One widely held criticism about large-scale organic farming is that if all farmers grew crops organically they could not produce enough food to feed the world. Researchers at the University of Michigan set out to see if this belief is actually true.
Researchers compared yields of organic versus nonorganic production from a global database of 293 farms and estimated the average yield ratio (organic:nonorganic) of different food categories grown in the developed and the developing world. For most food categories, organic production yields were projected slightly lower than nonorganic yields in the developed world, but up to three times higher in the developing world. Models predict organic agriculture can produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current population and even a slightly larger one, without increasing the amount of land farmed.
The study also calculated the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that cover crops could supply compared to synthetic fertilizers. Researchers found leguminous cover crops could fix enough nitrogen to replace the amount of synthetic fertilizer currently in use. Not only can organic agriculture produce enough fertilizer and yields to feed people, the benefits of this farming system include less soil erosion, less habitat disruption, less groundwater pollution, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
For more information about this research go to: University of Michigan.
Article published on July 16, 2007.