Organic Farming More Than Competitive

What some of us already knew is being confirmed by a Cornell University study: "Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides, a review of a 22-year farming trial study concludes." Of course, the people who make fortunes selling fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, GMO crops, etc, don't want people to know that. We must keep believing that the kind of agriculture we're seeing since the "Green Revolution" (a misnomer from the environmental perspective, you can read about it here) is the only viable way to do things and that organic methods are a throwback to less efficient times and more expensive (which is often wrong, since a big part of the costs of regular agriculture come from the high prices of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, patented GMOs, etc). In fact, as far as we know organic farming would be cheaper than non-organic if it was as heavily subsidized. I guess we need a stronger lobby."Organic farming approaches for these crops not only use an average of 30 percent less fossil energy but also conserve more water in the soil, induce less erosion, maintain soil quality and conserve more biological resources than conventional farming does," Pimentel added.

The study compared a conventional farm that used recommended fertilizer and pesticide applications with an organic animal-based farm (where manure was applied) and an organic legume-based farm (that used a three-year rotation of hairy vetch/corn and rye/soybeans and wheat). The two organic systems received no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. [...]

The research compared soil fungi activity, crop yields, energy efficiency, costs, organic matter changes over time, nitrogen accumulation and nitrate leaching across organic and conventional agricultural systems.

"First and foremost, we found that corn and soybean yields were the same across the three systems," said Pimentel, who noted that although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators.

[We can only assume that the organic fields they monitored were not organic before the experiment. If they had been, the higher yields would probably have been there from the start. -MGR]

The fact that organic agriculture systems also absorb and retain significant amounts of carbon in the soil has implications for global warming, Pimentel said, pointing out that soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent, the equivalent of taking about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per hectare out of the air.

This is helpful, but a footnote compared to the importance of stopping soil erosion. The "Green Revolution" way of doing things has been destroying most of our most fertile land for decades now.

::Organic farming produces same corn and soybean yields as conventional farms, but consumes less energy and no pesticides, study finds, via ::Energy Bulletin