Based on a 30-year side-by-side trial [See full report pdf] of conventional and organic farming methods at Pennsylvania’s Rodale Institute, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every category.
Rodale Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research, claims the Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture.
The farming trial started in 1981 for the purpose of studying what happens during the transition from chemical to organic agriculture.
After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, Rodale Institute claims the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system. Over time, FST became a comparison between the long term potential of the two systems.
*Organic yields match conventional yields.
*Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought. Organic fields increased groundwater recharge and reduced run-off.
*Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system. Soil health in the organic systems has increased over time while the conventional systems remain essentially unchanged.
*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.
(“Organic farming also helps sustain rural communities by creating more jobs; a UN study shows organic farms create 30 per cent more jobs per hectare than nonorganic. More of the money in organic farming goes to paying local people, rather than to farm inputs.”)
The Rodale trials showed organic crops were more resilient, and organic corn yields were 31 percent higher than conventional in years of drought, compared to genetically modified (GM) “drought tolerant” varieties, which showed increases of only 6.7 per cent to 13.3 per cent over conventional (non-drought resistant) varieties.
Commenting on the report, Paul Hanley with the StarPhoenix points out that income is more important than yield from the farmer’s perspective, and organic is clearly superior.
“The 30-year comparison showed organic systems were almost three times as profitable as the conventional systems. The average net return for the organic systems was $558/acre/ year versus just $190/acre/year for the conventional systems. The much higher income reflects the premium organic farmers receive and consumers pay for.”
Hanley adds: “The global food security community, which focuses on poor farmers in developing countries, is shifting to an organic approach. Numerous independent studies show that small scale, organic farming is the best option for feeding the world now and in the future.”