Green Right Now Reports

Farm -- Emissions testing shows organic farming better

Emissions testing in a field. (Photo: Mercator Foundation)

Organic agriculture, long considered healthier for soil, water and wildlife, also helps mitigate climate change, according to a study by Switzerland’s Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the University of Hohenheim.

The meta-analysis looked at 19 studies around the world to find the levels of greenhouse gases emitted by organic and conventional farms.

The review team concluded that, on average, organically managed soils release 492 kilograms less nitrous oxide per hectare every year compared with conventionally managed farm lands (i.e., those that use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides).

Turns out that the organic farms also take up potent methane gases, which potent greenhouse gas contributors (methane is about 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, though it dissipates sooner).

So the organic farms were helpful in two major ways, by releasing less nitrous oxide and also by sequestering or not releasing methane gases.

Experts on the investigation say this means that converting to organic agriculture can be a major contributor to mitigating climate change. In other words, in the case of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, less is more, maybe much more.

The results have been published online this fall in the Science of the Total Environment journal.