Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Economic analysis reveals organic farming profitable long-term

01.09.2011
Organic farming is known to be environmentally sustainable, but can it be economically sustainable, as well?

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, suttech@sciencesocieties.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!
Further information:
http://www.agronomy.org

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New data unearths pesticide peril in beehives
21.04.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht New rice fights off drought
04.04.2017 | RIKEN

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>