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Why Organics

While many people believe that food grown organically is better for you, they may not be able to tell you exactly why it is better for you. The absence of pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables is a fairly obvious benefit but there are more other far-reaching advantages of going organic. These big-picture benefits have been discovered and documented by the Rodale Institute with an in-depth, long-term study.

The Farming Systems Trial®

The Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, USA, has been doing research on organic growing practices for over 60 years. A little over 30 years ago, they decided to do an in-depth comparison study to determine just how beneficial organic farming really is. The study, known as the Farming Systems Trial®, monitored three different nutrient-adding systems:

  • A manure-based system that adds nutrients with animal manure and cover crops or “green manure.”
  • A legume-based system that improves the soil with legumes or “green manure.”
  • A conventional chemical fertilizer-based system.

Their findings were published in 2011. The organic manure-based and legume-based system yields were equal to the conventional system under normal growing conditions. During periods of moderate drought, the organic system yields surpassed the conventional system.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of the organic systems was far less than that of the conventional system. Chemical fertilizer and herbicides leached into the groundwater from land that was farmed conventionally. The conventional system also caused 40% more greenhouse gas than the manure-based and legume-based systems. Soil in the areas that were farmed organically was improved overall by the nitrogen-fixing legumes or “green manure” and animal manure. It retained more moisture for the plants, resulting in less runoff and water pollution. This increase in moisture retention also contributed to the larger yields during drought conditions.

Economic Impact

The positive economic impacts of organic farming practices were made clear with the Farming Systems Trial®. Manual labor used in organic farming increases employment opportunities, producing 30% more jobs with each hectare of land farmed. Energy used to maintain the manure-based- and legume-based-system crops was 45% less than with crops raised using conventional farming practices. Profits from organically grown crops were either the same as or greater than those from crops grown with conventional methods. They were even more profitable when the conventional-farming premiums were added to the cost.

More to Come

With the increasing use of genetically modified (GM) crops, the Rodale Institute decided to study them, too. They began studying GM corn and soy hybrids grown with conventional farming methods in 2008. No-till and tillage methods have also been added to the comparison study to determine their effects on crops in animal manure-based, legume-based and conventional systems. The results of this study will be revealed in the future.




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