The answer is yes, according to new research in the Sept.-Oct. issue of Agronomy Journal. In an analysis of 18 years of crop yield and farm management data from a long-term University of Minnesota trial, an organic crop rotation was consistently more profitable and carried less risk of low returns than conventional corn and soybean production, even when organic prime premiums were cut by half.
Previous research has almost universally found the same thing: Organic farming practices can compete economically with conventional methods, says the current study's leader, Timothy Delbridge, a Univ. of Minnesota doctoral student in agricultural economics. However, these conclusions are mostly based on findings from short-term trials in small plots.
What sets the Minnesota study apart is both the large size of its experimental farm plots (165 feet by 92 feet) and the trial's longevity. "Doing an economic study like this, it's important to get as complete a picture of the yield variability as we can," Delbridge says. "So, the length of this trial is a big asset. We're pretty confident that the full extent of the yield variability came through in the results."
What gave organic production the edge wasn't higher crop yields, however; instead it was organic price premiums. In their absence, the net return from a 2-yr, conventional corn-soybean rotation averaged $342 per acre, compared to $267/ac for a 4-yr organic rotation (corn-soybean-oat/alfalfa-alfalfa), and $273/ac for its 4-yr conventional counterpart. When a full organic premium was applied, though, the average net return from organic production rose to $538/ac, significantly outperforming the conventional systems both in terms of profitability and risk. And organic production was still more profitable when the price premium was reduced by 50%.
Organic price premiums are often the main reason why farmers think about switching to organic production, Delbridge explains, which means they also often wonder what would happen if the premiums declined. It's for this reason that the researchers considered different premium levels (full, half, and none) in their analysis—not because they necessarily expect the premiums to go away anytime soon, he notes.
The cost of production was also a factor: The conventional 2-yr rotation had higher production costs on average ($198/ac) than either the 4-yr conventional rotation ($164/ac) or the organic one ($166/ac). The difference primarily came in weed management, Delbridge says. The price of purchasing chemical herbicides in the 2-yr conventional rotation exceeded the cost of controlling weeds mechanically in the organic system, leading to higher overall production costs in the conventional rotation, even though organic production involved more field operations, Delbridge adds.
Delbridge cautions that the analysis relied on organic yields from an experimental trial that sometimes exceeded the average yields actually achieved by organic corn and soybean producers in Minnesota. It also didn't consider the overhead and fixed costs of farming. He's now involved in a second project that is comparing the economics of organic and conventional production in a whole-farm system.
More importantly, he adds, "What we're looking at here are results between an established organic and an established conventional system. This research doesn't take into consideration the issue of the transition itself: how difficult or costly that may be."
Still, if growers can successfully weather the transition, the study offers convincing new evidence that the change will be a lucrative one over the long haul.
To receive a copy of the research article, please contact Sara Uttech: 608-268-4948, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A peer-reviewed international journal of agriculture and natural resource sciences, Agronomy Journal is published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy, with articles relating to original research in soil science, crop science, agroclimatology and agronomic modeling, production agriculture, and software. For more information visit: www.agronomy.org/publications/aj.
The American Society of Agronomy (ASA), www.agronomy.org, is a scientific society helping its 8,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.
Sara Uttech | EurekAlert!
Cascading use is also beneficial for wood
11.12.2017 | Technische Universität München
The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Information Technology
11.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
11.12.2017 | Event News