• Charlotte Bickler

ORC: bringing in practitioners from the beginning

Often research projects set off with their scientific objectives and think about how the work may be applied somewhere down the line. DIVERSify is all about engaging with people involved in testing and using plant teams from the beginning. These may be scientists but also farmers, agronomists, breeders and advisors. At the Organic Research Centre (ORC), we are leading partners from across the network in holding workshops where we will work with these stakeholders to identify their existing experiences with ‘intercropping’, ‘companion cropping’, ‘plant mixtures’ and the like. We want to unpick what’s already been done, what has worked, what hasn’t and what questions remain unanswered based on practitioners’ experiences. Please do get in touch if you have tried plant teams on your farm, would like to try or have a general interest in the area.

We have a diversity (!) of partners, with workshops being held from Sweden to Kenya, and France to Palestine. John Ochieng Otieno of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) told us “This workshop is a great opportunity for KEFRI to explore the opportunities and challenges faced by our stakeholder farmers who are now busy with land preparations for short rains planting. We look forward to sharing our research and monitoring work on agroforestry systems which we think will result in interesting discussion”. There is a lot we can learn from what different people are doing in different places and we are looking forward to drawing together knowledge from across these varied climatic regions, and farming systems.

Alongside the workshops, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (UPM) and Københavns Universitet (UCPH) are conducting socio-economic analysis to further quantify the bottlenecks and barriers to the adoption of plant teams. This work will help us to identify barriers to uptake which can then be addressed in other parts of the project.

We will work particularly closely with Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC) and Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC) in coordinating the on-farm field trials and demonstrations. Read more here. We aim to ensure that these respond to the needs discussed in the workshops and address the identified barriers. Ultimately, we hope that having a participatory approach to the research will facilitate the uptake of plant teams and their associated benefits.

ORC is also working with all partners to ensure that the exciting results from the project spread beyond our network and into use. Alongside direct engagement, through participatory research and demonstration on farm, we are coordinating a variety of knowledge exchange activities that will encourage this spread. Taskscape Associates (TAL) are already travelling to partner organisations to film project activities for mini documentaries and video material. Tune in here. Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) will be conducting Speak Out training on the topic and we will be arranging young researcher exchanges. Keep up-to-date with all project activities on this website, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

Current workshop details:

07/09/2017 - Saatzucht Gleisdorf Austria Workshop. Contact:

05/10/2017 - LEAF UK Workshop at Overbury Village Hall (nr Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire). Contact:

11/10/2017 - STC UK Workshop at Stockbridge Technology Centre with machinery demonstration (nr Selby, Yorkshire). Contact:

23/11/2017 - ORC UK Workshop at Rushall Organics (nr Pewsey, Wiltshire) as part of our winter cereals events to share ideas and explore approaches to intercropping, and diverse cereal production and use. Contact:

Workshops will also be held in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Palestine, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Further dates will be added to our calendar here.

If you are interested in partaking in a workshop then please contact:, and sign up to our newsletter to keep up-to-date with further project developments and results.


The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under agreement No. 727284.