Advantages of Implementing Organic Farming Methods in Agricultural Lands

Moore, Jedd, Environmental Sciences - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Macko, Stephen, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

Globally, the most prevalent type of farming systems use resource intensive methods and are referred to as conventional agriculture. While this type of agricultural system is responsible for providing crops for the majority of the world’s food and biomaterials, there are consequences that come with the high production. The heavy use of fossil fuels, synthetic nitrogen, and other chemical applications have been linked to soil degradation, reduced biodiversity, and pollution on farmlands. The environmental costs associated with conventional agriculture have been an issue of concern, and I believe that organic farming is a viable alternative that can help supply the world’s caloric needs with less damage to our environment.
Organic farming is a production system that conforms to site-specific conditions by combining biological and mechanical practices that encourage cycling of resources, ecological balance, and conservation of biodiversity. Regulations of organic farming prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms. Instead, the system relies on biological nitrogen fixation, crop rotations, and cover crops to maintain soil fertility and to manage weeds, insects and diseases. Comparisons between organic farming systems using best management practices and conventional farming systems often reveal differences in many aspects. Soil properties of soil organic matter, nitrogen, and biodiversity have all been reported to be superior among organically managed systems. The amount of fossil fuel use is often significantly less in organic agriculture due to restrictions on chemical and synthetic applications. Yields between the two systems are often heavily debated, and can have high variance regionally. However, under proper conditions and management practices, yields are often comparable, but still less on average than when compared to conventional farming.
Much still needs to be done in terms of research and development for both organic and conventional farming. There has been noticeably more financial support and research conducted on conventional agriculture, but if organic agriculture is going to be seen as viable alternative, it will need the same, or more economic backing than conventional has received. Organic farming has the potential to play a larger role in our agricultural system and can aid in enhancing the natural-resource base and environment of agricultural lands through the advantages of organic farming methods.

MA (Master of Arts)
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