Organic Farming Study Is Well Grounded

Posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2005 at 10:17 am by Chelsea Green Publishing

You’ve heard the myths about organic farming: It’s more trouble. It’s more expensive. The yields are smaller. And the yields are, well, icky — spots and blemishes, hidden bugs, etc.

I call them “myths” because guess what? They’re wrong. In a posting on the Web site of the environmental advocacy group Truth Out, writer Susan S. Long reports on the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial, a 22-year study (that’s two decades plus, not a misprint), the results of which were published in the July issue of Bioscience magazine.

The study, which Long describes as “the longest running comparison of organic vs. conventional farming in the United States,” analyzed the costs and benefits – environmental, energy and economic – of growing soybeans and corn organically versus conventionally. If one of the top organizations in the study of organic agriculture lacks sufficient credibility for you, the study itself was conducted with the assistance of scientists at Cornell University.

Tack on the active participation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a University of Maryland agricultural economist, and the anti-organic-farming Luddites will soon run out places to stand. And (one would hope) to farm.

The 22-year study offers plenty of numbers to crunch about the advantages of organic farming, perhaps the most salient of which are these:

Thirty percent less fuel energy consumed;
More efficient water usage;
Less soil erosion and better soil quality, and;
More conservation of biological resources.

The report acknowledges that yields were lower during the first four years of the study. But as time went on, that trend was reversed. There are even implications for global warming: The Rodale study indicates that organic farming increases carbon storage in the soil by 15 to 28 percent. In this instance, that was the equivalent of taking almost two tons of carbon out of the atmosphere per year.

More information about the study is available at the Web sites of Rodale, Cornell University, and Truthout Town Meeting.

Oh, yes – did I mention that Chelsea Green Publishing Co is one of the most prolific publishers of books on organic gardening (how to do it, and why) in the country?

But you already knew that.

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