Conventional Yields Trump Organic

A new meta-analysis of farming practices suggests that traditional methods of cultivating food plants result in heftier harvests than do organic strategies.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Apr 26, 2012

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, USDA

While organic farming may limit the amounts of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides entering the environment, it may not be the most efficient way to feed the world's more than 1 billion chronically hungry inhabitants, according to a new study comparing conventional and organic agricultural practices.

The study, which was published online in Nature yesterday (April 25), reanalyzed data from 66 studies comparing the yields of 34 different crops in both organic and conventional farming systems. The authors found that yields from organic farms were up to 34 percent lower than yields from conventional farms cultivating the same crop. Organic farming practices resulted in particularly low yields for wheat and some vegetables. Fruits, like strawberries, and oilseed crops, such as soybean, on the other hand, showed only modest yield reductions on organic farms; just 3 and 11 percent lower than conventional farming yields, respectively.

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