Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Science

Organics Can't Match Conventional Farm Yields 452

Posted by timothy
from the that's-what-they-want-you-to-think dept.
scibri writes "A comprehensive analysis published in Nature (abstract) suggests that organic farming could supply needs in some circumstances. But yields are lower than in conventional farming, so producing the bulk of the globe's diet will still require chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The meta-analysis reviewed 66 studies comparing the yields of 34 different crop species in organic and conventional farming systems. The researchers included only studies that assessed the total land area used, allowing them to compare crop yields per unit area. Many previous studies that have showed large yields for organic farming ignore the size of the area planted — which is often bigger than in conventional farming. Crop yields from organic farming are as much as 34% lower than those from comparable conventional farming practices, though in some cases, notably with strawberries and soybeans, the gap is as small as 3%."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Organics Can't Match Conventional Farm Yields

Comments Filter:
  • Ummm. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cosgrach (1737088) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:54PM (#39812997)

    No shit.

    • Re:Ummm. (Score:5, Funny)

      by msobkow (48369) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:00PM (#39813105) Homepage Journal

      Actually shit would be organic fertilizer... :P

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098)

      Sad, but true: organic food - and with it, all the grass-fed, free-range and other land- and labor-intensive farming - will be the purview of the rich. Or at least the moderately wealthy. The rest of you, go stand in line for pink slime, industrial eggs and speed-grown corn.

      • Re:Ummm. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by doston (2372830) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:22PM (#39813381)

        Sad, but true: organic food - and with it, all the grass-fed, free-range and other land- and labor-intensive farming - will be the purview of the rich. Or at least the moderately wealthy. The rest of you, go stand in line for pink slime, industrial eggs and speed-grown corn.

        Maybe, but this article and study aside, I've been watching the price of organics drop for years. Maybe organic crops aren't as efficient as they could be yet. As far as being the purview of the wealthy, I think that's only true to a point. I've just resigned myself to spending a higher percentage of my income on food. People in the US spent 6% of their income on food in 2009, UK 9% and France 14%. There are whole regions of France who only eat organic food. I'd like to see more people in the upper income brackets buy organic food and grass-fed, organic meat, pastured poultry and eggs, exclusively. I think it's a responsibility and might have a similar effect of lowering the price, sort of like electronics "early adopters". Here in the US, we throw away 33 million tons of food per year. Maybe we don't need so much efficiency after all.

        • Re:Ummm. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by sribe (304414) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:46PM (#39813695)

          I think it's a responsibility and might have a similar effect of lowering the price...

          Wal-Mart has set its sights on the organic market and is pushing its producers to adopt organic practices, so your wish for lower prices is likely to come true.

          • Re:Ummm. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by cyachallenge (2521604) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:09PM (#39813991)
            You know what's absurd? It's common place to call industrialised farming "conventional". Spraying crops with tons of pesticides that produce "edible" goods. Instead of producing a product that actually helps the environment, they use Government money (subsidizing) to lower the price of the "conventional" and industrialized methods. Calling them cheaper, rather than realizing the total cost includes the money given to the corporations by the government itself. Even if the company is not given money directly, it uses cheap foodstock (corn) which itself is given money.

            It's been shown time and time again that these pesticides produce health issues in animals and people. For example Round-up, the scientific research finds that the pesticide "additives" primarily cause the issue rather than the pesticide itself.

            Because the pesticide in-itself doesn't cause issues, they simply formulate a new chemicle makeup to circumvent the regulations. Which in turn often comes up as toxic. So Monsanto can simply sidestep an environmental issue by changing the formula without producing positive evidence that the new product is safe. Monsanto makes billions while environmental concerns are simply thrown away.
            • Re:Ummm. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by cyachallenge (2521604) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:30PM (#39814291)
              Not to mention the money spent to resolve countless crowding issues esp. in beef and pork. The problems caused by antibiotic overuse and buildup of pesticides. Then there's research that has to be done to change pesticide formulas. We just recently had an article that explained insects are gaining an adaption to the chemicals through symbiosis of bacteria who can metabolize the pesticides. All of this needs to be factored in.

