Rodale Institute: Farming System Trials 30 Year Report Organic vs Conventional

May 9, 2015

FST FACTS (p4) organic yields match conventional yields. 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. Organic fields increased groundwater recharge and reduced runoff. Water volumes percolating through soil were 15-20% higher in the organic systems than the conventional system. Rather than running off the surface and taking soil with it, rainwater recharges our groundwater reserves in the organic systems, leaving soil in the fields where it belongs. (p8) Organic corn yields were 31% higher than conventional in years of drought. These drought yields are remarkable when compared to genetically engineered “drought tolerant” varieties which saw increases of only 6.7% to 13.3% over conventional (non-drought resistant) varieties. (p10) Farmers who cultivated gM varieties earned less money over a 14-year period than those who continued to grow nonGM crops according to a study from the University of Minnesota. (p11) “Organic agriculture has the potential to secure a global food supply, just as conventional agriculture is today, but with reduced environmental impact.” This is according to a report that came out of the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security. agroecological farming methods could double global food production in just 10 years, according to a report from the United Nations. Agroecological practices, like organic practices, attempt to mimic natural processes and rely on the biology of the soil and environment rather than synthetic sprays and other inputs. switching to organic methods in communities where people struggle to feed themselves and their families can lead to a harvest 180% larger than that produced by conventional methods. (12) the organic systems were nearly three times more profitable than the conventional systems. The average net return for the organic systems was $558/acre/year versus just 190/acre/year for the conventional systems. (p14) diesel fuel was the single greatest energy input in the organic systems. (p15) nitrogen fertilizer was the single greatest energy input in the conventional systems representing 41% of the total energy. (p15) production efficiency was 28% higher in the organic systems than in the conventional systems, with the conventional no-till system being the least efficient in terms of energy usage (p15) after thirty years of a rigorous side-by-side comparison, the rodale institute confidently concludes organic methods are improving the quality of our food, improving the health of our soils and water, and improving our nation’s rural areas. Organic agriculture is creating more jobs, providing a livable income for farmers, and restoring america’s confidence in our farming community and food system. (p19)


Source: Rodale Institute, "The Farming Systems Trial: celebrating 50 Years," 2012, Accessed June 14, 2013, [verified 4/15/14]

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