Wednesday, November 15, 2006 - 3:10 PM

Research Priorities in a Coordinated Nordic Agroecology Network.

Charles Francis1, Tor Arvid Breland2, Geir Lieblein2, Lennart Salomonsson3, Ulrika Geber3, Vibeke Langer4, Natarajah Sriskandarajah4, and Juha Helenius5. (1) Univ. of Nebraska, 102B KCR, Lincoln, NE 68583-0915, (2) Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Postboks 5003, N-1432 Aas, Norway, (3) Swedish Agricultural University, PO Box 7005, Uppsala S-75007, Sweden, (4) Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Agrovej 10, Taastrup DK-2630, Denmark, (5) University of Helsinki, Dept Applied Biology, Helsinki, Finland

The Nordic Agroecology Network AGROASIS is developing a coordinated research agenda for faculty and students in the region. Faced with a short growing season, limited arable land, and a long distance from input suppliers and markets, farmers are finding difficulty competing with imported food in the global marketplace. Marketers in the food system often opt for the cheapest and most accessible wholesale food sources regardless of origin. Small faculties in the agricultural universities have limited research resources, and fewer students each year are attracted to graduate programs in production and food systems. Each country has an established goal to reach 10-20% organic food consumption by 2015, and there is concern about the outflow of money spent for food that could circulate in rural communities. In this context, it is essential for researchers to establish a common agenda to make maximum use of scarce people and resources. An iterative process of establishing research priorities is in progress in the agroecology network, with identification of key challenges to the food system at multiple levels of spatial scale. High impact areas for research include systems under global climate change, loss of habitat and biodiversity, expensive energy supplies, multifunctional landscapes, ecosystem services, ecological economics, farm price supports and other subsidies, and equity of access to food. Research topics for faculty and PhD/MSc students increasingly will fit under this umbrella of broad priorities. Rather than limit creativity of researchers, we intend this to direct integrative systems studies toward issues of highest concern in the region, and thus make maximum progress toward achieving long-term sustainability in the farming and food system. Working together, faculty and students in the network can contribute in a substantial way to meeting this goal.