The Daily Dirt

Can Organics Feed the World? You Betcha.

We’re in the research stage of getting together our next cover story for The Dirt and coming across some great info that we thought we’d share, just because it’s info that just needs to be shared with as many people as possible, over and over again.

The argument over whether organic agriculture can feed the world won’t go away any time soon. But know this: every time we run across a reputable study that says it can, we are going spread the word.

This Mother Jones article looks at a Leopold Center at Iowa State University conducted a four-year study comparing crop and economic yields of conventional and organic corn, soybeans, and oats.

The results are stunning. See for yourself here.

The study even tackles the question of, since organic farming produces at least equivalent yields and much better economic returns, why aren’t more farmers shifting to organic production?

From the article:

The last line of the Leopold Center’s report offers a clue: “Skilled management is an adequate replacement for synthetic chemicals.” Look at it like this: In the Corn Belt, technology and monocropping have reduced farming to a relatively simple endeavor. You douse your fields in synthetic and mined fertilizers and plant them in in corn one year, soy the next. When the inevitable plague of pests arrives—weeds and bugs love monocrops—you attack them with an arsenal of poisons. Then, you harvest and sell to vast multinational companies—Cargill and ADM—with the built infrastructure on the ground to make the transaction easy.

Farmers are understandably reluctant to switch away from that paint-by-the-numbers style. To make organic farming work, you have to stay ahead of the weeds and bugs by rotating in more crops than just corn and soy. And weed management requires other strategies just driving a chemical tank through the field or hiring a crop-duster: planting cover crops, tilling at just the right time, mulching.  And selling, say, oats or alfalfa is trickier, because the infrastructure for marketing them has largely been dismantled over the past 50 years.


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