Thursday, July 28, 2005

Organic farming uses less energy for same yields

Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides, a review of a 22-year farming trial study concludes.

David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture is the lead author of a study that is published in the July issue of Bioscience analyzing the environmental, energy and economic costs and benefits of growing soybeans and corn organically versus conventionally. Pimetel commented,

"Organic farming approaches for these crops not only use an average of 30 percent less fossil energy but also conserve more water in the soil, induce less erosion, maintain soil quality and conserve more biological resources than conventional farming does."

Among the study's other findings; in the drought years, 1988 to 1998, corn yields in a system that used a three-year rotation of hairy vetch/corn and rye/soybeans and wheat system were 22 percent higher than yields in the conventional system; the soil nitrogen levels in the organic farming systems increased 8 to 15 percent. Nitrate leaching was about equivalent in the organic and conventional farming systems; organic farming reduced local and regional groundwater pollution by not applying agricultural chemicals.

This study is relevent not only to agriculture but to energy production from ethanol or biodiesel whose critics claim that it takes more energy to produce than it provides. Organic farming will be a major element in the transition to a sustainable economy.


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