Organic vs Conventional Farming
Posted by Matthew Lee at 02/03/2013
I am curious to hear some opinions on the pros and cons of organic farming compared to conventional farming. During the summer I work/cultivate for an organic farmer on my fatherâ€™s land. My primary job is to cultivate soybeans, corn and milo fields after they have been planted. This process leads me cultivate the same field up to 3-4 times, depending on the amount of moisture. I feel that driving the tractor over the land that many extra times is harmful to the environment, plus it adds a lot of extra work. Conventional farmers would simply spray their fields once with fertilizer and later harvest the crop, decreasing the amount of fuel used. But, it is my belief that synthetic fertilizer is harmful to the farmers using it and the consumers when we eat it. My boss gets his fertilizer from organic cattle manure, which I think is a better option.
I have read some articles stating that organic farm yields are much lower than conventional farms. Iâ€™m not sure if thatâ€™s true or not. If true, it would be difficult to feed the worldâ€™s population if every farm was organic. Any thoughts or comments?
I'm horrible at remembering exact numbers but the gist of what I read is that if we stopped wasting food, and all farms went organic, there would be more than enough to feed the entire planet, including the people who currently don't have enough to eat...
Also, in my humble opinion, (and maybe I'm wrong) but the bit of extra fuel used to drive across a field a few extra times isn't much compared to the damage done by chemical pesticides when you consider that not only do they harm the farmers and consumers, but the insects and animals... they're literally killing off the bee population (which will in turn kill off our entire food supply) and polluting our soil and waterways...
I'm thinking that in this day and age it's hard to find someone willing to farm without a motorized tractor so unfortunately, sometimes you have to choose the lesser of two evils...
Produce from such farms will be more affordable than organic ... but then again, you get what you pay for.
Aside from the fact that chemical substances and modern fertilizers can cause harm to the body, they can also hazardous to the environment as well. The chemicals used in synthetic fertilizers are responsible for air and water pollution, as well as impeding the nutrients in the soil over time. Conversely, organic farming upholds the preservation of balance in the ecosystem.
The environment has provided natural pesticides and weed repellents in the form of insects and other creatures, while modern synthetic fertilizers cannot differentiate both good and bad insects, thus killing both parties resulting in unbalanced soil foundation.
Organic farming focuses heavily on intensive labor practices such as hand weeding, green manure and cover crops, while modern methods of farming consume high amounts of petroleum products in weeding and farming. Moreover, generating synthetic fertilizers necessitate high levels of energy.
Now of course - organic is better than chemical. But the real culprit in organic farming is scale. Big biz ag whether organic or chemical is just raping the earth (and most often the workewr and consumer as well). There are a lot of methods one can use in weed and pest control that doesn't require a tractor or even mechanical tools. Of course - these method often take a little more time for the labor, and on a large scale this can be problematic - thus the reliance on tracto cultivation even in the "organic" farming world.
So in my view - the real goal is to move way beyond organic to small scale. As for crop yields being less in organic - I question this. My experience has shown crop yields to be equivalent or similar to chemical ag when tractor farming - and when doing small scale organics using Biodynamic, No Till, or Permaculture methods - crop yields can be significantly higher. Of course - when raising grains or staple crops (Soy, Corn, Sugar, Beans, etc.) the "necessity" of volume makes many organic growers go huge - just like their chemical counter parts. That's why I advocate small scale farming of no more than 5 to 20 acre blocks. But really you can do it on an even smaller scale and be highly successful. (There is an Organic Farmer in Arcata, California (Neil Coates) who raises an amazing amount of produce on 1 acre, actually supplying the bulk of the needed produce to a local health food store off that 1 small ploy of land). The fact is - any of us could produce all of our own food on 2 to 5 acres max, and with hands on organic methods yields would far exceed what some farmer could grow for us on his 10, 100 or 1000 acres.
- And don't even get me started on the need for crop diversity and mingling as opposed to mono cropping!!
I have a hunch you've read at least some of the following:
"A Green History of the World" by Clive Ponting
"One Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukuoka
"The Natural Way of Farming" " "
"Ecological Integrity" by David Pimentel