Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Earth Science

Organics Can't Match Conventional Farm Yields 452

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This discussion has been archived.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:
  • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:20PM (#39813351) Homepage

    The Rodale Institute did a 30 year side-by-side study []. 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 [])

  • by Dishevel ( 1105119 ) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:23PM (#39813397)

    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.

  • Re:Ignorami (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:37PM (#39813577)

    Your neighbors farm govt subsidies more than anything else.

    Large portions of the corn produced go to make further subsidized ethanol fuel to ruin our fuel milage, or further subsided HFCS to make us fatter. Still more goes to feed cattle and pigs, which have to be fed antibiotics because corn makes them sick.

    We make more food than we need. Hunger is a sociopolitical issue, not a production one. We'd all be better off if we ended the above tax dollar waste and properly regulated the wholesale dumping of chemical shit on to crops so it wasn't a cost-shifted burden on everyone living downriver. Organic farming would be competitive if it wasn't profitable to pollute.

    Your entire state lives off the taxpayer dime on a platform of pork, lies, and bible-thumping crook politicians. It's the Republican way.

  • Re:Ummm. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Algae_94 ( 2017070 ) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:44PM (#39813669) Journal
    Organic farming doesn't exclude all vaccines. They are certainly discouraged, but can be used as needed. There is also a large difference between a child catching a preventable disease and an animal that was destined for a slaughterhouse being culled for a disease.

    I'd like to see a citation that organic beef is where a lot of bovine diseases are, rather than the conventionally raised beef that generally live shoulder to shoulder with each other.
  • 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.

  • Re:Ummm. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Endo13 ( 1000782 ) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:58PM (#39813837)

    You think organic beef don't live "shoulder to shoulder" with each other?

    I actually find that pretty funny, as I've worked on farms before.

  • Re:Ummm. (Score:5, Informative)

    by j00r0m4nc3r ( 959816 ) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:04PM (#39813935)
    You obviously don't know much about organic farming, or you're trolling. It's really not about prices or quality, it's about preserving topsoil and eliminating harmful chemicals not only from the ecosystem, but from human and animal consumption. People in third-world countries will gladly pollute their backyards and fill their kids with all sorts of toxic chemicals because they don't know any better (look at China for instance). That shit builds up, and eventually they're left with infertile polluted soils and their kids are born with all sorts of defects and diseases. Ultimately they're destroying their land and their health. Most people don't really understand the long term consequences of our modern farming methods -- it's really quite bad and totally unsustainable. Read up a little bit before you open your mouth.
  • Re:Ummm. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:51PM (#39815815)

    We're too busy drowning in debt and getting yelled at for being leeches when we do get the government to throw us a frickin bone in the form of subsidies. There's a reason there are not too many of us independent farmers left anymore. The deck is stacked against us and I'm farming locally in a country where I get subsidies and have a strong voting block that helps wield some political influence. Once the TPP deal goes through however we'll be flooded with cheap goods from all over the world and most of us will give up because they can make more money sitting on their asses and not growing food. Those few of us who are too young to sit back and let the world starve will continue to struggle for as long as we can. You might think you don't need us, but if you don't want to eat Monsanto franken-foods and high fructose corn syrup.

    I'm all for taking a high tech approach to farming, but it has to be measured with a healthy respect for the surroudning environment and eco-system.
    This study simply tells us what we already know to be true, as petroleum resources become stretched we will need to determine if we like to eat, or we like to fly around the world and travel as we please, eating out of season foods because they were sent half way around the world for us to consume.

    Looking forward to the rest of 2012, see you on Dec 22nd (or not)

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"