An analysis of over 100 studies comparing organic and conventional found that organic agriculture has higher crop yields than previous thought. Conducted by University of California, Berkeley researchers, the study overturns the perception that organic farming cannot compete with chemically intensive agriculture.
The researchers conducted a systematic overview of 115 studies and found that organic yields are about 19.2 per cent lower than conventional ones, a smaller difference than in previous estimates. The researchers argue that this number is likely even smaller because the available studies comparing farming methods were often biased in favour of conventional agriculture.
They also found that certain practices that optimise the productivity of organic agriculture – such as multi-cropping and crop rotation – could further reduce the organic-to-convention yield gap to 9 per cent and 8 per cent respectively. The yields also depended on the type of crop grown. For example, there were no significant differences between organic and conventional yield gaps for crops such as beans, peas and lentils.
The researchers believe that their results demonstrate that organic farming can be a very competitive alternative to industrial agriculture when it comes to food production.
“It’s important to remember that our current agricultural system produces far more food than is needed to provide for everyone on the planet,” said the study’s senior author Claire Kremen. “Eradicating world hunger requires increasing the access to food, not simply the production. Also, increasing the proportion of agriculture that uses sustainable, organic methods of farming is not a choice, it’s a necessity. We simply can’t continue to produce food far into the future without taking care of our soils, water and biodiversity.”