              Overfarming land for the sake of higher yield requires a great many natural resources in order to accomplish said yields. Water for example, instead of using sustainable methods can lead to shortages that have to be resolved. Then there's run-off waste by the pig farms which is dumped into rivers, where organic farms can simply use it as fertilizer because they aren't nearly as packed together.

              Simple agriculture and meat "yields" need to take into account all of these repercussions of industrialized crowding and intensive farming which are not a factor in organic goods.
            • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @10:09PM (#39816001)

              Production costs for so-called "conventional" farming have high negative externalities--costs that are simply not captured in a yield-per-acre formula, or even a yield-per-dollar forumula.

              Which makes this metastudy not particularly useful or meaningful, because without some way of assessing those costs, we don't have enough information to know what is better.

            • by jovius (974690)

              You know what's absurd? It's common place to call industrialised farming "conventional". Spraying crops with tons of pesticides that produce "edible" goods.

              Large portion of crops goes for fodder. Big reason why the industrialized farming exists is the oversized cattle population. By eating less meat and adjusting your energy need to what you actually consume there'd be less pressure to produce and more space available for crops. It would be interesting to compare organic and "conventional" side by side when all of the unsustainable elements have been ruled out from the equation.

        • Re:Ummm. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sjames (1099) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:02PM (#39813897) Homepage

          TFS and TFA mention that organic farms are often larger, but didn't say WHY. Part of the answer is lower yield/area and the rest is no bill for pesticides and roundup/area.

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        One only has to visit a Whole Foods to see what food would cost if it all was organic - and you'll have to pay attention, because much of the stuff there is still conventional.

      • Not really. If you want to save on food costs it is better to buy direct from the farmer/processor. My extended family does this with beef and bison and it is substantially cheaper than buying from the grocery store, granted you need to have a chest freezer. For example I paid the following most recently:
        $2.41/lb for beef (include ground beef, steaks, roasts, and liver), not quite organic but alfalfa fed non feed lot, hormone free and only given antibiotics when they get sick (rare with this farmer but thi
    • by decora (1710862) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @08:24PM (#39814855) Journal

      of cost reduction are what are required to meet a population growing at a geometric rate, in theory.

      if you want to argue that somehow the 'resources required' to grow organics wont meet population growth, you have to prove that somehow conventional produce can meet the geometric rate increase while organics cant.

      but if you go into the store, organics are not 'orders of magnitude' more expensive than conventional produce. they are usually 1 to 3 times more in cost. thats not an order of magnitude. its a pretty simple scalar multiple.

      and alot of the difference in cost is because of subsidies for various industries, like the oil industry where the petroleum precursor of most fertilizers and insecticides comes from.

      now, go into any supermarket, and look on the shelves. you see a huge amount of processed food, repackaged, precooked, pre-stuffed, etc etc etc. all of that 'added value' is, well, basically its waste. nobody "needs" frozen apple turnovers with chocolate icing in the pattern of a heart shape, but you can go buy it if you want. the idea that somehow organic food would be 'wasted productivity' in the food system is absolutely ridiculous when you look at all the crap in the various 'value added' isles of the supermarket. all of those are, essentially, lowering the efficiency of transporting the calories from the farm to the belly. you could simply sell 5 pound bags of flour for 2 dollars each, and get rid of the entire cereal and cracker aisle, and the people would get the same nutritional value approximately, but they would save a huge amount of money. money = resources. those resources saved could then be put back into growing 'extra food' and meeting the 'growing population'.

      but that argument is fucking stupid because the 2-3 times price markup for a bag of crackers vs a bag of raw flour (which you could use to make your own goddamn crackers) is not going to cause mass starvation simply because its less efficient. all it does is make people smile because crackers taste good, and make food companies and retailers money because they can 'value add' to the raw flour and build a profit into the increased price.

