A major new study suggests chemical fertilizers are not so important…
The Independent reports: Organic farming is much more productive than previously thought, according to a new analysis of agricultural studies that challenges the conventional “biased” view that pesticide-free agriculture cannot feed the world.
The study says that organic yields were only 19.2 per cent lower, on average, than those from conventional crops and that this gap could be reduced to just eight per cent if the pesticide-free crops were rotated more frequently.
Furthermore, in some crops – especially leguminous plants such as beans, peas and lentils – there were no significant differences in yields, the researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found.
“In terms of comparing productivity among the two techniques, this paper sets the record straight on the comparison between organic and conventional agriculture,” said Claire Kremen, professor of environmental science, policy and management at Berkeley.
The study comes amid rising concerns that intense farming practices are damaging the environment, with the widespread use of nerve agent pesticides frequently blamed for declining populations of bees and other pollinators. Meanwhile, fertilisers are producing smaller and smaller increases in yields because they are now so effective they are difficult to improve upon.
“With global food needs predicted to greatly increase in the next 50 years, it’s critical to look more closely at organic farming because, aside from the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture, the ability of synthetic fertilizers to increase crop yields has been declining,” said Prof Kremen.