Organic farming methods produce crop yields that are, on average, 20 percent smaller than conventional crops, Swiss researchers report, based on a 21-year comparison of the two methods.
But organic farming more than makes up the difference, in terms of ecological benefits. Researchers grew side-by-side crops using both organic and conventional methods, including potatoes, barley, winter wheat, beets and grass clover. They kept crop rotation, varieties and tillage the same for both.
Overall, the scientists found the organic systems were able to produce more with less energy and fewer resources. Amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients added to the soil were 34-51 percent lower for organic crops than conventional crops.
Organic soils were home to a larger and more diverse community of organisms, such as soil microbes, which govern nutrient cycling in soils, and root-colonizing fungi, which help plants absorb the nutrients. Insects were almost twice as abundant and more diverse, including pest-eating spiders and beetles.
Earthworms were more abundant as well, and weeds were more diverse, including some specialized and endangered species.
"These results should be encouraging for farmers, because they can see that yields are stable over time, and that soil fertility has increased," the researchers said.
United Press International
Nature Magazine version,
LINK to info and
a product for farmers
Source www.i-sis.org.uk, September 2007
Press Release, 9/10/07 www.isis.org.uk
Source: www.independent.co.uk November 2008
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