SWITZERLAND, Bern. Organic farming is superior to conventional production in terms of environmental protection, but weakens in terms of yield.
This is confirmed by a long-term study, the results of which the Swiss research institute Agroscope has now published in the journal "Science Advances". According to the study, organically managed farming systems are "on average twice as good for the environment as conventional farming with a plow." According to Agroscope's data, the most striking differences are in biodiversity.
In the study, fields farmed according to organic standards had 230% higher above-ground plant species diversity than conventionally farmed fields. Organic management was also more beneficial for soil life, he said. Compared to conventionally managed fields, 90% more earthworms were found in the organic plots, he said. In addition, reduced plowing - regardless of the farming method - always has positive effects on soil life and erosion control.
The researchers see the lower use of pesticides and fertilizers as the main reason why organic farming has better environmental effects. However, this is also the main reason why organic farming is less productive than conventional production. In the study, yields on organic land were on average 22% lower than in conventional production with plowing. In terms of securing yields, there is thus a need for improvement in organic farming, for example in the areas of plant breeding, biological plant protection and spatially specific fertilization.
As Agroscope reports, the study is based on a trial that has now been running for twelve years on a field of about 1 ha near Zurich. The field, he said, is divided into 128 small plots, each of which tests a specific farming method. These included conventional farming with plowing, conventional farming without plowing, organic farming with plowing and organic farming with reduced tillage. The crop rotation in each case consisted of winter wheat, grain corn, field beans, winter wheat in the first four years and grass-clover in the two following years.