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Organic Science Cluster III

About Organic Science Cluster III (OSCIII)

Organic Science Cluster III is a joint initiative led by the Organic Federation of Canada in collaboration with the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada at Dalhousie University to serve the needs of Canada’s organic sector.

OSCIII Status Update

As of the beginning of October 2017, Organic Science Cluster III has proceeded through the Letter of Intent submission and review stage, the invitation and submission of full proposals, the Peer Review and Science Advisory Body review of proposals, and the invitation and submission of revised proposals from researchers. For more detail on the various stages, please see below.

Letter of Intent Review

A Letter of Intent (LOI) Review Committee was established to evaluate submitted LOIs against a standardized set of criteria, focused on the strategic priorities established in the Canadian Organic Research Needs and Priorities Assessment Process. This committee was responsible for representing the organic sector in evaluating LOIs for industry merit and potential impact. The LOI Review Committee consisted of 20 leading organic sector professionals and stakeholders from across Canada with awareness of organic sector priorities in their areas of expertise.  

The LOI Review Process represented a significant investment of time by organic stakeholders, with members of the LOI Review Committee spending up to 15 hours/person on conference calls to scrutinize and discuss the submitted LOIs and make constructive decisions. LOIs that were deemed priorities were then invited for full proposal submission.

Peer Review

The Peer Review Process followed the guidelines laid out by AAFC for the anticipated next Cluster program. The OSCIII Management Team targeted three peer reviewers for each invited proposal, with over 370 potential reviewers contacted.

The peer reviewers, each an expert in a field directly related to a submitted proposal, evaluated proposals for their scientific merit and methodological integrity to ensure that the science of organic agriculture in Canada is credible and impactful.

Science Advisory Body

The Science Advisory Body (SAB) was established as per the guidelines provided by AAFC. The SAB has a mandate to:

  1. Validate the integrity of the peer review process to ensure a fair, transparent and thorough evaluation of individual research activities/projects by independent peer reviewers; and
  2. Provide the Organic Federation of Canada (the applicant) with expert advice on the Cluster’s science programming.

The SAB met to review the outcomes of the Peer Review, and put forward recommendations for each submitted proposal. Researchers were asked to revise and re-submit their proposals based on these recommendations. Proposals requiring revision were once again reviewed by the SAB upon resubmission.


Contacts

Should you have any questions about Organic Science Cluster III, please do not hesitate to contact:

Canadian Organic Research Needs and Priorities

The organic sector has been undergoing a national assessment of research priorities. While a full assessment is not yet complete, preliminary results of the research needs assessment have identified priorities that can help inform applications to Organic Science Cluster III. These priority areas are outlined below and are also available as a PDF. A more detailed report will be available at a later date.

1. Increasing competitiveness through improvements in productivity, production stability and resiliency with climate extremes and/or quality of product, including:

  • Breeding - Developing/identifying crop cultivars and livestock that are: adapted to regional organic management, resilient to pest pressure, adapted to use nutrients/feed efficiently
  • Pest (disease and insect) management strategies - with an emphasis on prevention and cultural strategies, for
    • livestock (e.g. mastitis, lameness, external/internal parasites, etc.),
    • horticultural crops (e.g. apple scab, blight, rots, nematodes, powdery mildew, wireworm, spotted wing drosophila, Colorado potato beetle, flea beetle, thrips, etc.),
    • cereals and pulse crops (e.g. fusarium head blight, seedling blight, root diseases, white mold, etc.)
  • Weed management strategies - cultural and mechanical practices for in organic field and horticultural crops with emphasis on perennial weeds (e.g. Canada thistle, field bindweed); impacts and alternatives for plastic mulch use in horticulture
  • Cropping systems strategies – cover crops and green manures, intercropping, development of climate resilient systems, greenhouse systems
  • Soils, including:
    • effects of management practices on the form and quantity of soil organic matter,
    • practices to improve soil health and linking soil health with productivity, product quality and ecosystem services (e.g. clean air, clean water, water storage, etc.),
    • improved soil fertility management with crop rotation and soil amendments
  • Livestock feed - Alternative feed sources to reduce grain/concentrate use, including food waste, forages, insect protein; improved pasture management to maintain productivity and quality of feed while maintaining or improving biodiversity
  • Improving quality of organic products
    • improved nutritional value through management practices and cultivar selection,
    • evaluating and improving grain cleaning and storage practices
  • Development and application of new technologies to support organic production systems – including soil amendments (local resources/waste recycling), equipment, pesticides
  • Assessment of GE contamination risks to organic production systems, evaluating the effectiveness of mitigation practices and development of improved practices.

2. Advancing public good through characterization and improvement of:

  • Agroecosystem function – nutrient cycling and movement, carbon life cycle and energy use analysis (whole system)
    • carbon balance of organic production systems in Canada
  • Ecosystem services – carbon sequestration, soil health, biodiversity, and pollination
    • soil health in tillage-based systems
    • using buffer zones to boost biodiversity – costs, impacts
  • Nutritional benefits of organic.
  • Note: Characterization of the environmental impacts of organic systems is a high priority, and is encouraged to be included as a component of all research projects as appropriate

3. Supporting organic sector evolution through:

  • Assessments of the sustainability of organic agriculture production systems and practices to improve sustainability
  • Application of holistic principles to find solutions that close nutrient/energy cycles - integration of crops and livestock, recycling of waste by-products (especially local/regional waste)
  • Improvement of animal welfare – optimizing outdoor access and housing

Researchers may also refer to locally identified priorities, as well as previously completed research needs and priorities assessments.