazing system. The calves were equipped with pedometers and rumination sensors to record physical activity and feeding behaviour, respectively. Slaughter took place on two dates immediately after the grazing period and carcass quality was assessed. Muscle fibre types were classified according to their contractile metabolism and post mortem (p.m.) protein degradation was quantified. The meat, aged for 21 days, was subjected to various physicochemical analyses and sensory evaluation. S-calves walked more steps and spent more time lying down than F-calves, whereas feeding behaviour was not affected by pasture inclination. The daily gains of S-calves were 10% lower compared with those of F-calves. Carcass characteristics were not influenced by pasture inclination. S-calves had a larger proportion of fast-twitch type IIX/B muscle fibres than F-calves. The opposite was observed for intermediate type IIA muscle fibres, whereas the proportion of slow-twitch type I muscle fibres was unaffected. Occasional differences were observed between S- and F-calves regarding indicators of p.m. proteolysis. In S-calves, compared with F-calves, meat from the longissimus thoracis muscle was juicier and showed a tendency to be of lighter colour, whereas meat from the biceps femoris muscle had a smaller shear force (24·5 v. 27·5 N in F-calves). In conclusion, 11 weeks’ exposure to environments forcing calves to exhibit different physical activities in a hypoxic environment was sufficient to cause adaptations in muscle metabolism and several, though small, differences in meat quality. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016


Thonar C.,ETH Zurich | Thonar C.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | Frossard E.,ETH Zurich | Smilauer P.,University of South Bohemia | And 2 more authors.
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2014

Interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) species cocolonizing the same host plant are still little understood in spite of major ecological significance of mycorrhizal symbiosis and widespread occurrence of these fungi in communities rather than alone. Furthermore, shifting the composition of AMF communities has demonstrated consequences for the provision of symbiotic benefits to the host as well as for the qualities of ecosystem services. Therefore, here we addressed the nature and strength of interactions between three different AMF species in all possible two-species combinations on a gradient of inoculation densities. Fungal communities were established in pots with Medicago truncatula plants, and their composition was assessed with taxon-specific real-time PCR markers. Nature of interactions between the fungi was varying from competition to facilitation and was influenced by both the identity and relative abundance of the coinoculated fungi. Plants coinoculated with Claroideoglomus and Rhizophagus grew bigger and contained more phosphorus than with any of these two fungi separately, although these fungi obviously competed for root colonization. On the other hand, plants coinoculated with Gigaspora and Rhizophagus, which facilitated each other's root colonization, grew smaller than with any of these fungi separately. Our results point to as yet little understood complexity of interactions in plant-associated symbiotic fungal communities, which, depending on their composition, can induce significant changes in plant host growth and/or phosphorus acquisition in either direction. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Baars T.,University of Kassel | Baars T.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | Schroder M.,University of Hohenheim | Kusche D.,University of Kassel | Vetter W.,University of Hohenheim
Organic Agriculture | Year: 2012

Milk quality has an important role in organic farming due to the obligation to a maximum use of pasturage for herbivores. Markers should be identified to confirm the authenticity of organic milk production. The concentration and SRR/RRR diastereomer ratio of phytanic acid were investigated as potential markers to discriminate different feeding strategies. In a two-factorial design, 80 farm milk samples were compared for their 'origin' and 'level of intensification', both during the grazing season and the indoor season. In all groups the concentration of phytanic acid in winter was about 50 % lower than in summer. A strong negative correlation was found between the sum amount of concentrates plus maize silage in the cow's diet and the phytanic acid level. In winter, cows fed with hay had lower phytanic acid levels than cows fed grass silage. The differentiation of low-input and high-input systems was more consistent than the differentiation between biodynamic and conventional samples based on the combination of phytanic acid and SRR/RRR ratio. The SRR/RRR ratio was an indication for the factor 'intensification', whereas the concentration of phytanic acid reflected the factor 'origin'. The SRR/RRR ratio is therefore a marker for the grazing policy in summer and the differentiation between hay versus grass plus maize silage in winter diets. Organic farming could lose its characteristic features reflected in several aspects of milk fat quality if grazing during summer is reduced and replaced by larger amounts of concentrate and maize silage. © 2012 Springer Science & Business Media BV.


