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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2010

Is conventional agricultural research fit for the purpose of supporting ecological agriculture? A case study of an attempted transition in Sweden

Karin, Eksvärd


In order to increase ecological horticulture in Sweden, it is necessary to increase productivity while reducing working hours. To improve the relevance of research results as a base for such transitions, a Participatory Learning and Action Research (PLAR) group was added to a conventional research project that aimed to find options for using green manure as a multifunctional tool in vegetable production. The project consisted of four work packages looking at different aspects of a system of interest defined by researchers. The PLAR group sought to evaluate the agronomic outcome of the conventional research outputs but came to add qualitative experience of using the different manuring methods tried. The article reports on the evaluation of the PLAR activities as well as on issues of cooperation and understanding The difficulties and constrains that arose revealed the limitations of conventional research as a means for supporting ecological horticulture transitions, but using PLAR as an 'add on method' is also shown to be inadequate for helping producers effect the transitions required. Discussion on the robustness of the data generated and the stability of the approach show the importance of using approaches that are fit for practice when extending research to develop ecological horticulture to include participation with practitioners. Moving from conventional research approaches to trans-disciplinary approaches is not easy and includes the need to relate the contextual knowledge of farmers to the abstract knowledge of scientists.


ecological horticulture; Participatory Learning and Action Research; research transition; green manure; Sweden

Published in

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
2010, Volume: 25, number: 1, pages: 55-68

    SLU Authors

    • Eksvärd, Karin

      • Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG2 Zero hunger

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

    Publication Identifiers


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