      now if you see organics, instead of some hippy 'impediment to growth and optimization of food supply', and, instead simply view it as another way to deliver calories or raw food products, then the arguments against them from an efficiency standpoint are just as stupid.

      you cant say that organic flour is going to cause mass starvation because it costs 5 bucks a pound instead of 3 bucks a pound, when you have just repackaged that conventional flour into cheerios on the next aisle and are selling it for 6 bucks a pound.

      these people are fucking idiots and should be embarassed to call themselves thinkers.

  • by ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:55PM (#39813007)

    Did they take into account the costs that go into production of fertilizers and pesticides? I imagine that they take up non-zero space and that transporting them costs resources as well. Though it's hard to say how much oil a bushel of wheat is worth...

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:58PM (#39813073)

      Did they take into account the costs that go into production of fertilizers and pesticides? I imagine that they take up non-zero space and that transporting them costs resources as well. Though it's hard to say how much oil a bushel of wheat is worth...

      I think part of the point of "organics" and other alternative farming methods is that some societies can't afford our lavish style.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dishevel (1105119)

      Though it's hard to say how much oil a bushel of wheat is worth...

      Oil 1 Barrel = $104.55
      Wheat 1 bushel = $6.35
      Not hard.

    • by Grayhand (2610049) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:29PM (#39814271)

      Did they take into account the costs that go into production of fertilizers and pesticides? I imagine that they take up non-zero space and that transporting them costs resources as well. Though it's hard to say how much oil a bushel of wheat is worth...

      Actually the single biggest cost in modern farming are petroleum products. Most fertilizers and pesticides are petroleum based and a lot of the expense is in fuel costs. Most seem to consider what is called free range and organic farming as something new or even new age hyppie. It's actually traditional farming as opposed to modern farming that relies heavily on chemicals and hybrids and lately GMO. The difference is traditional farming has a 12,000 year history and modern farming is coming up on a hundred years. Already modern farming is showing signs of wear. Soil is depleted meaning they more not less chemicals. Even GMO products are showing their age. Pests are becoming resistant. I question how long modern farming can last where as traditional organic farming can last indefinitely. Oil prices will go up making food more expensive. Traditional farming even uses less fuel so it can absorb the increases better. As far as how expensive organic production is I'd counter that if it's done right it can be just as cheap with little environmental impact. Free range chickens can potentially be raised without feed or with a small amount of supplimental feed grown at little or no cost by the farmer. Free range cattle also potentially need no feed and tend to be healthier so they need less antibiotics and such. Look at pig farming. I read an article on a farmer in New Hampshire raising pigs that are primarily grass fed. They are leaner and healthier and cost little to raise. The difference is you can't cram 10,000 pigs in one barn like in a factory farm you need more land. The real issue isn't needing more land the problem countries are facing is how so we feed 10 billion people with what land is available. I just read once again that the ocean fisheries will collapse by the middle of the century and most have already. More chemicals aren't the solution fewer people is the only long term solution. As to organic verses chemical based farming, running out of oil will end that debate. It's a finite resource so it's simply a matter of time.

  • Oh really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by stevenfuzz (2510476) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:56PM (#39813019)
    I was under the assumption that organic farms yielded more crops, and that we use pesticides / non-organic grown methods because they are just more fun.
    • Re:Oh really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:20PM (#39813349)

      I agree it's not surprising, but without studying it, it's at least theoretically possible that the gap could've been a cost rather than yield one, i.e. that organic methods could match pesticide-using methods in output, but only at higher expense. That would stil explain why conventional farming uses pesticides, if it lowered costs. What it looks like this study shows is that the yields can't match even ignoring price (though they can sometimes get close).

  • The yield is lower, but was energy input taken into account?

    If fewer resources are required organic could still win out.

