Organic farming results in a smaller yield than conventional agriculture, but is far more energy efficient and better for the land. That might sound intuitive to many organic advocates, but it took a 21-year study by Swiss scientists to prove it. Research published in the most recent issue of Science showed that organic farming is a viable alternative to conventional methods — i.e., those that are heavily reliant on pesticides and other chemical treatments. The findings are based on a study begun in 1978, in which scientists compared potatoes, barley, winter wheat, beets, and grass clover grown using different methods. The organic fields averaged 20 percent less yield, but used between 34 and 53 percent less fertilizer and energy, and 97 percent fewer pesticides. Per unit of energy, the organic systems produced more food, and the organic soils housed a larger and more diverse community of organisms. The scientists said they hoped their findings would encourage farmers to consider switching to organic agriculture.
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