Food Systems Trial reports on 30 years of studying organic agriculture

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By Isaac Hopkins

The Rodale Institute has released a 30-year report on its Food Systems Trial (FST), the longest-running side-by-side scientific comparison of conventional and organic farming techniques in the world.

This graph shows the comparative requirements and outputs of organic and conventional farming per acre per year. (Photo Credit: Rodale Institute)

The study shows that organic practices, including using cover crops, organic manure, and crop rotations, produced yields equivalent to conventional farms. At the same time, the FST’s organic crops required substantially lower inputs of energy, released less greenhouse gasses, and generally improved the quality of the soil and water. The FST found that the organically grown crops were much more profitable, earning $558 per acre per year, compared to conventional crops which were sold for $190 per acre per year. The high price of organic foods played a key role in the difference, but the Rodale Institute says that organic crops would be competitive even without elevated organic food prices, because of marginally lower input costs.

The report states that “we have shown that organic can feed the world. Now it is time to take on the matter of feeding the world well.”

What do you think is the best way to encourage farmers to make the transition to organic? Do studies like this help?

Isaac Hopkins is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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