    Although I suspect it will still be like the summary says: both will have their place. It's a small miracle we're feeding about seven billion people, and it was achieved through hard work and using all the tools available.

    Add some more billions and we'll likely have organics, conventional agriculture and GM crops side by side, since we'll have no choice but to use all tools again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      No, organic loose even then.

      It's about yield. How much of the product can you resell per acre.

      Much of the energy that goes into organic farming is the same per acre as regular farming(i.e. safer farming).

      Organic farms are full of sloppy techniques, magical thinking, and poor quality product.

      GM crops is conventional agriculture, and the worst way to help feed the people on the planet is organic farming.

      If that energy was put towards vertical farming, we would be a lot better off.

      • I wonder if the authors of the study get the point of Organic Farming?

        It's not about yield, it's about removing the potentially allergenic and toxic substances in our food chain that modern farming uses from the land, air and water around us.

      • by dr2chase (653338)

        "Organic farms are full of sloppy techniques, magical thinking, and poor quality product"

        There are surely some organic farms that fit this description, but none of the ones I've seen. A distant relative runs an organic dairy in Vermont; it runs like any other dairy, but the cows are pastured on "organic" pasture (a lucky fluke, says the owner -- they just never used fertilizer or pesticides on it.) and fed organic feed.

      • by Sperbels (1008585)

        The yield is lower, but was energy input taken into account?

        No, organic loose even then.

        Would it? Producing those pesticides and fertilizers required oil. Transporting and applying them required oil. Pumping and transporting the oil required oil. Is all that oil taken into consideration?

      • by msobkow (48369) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:38PM (#39813599) Homepage Journal

        I can't agree that GMO's are "conventional" agriculture.

        "Conventional" agriculture seeds the fields with part of the last harvest, the seeds of the plants which survived in the local conditions. After about 20 generations or so, you have "land race" genetics -- plants whose genomes have self-tuned to the pests and weather of the local environment. Provided the environment remains stable and isn't affected by imported pests, such crops are far more productive than genetics imported from outside the region.

        GMO's on the other hand, have one purpose and one purpose only: To allow the use of herbicides and pesticides that would kill the "natural" plant. I can guarantee you that if landrace genetics were resistant to those same herbicides and pesticides that they'd out-produce the imported GMOs.

  • by metrometro (1092237) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:57PM (#39813053)

    Which will we run out of first, oil or dirt?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:59PM (#39813075)

    I find the rhetorical twist here interesting: "conventional farming" is now the artificially accelerated, yield raising variant of farming. The very things that those techniques were supposed to address were increased yields, pest resistance, etc. "Organic" farming as we know it now was previously largely known as "farming". Obviously the results are not at all surprising, but there is a very sinister underlying rhetoric here. Fill in the blank: Study sponsored by: ________

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:28PM (#39813443) Homepage

      I find the rhetorical twist here interesting: "conventional farming" is now the artificially accelerated, yield raising variant of farming.

      And has been ever since we started artificially restoring fertility and raising yield - I.E. whenever we started using manure and night soil, then added crop rotation, phosphate (guano), liming fields, etc...
       

      "Organic" farming as we know it now was previously largely known as "farming".

      No it wasn't.
       
      The one spinning and redefining here is you - because you're artificially walling off a host a practices dating back millenia as 'organic' rather than recognizing them for what they are.

      • by mspohr (589790) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:57PM (#39813823)

        I believe that the AC was pointing out the irony of calling modern chemical based farming (inorganic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) "conventional" farming when it has only come into common use during the past century (inorganic chemical nitrogen fixation started in 1903 with improvements through 1920). Farming prior to this chemical age (and still in many "underdeveloped" countries) was organic and uses organic fertilizers, etc. Organic farmers use organic fertilizer and other techniques such as crop rotation.
        Inorganic farming using chemical fertilizers and pesticides is a modern aberration with many acknowledged ill effects on the environment and decreasing quality of food.

