Conventional Farming Has Higher Yields than Organic Farming: Is this Sustainable
Lately, a lot of debate has been ranging on as to whether there is any difference in output based on yield between the organic agriculture and the conventional farming. Further, questions as to which of the two has higher yields still range on. A number of analyses have been done with each side trying to support its cause. A study that has been relied upon for quite some time is the one published in 2012 by the Annals of Internal Medicine Journal.
The study, though not authoritatively and candid makes a conclusion that states there is a widened lack of strong support and evidence that makes food produced organically have more nutrient levels compared to the conventional foods. However, this study goes ahead to conclude that organically produced foods have less chemical residues and other strains of bacteria seen as resistant.
Another study supporting this idea has recently been published in a PlusOne Journal this August 2016. This study states that farming area allocated to agricultural use has been on the rise globally. It goes further and explains how past studies looking into the issue of yields between these two forms of farming had been focusing on experiential environment. With this model, the study states that there are limits that often do not expose the maximum potential in commercial agriculture. The main finding of this study was found to be in line with past studies.
This finding illustrated that yields across several crops grown organically were less when compared to conventional farming. The ration of organic to conventional yield was found to be 4:8 or simply explained when an organic yield is 80%, the conventional yield would be 100%. Even with this scenario, the study points out that there were crops in which the yield had no marked changes between the two production systems and in some crops like hay, the yields was more than the conventional production. This status of lower yields achieved through organic farming has those that who oppose organic farming arguing that the world can’t afford an inefficient system.
This system they say is not able nor will it be able to achieve the increased food demand brought about the ever increased global population. This study identifies a key challenge that organic food production faces towards achieving high yields. This main challenge is on the issue of soil fertility more so with the nitrogen nutrient. The other challenge is due to the challenge of pest and weed prevention and control. And this is due to, well, the obvious lack of use of synthetically manufactured pesticides.
The big question at this moment I would like to pose is? Which between the two forms of production is sustainable? We recently did a piece on the definition of sustainable farming as defined by UN FAO. FAO’s definition of organic farming has been anchored on five core principles. These principles are characteristic of sustainable farming. The two key principles we would want to review are enhanced and efficient use of resources and the drive towards conserving the natural resources. Conventional crop production might as accurately been depicted by these studies lead to increased crop yields. But at what cost are we achieving this? Are we prioritizing yields at the expense of sustainability?
Frequently, we have seen the use of crop yield being used over and over as a mark-up of efficiency. It’s in deed true, that yield should form part of a factor that estimates whether any system is efficient or not. However, we need to be cautious not to embrace this at the detriment of existing and available resources. The resource includes water, soil, bio-diversity and energy. Adoption of climate smart technologies such as clean and renewable energy such as solar energy is paramount.
In our quest to achieve higher yields, we need to understand that systems that lead to rapid natural resources depletion and destruction will only lead to increased food insecurity for future generations. Though the current and immediate generation might benefit from this intensive natural resource use, the future generation will be highly unstable in terms of food supply. Short term approaches should not form the basis of policy making but rather long term thinking should always be at the back of those entrusted in making relevant policies governing agriculture.
Conventional farming utilizes a system that uses resources intensively or adopts practices that lead to accelerated natural resource destruction. The use of pesticides has been shown multiple times that it leads to the destruction of ecological balance where important micro-flora in the soil is destroyed. Further, the use of synthetic fertilizers has been shown to alter the PH value of the soils making it unfavorable to the growth of specific crops. The use of herbicides is another issue. These inputs have also been shown to have negative impacts on water resources and biodiversity thereof. A past study found out that the effects of intensive farming on the soil go on for years even with the effort of introducing animal species to regenerate the soil status