Organic Agriculture Yields Could Rival Those of Conventional Harvests

on May 10, 2012
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Researchers at the University of Minnesota and McGill University in Montreal,have conducted astudyexploring the environmental threat associated with conventional agriculture undercutting water resourcesand biodiversity,.. On the other hand, organic farming which is healthy and more environmentaly-friendly yields less crops compared to conventional commercial farming Yet, according to the researchers, the yield gap can be improved significantly by improving organic farming practices and techniques.

The environmental scientists at McGill University and the University of Minnesota performed an analysis of 66 studies comparing organic and conventional agriculture methods across 34 different crop species. The results which werepublished in Naturelast week, show that organic yields are an average of25 per cent less and as much as 34 per cent lower for particular crops. Yields from organic farming rival those from conventional agriculture for soybeans and fruit byyielding just 3 per cent less.At the same time organic vegetable and cereal yields are significantly lower, the American and Canadian researchers concluded.

The new study’sfindings contradict those of earlier studies that organic farming matched, or even exceeded, conventional yields.”We found that, overall, organic yields are considerably lower than conventional yields,” explainsVerenaSeufert, lead author of the study. “But, this yield difference varies across different conditions. When farmers apply best management practices, organic systems, for example, perform relatively better,”she added. Accordingly, adoption of organic agriculture under environmental conditions where it performs best, or improvements in organic management techniqueswould help close the current yield gap.

!m[](/uploads/story/67/thumbs/Pic_1_inline.png)As the study indicates, it is possible that advances in organic farming practices and techniques could result in equivalent yields on crops grown in the conditions most appropriate to them. More importantly the researchers suggest, considering when and where organic farming might be better suited. Or as the study’s authors say, “To establish organic agriculture as an important tool in sustainable food production, the factors limiting organic yields need to be more fully understood, alongside assessments of the many social, environmental and economic benefits of organic farming systems.” According to Seufert, what should be done is addressing the issues and then building systems that achieve high organic yields.

The results from the conducted research also show a need to get beyond the black-and-white, ideological debates that often pit advocates of organic farming against proponents of conventional agriculture. A single system of “either organic or conventional is much too simplistic”, Seufert explained. “By combining organic and conventional practices in a way that maximises food production and social good while minimising adverse environmental impact, we can create a truly sustainable food system,”the study’s lead author further suggests.High agricultural productivity is becoming even more important as the world’s population grows, and food demand with it.Yields are only part of a set of economic, social and environmental factors that should be considered when gauging the benefits of different farming systems, the researchers note.

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