By George Munene
40 years of real-world practices and rigorous scientific analysis by America’s Rodale Institute–a non-profit that supports research into organic farming methods– has shown that in drought/extreme weather, organic farming has 30 per cent higher yields than conventional farming.
“Regenerative organic farming builds healthy soil through enhancing soil organic carbon,” said Rodale Institute Chief Scientist Dr. Reza Afshar. “This allows the soil to absorb more rainfall during periods of flooding and retain moisture for longer periods during droughts.”
The result of the decades-long report; Farming System Trial; released on December 2022 further show that organic yields match those of conventional farming for cash crops, such as maize and soybean; organic system operation cost is significantly lower than conventional management and that even without the premiums paid for organic crops, the organic manure system is the most profitable system.
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This is possible as organic farming was found to increase the soil’s organic matter microbial biomass, diversity, and activity while reducing soil compaction. It also increases water infiltration and does not contribute to the accumulation of toxins in waterways.
According to data from the report soil health in organic systems was raised over time while in conventional systems remained by and large unchanged.
Healthy soil holds moisture until plants need it and creates a symbiosis with fungi to extend the root network deeper into the soil. The “aggregates” in healthy soil also stick together and don’t wash or blow away preventing erosion and avoiding flood resistance by absorbing more water at a faster rate, reducing flooding and runoff.
“The Farming Systems Trial is one of our most significant research projects,” Rodale Institute CEO Jeff Moyer said in a news release. “In fact, with FST’s now 40 years of accumulated data and findings, it is fair to say that it is the most consequential study of organic agriculture anywhere.”
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The FST compared three core farming systems: a chemical input-based conventional system, a legume-based organic system, and a manure-based organic system. Maize and soybean production was the focus of each system as most of the world’s acreage is dedicated to growing grain.