New Study Shows Organic Farming Yields Close to Conventional Productivity

From by Jennifer Lane
New Study Shows Organic Farming Yields Close to Conventional Productivity

Diversified, organic, and agroecological agricultural systems can compete head-to-head with conventional agriculture, according to a recent report by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. They published a meta-analysis showing how the yield gap between conventional and organic agriculture is smaller than previously published. For some types of crops, the researchers found no gap at all. In the paper, “Diversification Practices Reduce Organic to Conventional Yield Gap,” Lauren Ponisio and colleagues present evidence that organic practices are competitive with conventional agricultural practices for many types of crops. Agroecological practices, such as inter-cropping and crop rotation, were found to substantially decrease the yield gap when compared alongside other organic practices.

The meta-analytic framework reviewed yield comparisons from 115 studies – this was more than three times the amount of any previous analysis published. The paper reports organic yields overall are 19.2 percent less than conventional yields; however, organic farms that practice rotational or multi-cropping had significantly smaller yield gaps—between eight and nine percent, respectively.

Previously, organic critics often referenced two previous meta-analyses showing up to a 25 percent yield gap between organic and conventional agriculture. Conflicting results and bias in statistical analyses of these papers opened the door for what may be a more comprehensive and rigorous study published by the U.C. Berkeley team.

The U.C Berkeley abstract concludes that “[t]hese results, based on robust analysis of a larger meta-dataset, suggest that appropriate investment in agroecological research to improve organic management systems could greatly reduce or eliminate the yield gap for some crops or regions.”

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