    • by poity (465672) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:33PM (#39813527)

      Conventional means the commonly accepted method. In the case of contemporary farming practice, the use of pesticides and chemically derived fertilizers is indeed conventional. It seems to me like you may have confused the meaning of "conventional" with that of "traditional", and indeed you are correct in pointing out that what is "organic farming" today was just "farming" in the past, but that would nonetheless make it traditional rather than conventional.

      In short, that was stormy rant born of a vocabulary deficiency. Sinister? Sheesh, the Slashdot melodrama these days...

  • by n1ywb (555767) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:59PM (#39813091) Homepage Journal
    This isn't really news, organic farmers have always known this. Anyway conventional ag has problems too. Pesticides poison bees and us. Fertilizer comes from petroleum. GMO crops, Monsanto, etc. Organics are also closely connected to sustainability which is the idea that intensive factory farming just can't go on forever so we'd damn well better figure out another way to feed ourselves.

    If I were king I'd start by banning suburbs built on arable land. I'd also suggest that certain groups stop producing so many offspring.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:59PM (#39813093)
    I believe the point of organic farming is to minimize the negative externalities of "conventional" (I would say "industrial") farming, such as water pollution. If you have to plant 34% more acres to avoid poisoning a major river, I and many others would call that a win.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:20PM (#39813343)

      If you have to deforest 34% more acres to avoid poisoning a major river, I and many others would call that a complicated issue.

      You can't pick and choose your externalities. Reduced yields mean more land needs to be cultivated to feed an expanding population. The best agricultural land is already in use, that means we need to push into more marginal areas that require more inputs (or just flat produce less) or chop down forests.

      Deforestation puts pressures on animal populations and is one of the greatest contributors to global warming.

    • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:09PM (#39814001) Journal

      While a valid aspect of organic farming, you miss one of the key reasons many choose to go organic - food quality.

      While it's possible using "conventional" farming methods to get a lot of yield, what is the nutritional value of the yield - what about the flavor?

      Try this when you have some time - get some tomatos from your local grocery store - then get some from a local organic grower. My personal experience is that the grocery store tomatos remind me of eating water balloons while organic tomatos are an explosion of flavor. I haven't done the research to prove this, but I would be willing to believe that the nutritional value of the store bought tomatos is very low when compared to organically grown tomatos.

      I don't buy tomatos from the store - 10 plants in my garden supply all that I need and more.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:59PM (#39813097)

    We could stop throwing away over 1/3 of our food, grow less beef cattle, and reduce our use of non-food agriculture like tobacco and ethanol (as a side note, we could stop using so much high fructose corn syrup too) and then maybe we'd actually be able to produce a decent amount of healthy organic food for the world. Personal and community gardens could lighten the load, as well as urban farming. It seems to me that its not the yield that we should worry about, rather the efficiency of use.

    • Indeed. On top of that, we could stop shipping food around so much, grow crops intrinsically more suited for the local climate, grow food that is more nutritionally viable and therefore requires less land to feed the same amount of people.... Sustainability should be the name of the game, not instant gratification, pandering to limited tastes and maximizing visible aesthetic of the foods we need to SURVIVE. Not look at in awe and wonder but actually eat and survive.

  • This is the most questionable aspect. The globe's diet is largely shaped by industrial agriculture (at least in non-poverty/sustainance living societies). Organic consumers tend to consume differently. Making the assumption that the global diet would remain the same and forcing the organic crop production into this model sorta sets the organic farmer up for failure from the gecko.

  • Synthetics (Score:5, Funny)

    by oGMo (379) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:01PM (#39813123)

    Proving once again that organics will be outclassed by synthetics? What, wrong game?

    (The label "organics" always amused me.)

  • by sugarmotor (621907) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:02PM (#39813131) Homepage

    The title of the linked article is "Organic farming is rarely enough". But it is difficult to back up that "producing the bulk of the globe's diet will still require chemical fertilizers and pesticides", and so they simply skip that.

