A thirty-year study by the non-profit Rodale Institute has some good news for organic farmers and some bad news for those who have switched to genetically modified crops. The study showed that organic farming outperformed conventional and GM farming in terms of profit, yields, drought resistance and more.
Organic farming makes up less than 1% of farming in Minnesota, but the number of farmers converting to organic methods is growing. The Rodale Institute study demonstrates why this is such a good idea.
Some of the facts found through the long-term study included:
- Organic systems were almost three times as profitable as the conventional systems.
Organic systems used 45% less energy than conventional.
- Organic farming produced more resilient crops during bad growing seasons. For example, organic corn yields were 31% higher than conventional in years of drought. In contrast, the genetically modified (GM) “drought tolerant” varieties showed increases of only 6.7% – 13.3% over conventional varieties.
- Organic fields had equal yields to conventional and GM fields during typical seasons.
- Organic fields increased groundwater recharge and reduced run-off, minimizing erosion and improving soil quality.
- Organic farming produced 40% less greenhouse gases.
The study found that there was an initial decline in yields when farmers first switched to organic methods, but that within a few years the organic farms produced equal or higher yields than conventional farming practices. In addition, profits were much higher due to the higher prices that farmers receive for organic produce and lower input costs.
The Rodale Institute concluded:
As we face uncertain and extreme weather patterns, growing scarcity and expense of oil, lack of water, and a growing population, we will require farming systems that can adapt, withstand or even mitigate these problems while producing healthy, nourishing food. After 30 years of side-by-side research in our Farming Systems Trial (FST)®, Rodale Institute has demonstrated that organic farming is better equipped to feed us now and well into the ever changing future.
For more information about organic farming in Minnesota, see Love to Know Organic.
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