Yield gap between organic and conventional not so great and can be narrowed further, say US researchers

A review by University of California Berkeley researchers of 115 studies comparing organic and conventional farming has found that the crop yields from organic agriculture are relatively higher than previously thought.

Image: HW
Image: HW

Overall, organic yields are about 19 per cent lower than conventional ones, the study said, but it also found that practices such as multi-cropping and crop rotation could further shrink the productivity gap between organic crops and conventional farming.

There were no significant differences found in organic and conventional yields for leguminous crops, such as beans, peas and lentils.

The study's lead author, graduate student Lauren Ponisio, said: "Through investment in agroecological research to improve organic management and in breeding cultivars for organic farming systems, the yield gap could be reduced or even eliminated for some crops or regions.

"This is especially true if we mimic nature by creating ecologically diverse farms that harness important ecological interactions like the nitrogen-fixing benefits of intercropping or cover-cropping with legumes."

Senior author and Berkeley Food Institute co-director Professor Claire Kremen said: "This paper sets the record straight on the comparison between organic and conventional agriculture.

"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."

The findings are published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


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