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Organic soya in Switzerland – Optimising the Swiss production chain from seeds to the final product


The demand for local organic soya is rising continuously. From 2016 to 2018, the project supported by the COOP Sustainability Fund intends to find solutions for the difficulties in organic soya cultivation as well as in the production chain. Various aspects of cultivation methods are being optimised in on-farm experiments in order to improve yield stability and to lower costs. The specialist counselling and training for farmers are to be set up. To this end, practical advisory materials are created and various events are being carried out. Already cultured soya sources are to be evaluated for processing. For the selection, parameters for the special needs of organic farming und of processing are being observed. The project serves the linking and coordination of actors in the Swiss organic soya supply chain that are supplying COOP. They partake in exchange and clarify shared questions in order to create stable framework conditions of production for all Swiss organic soya actors.

Detailed Description

For over 30 years, Switzerland has cultivated conventional soybean varieties, which are specially adapted to the cool Swiss cultivation conditions. In the last couple of years, quality traits of soya have seen greater interest when it comes to selection, thus, promising new varieties are approved every year. These varieties must now be tested under organic conditions in different regions of Switzerland (Eastern Switzerland, the Central Plateau, Western Switzerland), and their processing properties must be tested in the laboratory and on a pilot scale. Furthermore, their cultivation suitability may be significantly improved if weed control can be achieved without manual labour. This is why selection is to be carried out according to weed suppression i.e. weed tolerance during the breeding process already, in order to develop new varieties suitable for organic farming conditions and for the use of edible soya. Further selection criteria (e.g., protein content) are being consensually prioritised by the project partners.

The yield stability has so far not been guaranteed, as soya cultivation is very demanding, farmers having limited experience, and there are still various open questions regarding cultivation. To be prioritised and solved in on-farm experiments are pressing problems and obstacles in organic soya cultivation, in collaboration with the project partners and farmers, taking into consideration the results and issues of the soya project "Bio Suisse soya from Europe" and already established solutions of other foreign organisations. There is a variety of open questions, notably weed management (hoeing tools, nurse crops, tillage, crop rotation), the efficient inoculation with rhizobia (symbiotic bacteria which are indispensable for the nitrogen fixation at the roots), as well as an optimised seeding and harvesting technique.

As there has been no organised soya advisory service so far, an independent, dynamic and FiBL-coordinated advisory system, as well as a farmers' advisory network for a need-based, independent advisory and training of farmers are being established. Practicable advisory materials in different media are being created for cultivators. Additionally, different public advisory events are being carried out (floor visits, workshops, conferences, courses). Furthermore, an infrastructure for crop-intake and a quality assurance concept are planned.

The project serves the purpose of networking and coordination of actors in the Swiss organic soya supply chain which are supplying COOP. They engage in exchange, give feedback from the sector and discuss questions regarding the market. Conditions of acceptance regarding the future development of organic soya production are settled in a participatory fashion, so as to create stable framework conditions in production for all parties involved with Swiss organic soya.

Financing/ Donor
  • Bio Suisse
  • Coop Fonds für Nachhaltigkeit
(Research) Program
  • Partnership Coop and FiBL
Project partners
  • Mühle Rytz: Mühle mit Exklusivvertrag für Coop, grösster Abnehmer von Biosoja der Schweiz
  • Progana: Bio-Soja-Produzentenorganisation in der Westschweiz
  • Agroscope, Institut für Pflanzenbauwissenschaften: Züchtung von an die Region angepasste Sorten, Prüfung von Sorten
  • Delley Samen und Pflanzen AG (DSP): Saatgutvermehrung und Züchtung
  • Bio Suisse, Dachverband für den Biolandbau in der Schweiz
FiBL project leader/ contact (people who are not linked are former FiBL employees)
FiBL project staff (people who are not linked are former FiBL employees)
Role of FiBL

Projektleitung, Ausführung der Module, Expertenfunktion

Research area
  • Consumers & Food (Department of Socio-Economic Sciences)
  • Cultivation Technique Arable Crops (Department of Soil Sciences)
  • Department Suisse Romande (Switzerland)
  • Plant Breeding (Department of Crop Sciences)
FiBL project number 55240
Date modified 12.11.2019