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Dr. Derek Lynch honoured for Outstanding Leadership in Organic Science

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on April 8, 2024 in News
Dr. Derek Lynch
Dr. Derek Lynch

The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) held its annual 2024 Organic Leadership Awards and evening gala, honouring pioneers and visionaries of the organic industry.

Dr. Derek Lynch was honoured with the award of Outstanding Leadership in Organic Science. Derek is a professor of Agronomy and Agroecology at Dalhousie University, Faculty of Agriculture teaching soil science, organic field crop management and urban agriculture.

Over the past 20 years, Derek’s research tackled production challenges for organic producers, while documenting how organic farming systems are distinct with respect to vegetation, nutrient intensity, soil health and soil biota composition and functioning.

“I am very honoured to have been nominated for and to receive this award from the Canada Organic Trade Association," said Derek.  "It has been my privilege to undertake research, often directly on organic farms, to document the sustainability of this branded low-input farming system. Research is made possible through support provided by organic producer organizations, funders and my Canada Research Chair in Organic Agriculture position, and the innovative teamwork of many farmers, collaborators and graduate students.”

The Award for Outstanding Leadership in Organic Science is presented to an individual who has had a significant impact on organic agriculture through research and education. While it is recognized that research is conducted in teams with the support of technicians and students, this award is intended to acknowledge the leadership or significant impact of an individual's work/research program. The recipient is selected based on demonstration of exceptional leadership and contribution to at least two of the following areas:

1. Research that has resulted in (or has the potential to result in) significant improvement of practices in organic operations.

2. Communication of knowledge gained from organic science in a way that has impact on stakeholders who can use it.

3. Expansion of the integrity of organic science by establishing networks or collaborations with other scientists, as well as research that has influenced or informed government policy that supports the adoption of organic practices.

Derek has made valuable contributions to organic agriculture, particularly in the field of soil health, fertility and cropping systems. After a short period as a Research Associate with the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada between 2002-2005, Derek became the first Canada Research Chair in Organic Agriculture from 2005-2015.

Derek has been a valuable contributor to the national Organic Science Cluster program since 2009. Derek is the Co-founder of the Atlantic Soil Health lab and the Centre for Sustainable Soil Management at Dalhousie University.

 Derek has published over 75 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters related to organic farming, agroecology, agronomy and soil management. Among them are valuable review papers evaluating the environmental performance of organic farming systems relating to biodiversity and soil health. His agronomic, cropping systems, and soil health research has made him a well-rounded researcher that can bring a multi-disciplinary understanding to farming systems. Managing highly interdisciplinary and collaborative research projects has been a defining characteristic of his research program.

 Derek teaches organic field crop production, soil management and agroecology at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Derek has trained numerous graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, summer students and technicians, many of whom are now working with government or industry, or have become university professors themselves in the disciplines of sustainable cropping systems, soil health, and agroecology.

 Derek has always been an active and contributor to the organic sector, bringing a credible, scientific perspective to the issues of the day by serving on a number of national sector committees including as Chair of the Research and Innovation Working Group of the Organic Value Chain Round Table and national technical committee tasked with drafting the Canadian organic production standards.

 The ever-engaging and pragmatic approach Derek takes to bringing science to both policy and practice has made him a highly sought-after speaker. He has received numerous invitations to share his knowledge at conferences and meetings, including being invited to Ottawa to present to parliamentary and senate standing committees relating to organic agriculture and soil health. Anyone who meets Derek enjoys, his personable nature, depth of knowledge, practical approach, scientific credibility, professionalism and, of course, his Irish personality.