Study Shows Soil Building Benefits of Organic Farming

Originally Published in AgriNews, Sept 10, 2013,

by Jean Caspers-Simmet,

GREENFIELD, Iowa — Farmers switching to organic crops not only reap premium prices, they also build healthy soil and sequester carbon, according to a study at Iowa State University’s Neely-Kinyon Research Farm near Greenfield.

Kathleen Delate, ISU agronomy and horticulture professor, outlined the results of the Long-Term Agroecological Research Experiment during a recent field day at the farm. The experiment is one of the longest running replicated comparisons of organic and conventional agriculture in the country. Results from 2002 to 2010 were published in April in Crop Management.

The experiment started in 1998 with funding from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and is also used as a demonstration plot for USDA studies.

“Farmers interested in transitioning to organic production will be happy to see that with good management, yields can be the same, with potentially higher returns and better soil quality,” said Delate, who leads the project.

The U.S. organic ag industry continues to grow and was a $31 billion industry in 2011, Delate said. To market a crop as organic, it must be grown on land that has received no synthetic chemicals for three years prior to harvest.

“Our research focuses on best management practices for enhancing soil quality and pest management for transitioning and certified organic farmers,” Delate said. “Through timely weed management and crop rotations, we have demonstrated comparable organic corn, soybean, oat and alfalfa yields compared to conventional crops.”

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