Case study 6: Switzerland: Introduction of oilseed rape in association with service crops

Cluster 2: Crop diversification under adverse conditions

The cultivation of organic rapeseed is stagnating or even declining, as there is a high risk of severe yield loss due to high occurrence of Meligethes aeneus, strong weed pressure or limited nitrogen supply. The main objective is to increase yield stability in order to promote rapeseed as a valuable crop in the rotation.

What are the main problems underlying the emergence of the CS?
The cultivation of organic rapeseed is stagnating, as there is a high risk of severe yield loss due to high occurrence of Meligethes aeneus, strong weed pressure, and limited nitrogen supply. The main objective is to increase yield stability in order to promote rapeseed as a valuable crop in the rotation. Rapeseed as a hoe crop is a good complement to cereal-based crop rotations in organic agriculture. Besides the ecological benefits of a flowering crop, rapeseed can absorb higher amounts of nitrogen in autumn compared to cereals.

How is the problem addressed and which actors are involved?
A pilot project was already started in 2000 when FiBL started its first field trials in collaboration with Biofarm (a Swiss organic farmer and trade cooperation) in order to establish organic rapeseed production. Subsequent field trials were performed to control the pollen beetle with stone meal or an olfactory distraction technique. Stone meal did not show the desirable effect yet, whereas the olfactory distraction technique is not developed for the practice. Therefore, the use of service plants is an interesting and potential alternative. The first tests are done by different farmers and seed traders.

Solution investigated
Further investigation is crucial for successful rapeseed production. 
We want to test, on-farm and in strips, the three possible solutions for controlling pollen beetles and other pests. We will use stone meal in different dosages, and outdoor experiments with different oil odors, such as mint. The third possibility is to test and evaluate different catch crops scientifically. Catch crops cover better and faster, they compete against weeds and, at the same time, the pests are deviated from green manure flowers.
There is no intense interaction between actors in trade and research. There is only the common target of promoting organic rapeseed production. Organic farmers will be involved in developing new strategies through on-farm field trials.
At the moment, there is a high demand from the industry for high oleic rape. Fenaco (a Swiss farmer group) wants to produce organic potato chips with native organic rape oil. They are looking for new organic growers to develop this sector. Fenaco needs an area of 300 ha. High oleic rape needs special varieties. At the moment, it exists only as a hybrid, which is not allowed according to the guidelines of Bio Suisse. 

Expected outcome
Establish organic rapeseed production for food and industry in Switzerland.
Find new methods to stabilize the yield of organic rape.
Find new ways to combat the pollen beetle.
Develop new, low-input systems to produce rape without any chemical input.

Relevance to the DiverIMPACTS goals?
Low-input diversified cropping systems as this organic case study show a lower environmental impact. Currently applied to organic farming, this method can be transmitted to conventional farming.
High oleic rape can open new market opportunities and increase farmers’ revenues.
Furthermore, it will contribute to the improved delivery of ecosystem services including biodiversity.

Contact

  • Hansueli Dierauer, FiBL, case study leader
  • Marion Schild, FiBL, case study leader
  • Sylvain Quiédeville, FiBL, case study monitor