Schmitt E.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | Schmitt E.,ETH Zurich | Keech D.,Countryside and Community Research Institute CCRI | Maye D.,Countryside and Community Research Institute CCRI | And 2 more authors.
Sustainability (Switzerland) | Year: 2016

Local food has recently gained popularity under the assumption that it is more sustainable than food from distant locations. However, evidence is still lacking to fully support this assumption. The goal of this study is to compare local and global food chains in five dimensions of sustainability (environmental, economic, social, ethical and health), covering all stages of the chain. In particular, four cheese supply chains are compared in detail: a local (L'Etivaz) and global (Le Gruyère) case in Switzerland and a local (Single Gloucester) and global (Cheddar) case in the UK. A multi-dimensional perspective is adopted to compare their sustainability performance. Eight attributes of performance (affordability, creation and distribution of added value, information and communication, consumer behaviour, resource use, biodiversity, nutrition and animal welfare) are used to frame the comparative analysis. The results suggest that local cheese performs better in the field of added value creation and distribution, animal welfare and biodiversity. Global chains, by contrast, perform better in terms of affordability and efficiency and some environmental indicators. This analysis needed to be expressed in qualitative terms rather than quantified indicators and it has been especially useful to identify the critical issues and trade-offs that hinder sustainability at different scales. Cheese supply chains in Switzerland and the UK also often present hybrid arrangements in term of local and global scales. Comparison is therefore most meaningful when presented on a local (farmhouse)/global (creamery) continuum. © 2016 by the authors.


Lundmark F.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | Berg C.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | Schmid O.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | Behdadi D.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | Rocklinsberg H.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics | Year: 2014

The focus on animal welfare in society has increased during the last 50 years. Animal welfare legislation and private standards have developed, and today many farmers within animal production have both governmental legislation and private standards to comply with. In this paper intentions and values are described that were expressed in 14 animal welfare legislation and standards in four European countries; Sweden, United Kingdom, Germany and Spain. It is also discussed if the legislation and standards actually accomplish what they, in their overall description and ethics, claimed to do, i.e. if this is followed up by relevant paragraphs in the actual body of the text in the legislation and standards respectively. The method used was an on-line questionnaire from the EconWelfare research project and text analyses. This study shows that the ethical values within a set of legislation or private standards are not always consistently implemented, and it is not always possible to follow a thread between the intentions mentioned initially and the actual details of the legislation or standard. Since values will differ so will also the animal welfare levels and the implications of similar concepts in the regulations. In general, the regulations described were not based on animal welfare considerations only, but also other aspects, such as food safety, meat quality, environmental aspects and socio-economic aspects were taken into account. This is understandable, but creates a gap between explicit and implicit values, which we argue, can be overcome if such considerations are made more transparent to the citizens/consumers. © 2014, The Author(s).


Home R.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | Balmer O.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | Jahrl I.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | Stolze M.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL | Pfiffner L.,Research Institute for Organic Agriculture FiBL
Journal of Rural Studies | Year: 2014

Swiss farmers receive subsidies for reserving ecological compensation areas on their farms with the aim of encouraging biodiversity, but recent studies have found that the existing system of incentives is insufficient to halt biodiversity loss in the Swiss agricultural landscape. An effective targeting of incentives is needed to motivate farmers to implement conservation measures on farmland. The primary aim of this study is to identify the motivations that contribute to the intention of Swiss farmers to engage in conservation on their farms. Fifteen Swiss lowland farmers were interviewed using qualitative interviews and their responses to questions about their attitudes toward nature conservation were categorised and classified according to Ajzen's (1991) theory of planned behaviour. It was found that the farmers' identities and their experiences with past nature conservation measures combine with their expectations of direct benefits, such as financial incentives, and their trust that the measures will produce the desired outcomes, to form a behavioural attitude. The sampled Swiss farmers display a strong sense of fairness, which drives them to comply with subjective norms, although they feel torn between a societal expectation to conserve nature and a wish to appear productive to their peers. We conclude by recommending that any changes to the policy framework should be undertaken in a consultative process and that Swiss lowland farmers be allowed the flexibility to implement measures that will produce the best conservation outcomes on their farms. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

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