    Reference again, http://www.nature.com/news/organic-farming-is-rarely-enough-1.10519 [nature.com]

    S

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Europe would be fine with 100% organics. We already produce much more than we need in order to provide security in case our foreign suppliers are suddenly cut off. Last thing we want is to be dependent on other countries for food in the same way we are for oil.

      It is the rapidly expanding populations of emerging economies that need non-organic farming, but we will probably have to deal with the population problem anyway.

  • by eepok (545733) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:04PM (#39813171) Homepage

    "Organic" farming is not good in and of itself. It's better at preventing the consumption of toxic chemicals, it's more environmentally sound, and it's also more economically just (because "organic" foods are not copyrighted).

    Since we can't feed the planet on organics, but we want all the benefits of organics, we need to change the way do make, use, and "protect" conventional crops. That means federal funding to develop non-copyrighted crops and promote biodiversity regardless of within organic and modified foods.

    The lesson: instead of replacing modern modified foods with organics, bring modified foods up to the ethical and environmental standards of organic foods.

  • So what exactly is the story here? People are surprised that they can't get the same farm yields when not using chemicals that were specifically introduced to produce such higher farm yields?

    In other news, I'm surprised I can't light a darkened room without actually using a light source.

  • Ok so one type of product maxed out at 34%, another had 3%. But what is the typical benefit? Surely if it is right in the middle most manipulation only result in about 15-20%.

    Another factor not accounted for is actual nutrient value of the two. If the crop i.e. simply hold more water without nutrients the yield might be higher but without real effect.

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:16PM (#39813315)
    While this is no surprise, I still think that we'll eventually have to transition to large-scale organic farming anyway. Present forms of industrial farming destroy topsoil and rely on fossil fuels which will get too expensive to be used for fertilizer. It might work for now, but hopefully we'll still be alive when present methods hit a wall. To stay alive, we'll simply have to transition to organic methods. What we need to do is to engineer crops that produce high yields even when they're farmed organically, which is to say, they should resist pests, fix lots of nitrogen from the atmosphere and yield products with a higher nutritional content. Organic farming is a method that makes sense to combine with a genetically engineered product, something I would much prefer to whatever it is that I'm buying in grocery stores now.
  • by puppetman (131489) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:20PM (#39813351) Homepage

    The Rodale Institute did a 30 year side-by-side study [rodaleinstitute.org]. They found that,

    - initially, organic farms created less, as fertilizers and pesticide initially gave a conventional farms a boost. This disappeared over time, as conventional farming damages and degrades the soil, reducing yeilds.

    - organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.

    - organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.

    - organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.

    - conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.

    - organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.

    I am not sure where that last one came from (I haven't read the final report [rodaleinstitute.org])

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The insitute for organic farming has found that organic farming is the best?

      STOP THE PRESSES!

      Next on Slashdot: Coca Cola releases 30 year study showing that Coke tastes better than Pepsi!

    • by Khyber (864651)

      And one of my hydro systems beats every fucking thing that company says about an 'organic' farm.

      I use drastically less water, nutrients, and land, nothing wasted, everything controlled and recirculated. Oh, and my fertilizer? Sea water mineral salts, not much to waste when you only need a couple grams per gallon to grow tons of crops.

      Hey guys, look, the INSTITUTE OF ORGANIC FARMING says organic farming is better!

      Too blinded by the BS to even see the source bias.

      BTW, Hydroponics has been 'conventional farmin

  • Ignorami (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I've lived my entire life in the Upper Great Plains of the US. My family is cattle-ranchers. In Iowa, where I live now, our towns and cities are covered with endless square miles of corn -- all of which is grown conventionally.

    I really dislike it when those who've never even seen a farm comment "authoritatively" about farming. It's like listening to Alex Jones talk about IT: he's obviously ignorant. In fact, he's so ignorant that one doesn't even know where to start correcting him.

