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Sep 292011
 

From Green Right Now Reports

What if you poured herbicides on the weeds, pesticides on the bugs and doused the earth with synthetic fertilizers so you could grow grains and fruits and vegetables?

You’d have a highly productive farm with super high yields. Right?

Not right. According to a 30-year side-by-side research trial conducted by the Rodale Institute, farm yields were the same or better, and the soil health and farmer’s bank accounts were healthier, under the organic systems.

This news will not surprise organic farmers, or even backyard gardeners who eschew chemicals. They know it’s all about the soil, and sustaining the ecosystem by working within nature’s plan, not stressing out the land with chemicals.

The  trial compared conventional and organic soybean and corn operations starting in 1981, finding that the health of the soil sustained the organic operations, and vice-versa. After an initial drop off during the transition to organic practices, the chemical-free farms matched or exceeded the yields of the conventional farms.

The study’s conclusions affirm Rodale’s belief that natural methods are better for farmers, food and communities:

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.

The Farming Systems Trial (FST)®, as its called, also found that organic farming trumped chemical farming even, and especially, when it came to dealing with drought and other inevitable weather disruptions. Because they maintained the soil better, the organic farms created a more resilient operation. The soil regenerated instead of eroding away, and it was less prone to runoff.

The organic methods proved more financially rewarding for farmers, as well, because they had fewer energy inputs, using on average 40 percent less energy than the conventional farms. Instead of buying chemicals, for example, they relied on fertilizer generated by farm animals and cover crops to enrich the soil. (The conventional farmers also used cover crops, but used less varied crop rotations.)

The report, released this week, touted the findings as proof that sustainable farming doesn’t mean living with reduced yields, as those who promote chemical farming say; and it appears to invigorate local communities, preparing them for the vagaries of climate change.

“When one also considers yields, economic viability, energy usage, and human health, it’s clear that organic farming is sustainable, while current conventional practices are not.

“As we face uncertain and extreme weather patterns, growing scarcity and expense of oil, lack of water, and a growing population, we will require farming systems that can adapt, withstand or even mitigate these problems while producing healthy, nourishing food.”

The organic farms also used fewer fossil fuels than the conventional farms, which produced 40 percent more greenhouse gases because they used more machinery and petroleum-based pesticides.

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