Case study 10: Poland: Introduction of oilseed rape/flax and cover crops

Cluster 2: Crop diversification under adverse conditions

Low yields of rape and flax, and  the lack of appropriate harvesting machinery for flax are the key problems for the farmers providing products for an oil processing factory. Low yields are mainly caused by problems with appropriate nutrient management and sufficient crop protection against insects and weeds. The lack of products for oil processing factory was the main factor to initiate a network of farmers which started with cultivating a new crop - milk thistle (Silybum marianum).

What are the main problems underlying the emergence of the case study?
The Polish case study is based on a network of five closely cooperating organic farms and a small processing factory. The farms conduct different agricultural activities. However, cultivation of rape and flax for the needs of a small oil processing factory is their most important activity. In 2014, the farmers started to cultivate a new crop, milk thistle (Silybum marianum), that is also processed into oil that can be used in medicine. The above mentioned factory belongs to the organic farmer Thomas Obszański and, together with his farm, is the core element of the presented value chain.
The factory specializes in the cold pressing of oils from organic raw materials. An additional source of income from the factory is an oil cake (by-product) sold as fodder to the neighboring farmers who keep farm animals.
Low yields of rape and flax and the lack of appropriate harvesting machinery for flax are the key problems the farmers have to face. Low yields are mainly caused by problems with appropriate nutrient management and sufficient crop protection against insects and weeds.

How is the problem addressed and which actors are involved?
Thomas Obszański was the initiator of the case study that started in 2010. In the beginning, he processed only his own products, rape and flax, from his farm. After some years, he developed a network of organic farmers cooperating with him, first of all, to increase the volume of production.
A lack of products for an oil processing factory was the main factor that initiated the development of the farmer network. The case study is located in the southeastern part of Poland where agriculture is characterized by low-intensity production and a very fragmented and small structure. Moreover, the problem of how to utilize byproducts from oil and flax processing stimulated the farmer to establish cooperation with conventional farmers. Keeping farm animals as these byproducts appeared to be a source of a good quality fodder.
Groups of both organic and conventional farmers and a processing factory and also agricultural advisors are involved in the activities. Advisors deliver appropriate technical support in farming. However, there is a lack of high quality organic advisory service. The Institute if Soil Science and Plant cultivation IUNG-PIB is the only scientific team cooperating with the case study.

Solution investigated
Improvements in crop rotation by introducing catch crops (e.g., mixtures of legumes and non-legume crops) to increase the rape and flax yield. The goal is better access or the establishment of machinery rings.

Expected outcome
We expect to guarantee a good yield of flax and rape seed crops as well as milk thistle for local oil processing. We also expect organic flax and rape seed production in crop rotation to increase soil fertility and nutrition management.

Relevance to the DiverIMPACTS goals
There is an improvement of the competitive advantage of the case study.

Contact

  • Magdalena Obszanska, Barwy Zdrowia, case study leader