[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
[nafex] FW: organic works - the evidence
From: kathryn marsh
Subject: organic works - the evidence
Date: Fri, Apr 20, 2001, 3:24 AM
from todays "Nature"
Nature Science Update is an entertaining, informative and accessible
round-up of what's new in the world of science brought to you by
the Nature News Service -- the popular science syndication arm of
the leading international science journal Nature.
To find out about buying news and features like this for your website
or news paper please e-mai firstname.lastname@example.org
policy: Green apples upset cart TOM CLARKE
A study of apple farming published today finds that organic
orchards can be more profitable, produce tastier fruit at similar
yields compared to conventional farming, and be better for the
environment at the same time1.
John Reganold and colleagues at Washington State University in
Pullman farmed three experimental
plots of Golden Delicious apples (Malus x domestica) using organic,
'integrated' growing methods.
Although the organic system took longer to reach profitability, it
ranked first in terms of environmental
sustainability, profitability and energy efficiency by the end of
the six-year study. Integrated farming,
which reduces the use of chemicals by combining organic and
conventional production methods, came
second, conventional farming last.
What's more, untrained tasters rated the organic apples the sweetest.
"This is one of the first well-replicated rigorous experiments
that's looked at all of the benefits and costs involved in an
alternative framing practice," says David Tilman, who works on
sustainable development at the University of Minnesota in St Paul.
"We kept track of everything that went in," says Reganold. By
recording inputs of compost, chemicals and even the amount of fuel
used by farming machinery, Reganold's team produced an
'environmental impact assessment' for each growing method.
Critics say organic farming is based more on ideology than on
environmental or economic merit2 .
They also worry that because organic farming is often more energy
intensive and produces lower yields than conventional methods it may
place an even higher burden on the environment.
Although Reganold's study finds that this is certainly not the case
for growing Golden Delicious in Washington, it does not necessarily
imply that organic farming is more environmentally and economically
sound for other types of agriculture in other regions, he admits.
Dennis Avery, director of the Center for
Global Food Issues in Churchville, Virginia argues that this is a
persistent problem with research hailing the benefits of organic
"The real issue of sustainability doesn't have a lot to do with
intensive fruit and vegetable production," says Avery. He argues
that it is the large-scale production of staple crops like wheat,
corn, rice and wood that have the greatest impact on whether or not
agriculture is environmentally and economically sustainable and that
organic methods cannot produce sufficient yields in these crop
systems to compete with conventional methods. "Organic field crops
are 50 to 60 percent less productive per acre," says Avery.
But organic farming experts argue that if there was as much research
into 'alternative' farming
practices as there is into conventional ones, the muddy boot could
be on the other foot when it comes to the sustainability of organic
"The research input that goes into organic farming is so small that
I just get irritated at people who are trying to make comparisons
between the two systems when there isn't a level playing field,"
says Martin Wolfe, an organic farming researcher at Wakelyns
Agroforestry in Suffolk, UK.
Alternative farming practices could lose their unscientific "muck
and luck" image if there were more thorough studies into organic
methods such as Reganold's, says Wolfe. "As more of a scientific
spotlight plays on what is occurring, in most cases it will emerge
that organic farming is coming up with the goods."
1.Reganold, J. P., Glover, J. D., Andrews, P. K., Hinman, H. R.
Sustainability of three apple
production systems. Nature 410, 926-930 (2001).
2.Trewavas, A. Urban myths of organic farming. Nature 410, 409-410
3.Drinkwater, L. E., Wagoner, P. & Sarrantonio, M. Legume-based
cropping systems have
reduced carbon and nitrogen losses. Nature 396, 262-265 (1998).
© Macmillan Magazines
Ltd 2001 - NATURE NEWS SERVICE
------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor ---------------------~-~>
ClubMom is the first free organization dedicated to rewarding and celebrating Moms! Join today - it's free - and get your chance to win
in our $5,000 Family Vacation Sweepstakes!
Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/