Advantages of organic technologies

It seems that productivity and economics of organic systems compared to that of traditional systems vary with crops, regions and technologies, used in research. But environmental advantages, attributed to lower rates of application of chemicals, less erosion, water conservation and improved soil organic matter content and biological diversity were much higher in organic systems than in traditional.

Different organic agricultural technologies have been used for more than 6000 years to make agriculture more productive while saving soil, water, energy and biological resources. Below are some of the advantages of organic technologies:

  • Soil organic matter (soil carbon) and nitrogen content was higher in organic systems, which is very beneficial for general efficiency of organic agriculture.
  • Even though higher levels of SOM and N were found in organic systems, leaching of nitrates was not higher than that in traditional systems of corn and soybean production.
  • Higher soil organic matter content helped conserve soil and water resources and proved to be helpful in dry years.
  • Energy and fossil fuel consumption in organic systems was about 30% lower than in traditional corn production system.
  • Depending on crop, soil and weather conditions, crop yields, produced organically, can be equal to those in traditional systems, however cash crops cannot be produced as often as in traditional systems, dependent on additional nutrient application and treatment with chemicals for pest control.
  • Though labor costs in organic systems are on average 15% higher (varying from about 7% to 75%) they are more uniformly distributed during the year than in traditional production systems.
  • Since organic products cost more, net economic return per hectare is often equal to or higher than in traditional systems.
  • Crop rotation and cover crop production, typical for organic agriculture, reduces soil erosion, pest problems and pesticide application.
  • Processing of animal production wastes decreases pollution of the environment while being beneficial for organic agriculture.
  • Abundant biomass both above and blow soil surface (soil organic matter) also improves biological diversity, which helps in biological pest control and improves pollination of agricultural crops by insects.
  • The practices of organic farming can be implemented into traditional agricultural production systems to make them more sustainable and environmentally efficient.

Organic farming system not only eliminates the need in synthetic nitrogen, but also improves soil quality, which results in decrease of N losses due to better infiltration. Nitrate leaching in traditional systems is 50% higher than in organic systems.

Organic system shows good ability to absorb and store carbon, which translates into greater likelihood that agricultural practices can play a part in mitigation of global warming.

Organic system also showed more efficient use of energy and water resources. In this system, soil had more porous structure and absorbed more water in the periods of abundant rains. Due to high rate of water infiltration, it is less susceptible to erosion and is less likely to contribute to water pollution resulting from water erosion of surface layer.

Environmental effect

Agriculture is one of the main forces, influencing the environment, partially because of the area used for agricultural production around the globe (about one third of the land surface is used for farming), and partially because of modern systems of intensive production, which increase the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

Despite the fact that some environmental effects are local or regional, pollution with pesticides, nutrient excess and eroded soil can result in environmental problems far from the source of pollution. Pollutants that make their way to small streams near farms, eventually end up in big rivers and oceans.

In recent years, it has become evident that farming practices influence global environment, particularly in terms of global carbon and nitrogen cycling. Losses of topsoil can reduce efficiency of agricultural production and can lead to even more costly destructions. Pesticides, herbicides and nutrients are carried away from the soil surface or leach to groundwater, deteriorating soil quality.

Organic agriculture is a fast growing area in EU countries. From 1985 to 2001, the acreage under organic production was rapidly growing.

Growing number of organic farms in EU, units.

Complex nutrient management and pest control systems and certified organic agriculture can reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers and make production more environmentally friendly and economically sound.