Organic farming in the tropics is as productive as conventional

FIBL_TOCNewly released results from long-term field studies conducted by the Swiss Research Institute FiBL suggests that organic farming in tropical regions can be as productive as conventional farming while providing greater economic benefit. The majority of scientific literature examining the benefits of organic farming methods has been conducted in the temperate regions of the world, with a particular focus on farming systems in North America and Europe. However, due to a number of geographic and climate differences these results cannot be easily extrapolated to the tropics. To close this knowledge gap, FiBL—in collaboration with local partners in Kenya—has implemented long-term field comparisons in the tropics. The experimental plots utilize a three-year crop rotation of corn, beans, and vegetables under high and low-input organic and conventional management. Data from the first six years of the study have demonstrated that yields for maize, an important cash crop, do not significantly differ between organic and conventional systems, and profitability is higher in the organic system due to the price premium. Furthermore, soil fertility was improved under organic management, and there was no difference in pest or disease incidence. Future analysis of these long-term tropical comparison plots will include evaluation of ecological benefits.