The Division of Organic Farming (IfÖL) is based on a student initiative that started in the 1970s. In 1996, the division was officially founded. Today it is one of three divisions of the Department of Sustainable Agro Systems. Read more about the history of the division.
The central tasks of this division are research and teaching related to organic farming and relevant social areas as well as related services and public relations.
The Division of Organic Farming has a total of five positions in the scientific field, one position for the laboratory, one technician and one secretarial post as well as about 20 scientific assistants that work in three working groups (see also People).
The Division of Organic Farming bundles a spectrum of competences from the natural and social scientific fields for the area of expertise of organic farming, its related food sector as well as adjacent fields such as sustainability research. Our central questions are:
- How can organic farming be further developed as a guidance system for agriculture and nutrition in the 21st century and at the same time keep its original qualities?
- What is necessary in order to make the system of organic farming socially available as a guidance system?
- Which impulses and inputs can organic farming offer for other social subsystems?
The Division of Organic Farming mainly contributes to the following competence fields of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences:
- Soil and Terrestrial Ecosystems
- Food – Nutrition – Health
- Renewable Raw Materials and Resource-Oriented Technologies
- Water – Atmosphere – Environment
- Resources and Social Dynamics
Division Mission Statement
In Austria, with its high company and area percentage organic farming plays a vital role. Based on this, the Division sees its mission in contributing substantially to the advancement of organic farming and nutrition.
Organic farming is not only a specific way of food production and related nutrition. Its systematic holistic approach in its practical application leads to the development of further thoughts for developmental processes, theoretical and methodological foundations and applications of science and teaching for organic farming. In research and teaching we try to incorporate the systemic character of organic farming. Research questions are developed in their systemic context. Results of disciplinary and interdisciplinary nature are evaluated based on their effects for the overall system.
By interdisciplinary research we mean that researchers work together on overarching research question. Doing so, they take into account the interfaces of the individual disciplines. By transdisciplinary research we mean that research questions are developed from a common discourse with protagonists. Research process steps are discussed and results are jointly evaluated. Download: Research Methodology in Organic Farming (in German).
The IFOAM principals of organic farming offer a framework for research. In the focus of this farming method there is the principle of a mainly closed farm cycle which in its basic concept also holds true for regional cycles (especially taking the up- and downstream sectors of agricultural production into account). The simultaneous consideration of environmental impacts, social and economic effects on the micro- and macro levels are all integral parts of the organic farming code of practice.
The research orientation at the division is closely connected with the idea of human ecology which highlights the relationship between humans and nature and society and environment respectively. The human ecological perspective and the holistic approach of organic farming require the use of natural scientific, socio-cultural and socio-economic methods and theories. It therefore suggests itself that disciplinary boundaries in research processes are – and have to be - overstepped again and again and that cross-institutional cooperation is aimed for.
The concept in teaching organic farming is oriented towards a specific approach – which is system-oriented and interdisciplinary. Apart from mere content-related topics about the practical realization of organic approaches, also scientific methodology and theory as well as philosophical and ethical questions are covered in the courses offered.