Viewpoint: Organic farming’s 44% productivity gap makes for a facile sustainability case, New Zealand agricultural scientist says

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Credit: Guardian
Credit: Guardian

With all the research and information available it is extraordinary that the myth of organics – that the food is safer, healthier for them and kinder to the environment which means that people will pay more for it – persists.

It isn’t and they don’t. Not enough to cover the costs.

The big problem is that more land is required by organic systems to achieve the same overall output.

A meta-analysis published last month revealed the reality. The yields under organic farming were on average 25 per cent lower than the conventional ones, reaching a yield gap of 30 per cent for cereals.

Combining the yield gap with the reduction in the number of crops harvested (as opposed to fallow or unharvested cover crop) in the rotation, a productivity gap of 29 per cent to 44 per cent was estimated depending on the type of crops included in the rotation.

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Farmers and consumers in New Zealand have choices, and work within regulations and budgets. The frustration for conventional growers (and consumers) is the ongoing push that “organic is better”.

The facts, evidence and data don’t support the case.

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