    Bottom-line for the i

    • by thrich81 (1357561)

      Those endless square miles of corn are not going to feed anyone who is starving in this world -- they are going to produce high fructose corn syrup and a thousand other unhealthy industrial food calories which reduces the life-span of every American who eats it. As well as industrial corn feeding of cows with the same unhealthy result. Plus it is going to inefficient production of ethanol which barely, if at all, produces more fuel energy than the fossil fuels it burns up in production. All subsidized by

    • by puppetman (131489)

      Those farms produce a lot of empty calories for processed foods. They don't really feed people; I highly doubt I could survive on a diet of corn. And feeding it to cows is wrong; it makes the meat less healthy (more omega-6 fats, fewer omega-3), and it acidifies their stomachs which in turn creates an strain of e.coli that is trained to survive in more acidic environments, and thus makes us sick.

      But those mid-west farms won't be producing for very long, they are losing topsoil at 18 tonnes per hectare per y [jstor.org]

    • Ironic (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wisnoskij (1206448) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:53PM (#39814547) Homepage

      As a farmer and someone who knows quite allot about all levels of food production and consumption I find this post ridiculously ironic.
      Your neighbours are, of course, creating billions of tons of sweeteners and bio-fuels not food. Sure a small percentage will go to cattle who will convert it very inefficiently to food that will be eaten by humans, but that number (even without taking out the 40% that will be thrown out at the end) will be a tiny percentage of that.

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:54PM (#39813789) Homepage

    "Crop yields from organic farming are as much as 34% lower than those from comparable conventional farming practices"
    "organic farming could supply needs in some circumstances. But yields are lower than in conventional farming, so producing the bulk of the globe's diet will still require chemical fertilizers and pesticides."

    Which obviously jumps out as obviously false. Just using the number of 34% as the amount less that every crop would grow would mean that obviously Organic can feed the world because we know that far far more then that is "wasted" from western agriculture.
    It has got to be something like 20% of food grown in the USA that is actually eaten by humans.
    After you take out huge chunks that are thrown away, ~40%, even more that is inefficiently converted to human food through meat, and other argi land that is used to grow bio diesel or sweeteners. In fact it is probably far far less then 20%.

    And of course Organics would yield less in these circumstances. Correctly done you do not grow organic produce in a monoculture field like environment that these studies are studying.

  • by gumpish (682245) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @08:50PM (#39815199) Journal

    Maybe we should work on reducing demand instead of pumping our food supply full of unnatural garbage to meet the needs of an unsustainable global population.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday April 26, 2012 @11:09PM (#39816563) Homepage Journal

    It's actually a labor issue. I talked this over last month with an engineer who's studied the various methods.

    For a given area of land (they got this right) and given a market viable labor cost the modern farming techniques are more profitable and can produce more food.

    But, if the cost of labor is factored out, the organic techniques, using intensive agriculture methods, are actually the better producers. I'm changing to this method on our farm this year as our labor is supplied by the family.

    It's hard to expand beyond the family farm because a legal farm hand's cost breaks the profitability (address cost of living problems in the US if you want more organic food). Now then, let's compare the cost of labor in the US to the cost of labor in some countries where people live on $1.30 a day. Then things start to get more interesting.

    Part of the problem is the way we're mechanized. It's nobody's fault, but the 19th century machines have driven our methods. When we have AI-guided robots to pick vegetables in the US, the equation may swing back the other way.

    The nitrogen cycle problems can be solved with the right kinds of natural fixers, but you have to calculate, plan, and rotate. Anybody who wants to try this should spend $11 on this book [amazon.com] - the author has worked out all the tables and methods through trial-and-error and engineering approaches (it's a full-color/full-sized well-made book - I'd have expected this to go for $28 at a book store - I think the author just wants it out there).

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

Working...