Long-term studies support benefits of organic farming

Photo credit: USDA Photo credit: USDA

A new paper published in the journal Sustainable Agriculture Research examines results from six of the oldest grain crop-based experiments comparing organic and conventional farming methods with the goal of communicating both the benefit of long-term comparison trials and environmental and economic findings for organic agriculture.  Although these long-term organic farming system experiments were established to gather baseline agricultural data, they have provided evidence suggesting that transition to organic from conventional agricultural production can be done successfully. Long-term experiments analyzed include the Farming Systems Trial conducted by the Rodale Institute, the Sustainable Ag Farming Systems at the University of California at Davis, the Variable Input Crop Management Systems at the University of Minnesota, the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trials at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the Beltsville farming systems project at USDA-ARS in Beltsville, and Long-term Agroecological Research at Iowa State University. All of the studies showed an increase in soil health, productivity, water quality, and economic benefits for farmers when they employed organic systems. “These results suggest that organic farming practices have the potential to reduce nitrate leaching, foster carbon sequestration, and allow farmers to remain competitive in the marketplace,” the authors concluded.