I think that even competent/good conventional farmers would be hesitant to throw their hat into the organic ring. It's a gamble. It's a complete unknown. And they would go it alone. . .There is no infrastructure dedicated to helping organic/transitional farmers! If a conventional farmer has a problem (with a disease or nutrient deficiency) he could call up his local Ext. Agent and he would be told what to spray to kill the bug, or eliviate the deficiency.
The other night on the new I saw something about "the Freedom to Farm" Act. About how everyone was going to move away from Federal subsidies, and produce different commodities. Well, growers in this Midwest area (not sure where exactly) was still growing corn, and soybeans, just like they (and their neighbors) always had. Prices have dropped through the floor, and more subsidies are being used. I think this is another side to the problem. It's a gamble to change what you know and grow. Maybe I'm way off-base (it's certainly happened before), but in these Midwestern areas, the Ext. Agent/specialist may not be comfortable with different commodities either. . .
But. . . back to organic vs. conventional. . . I think the yield difference is more related to soil management/micro-macro- nutrient content, the same way that food quality is related to these elements. When we apply organic amendments and synthetic fertilizers to the same fields (different plots, of course), we had no significant yield differences, except in fields where disease was present. In those fields/plots, soils with organic amendments usually had lower disease, and produced more tomatoes. Fertilizer plots had weights of 236 lbs. in surface mulched (SM) plots, while tilled plots with fertilizer yielded only 67.7 lbs. per plot. Plots with composted cotton gin trash yielded the highest overall amounts, with 187.9 lbs. per SM plot, and 135.4 lbs. per tilled plot. Plots containing hog waste offered 156.6 lbs. per SM plot, and 108.3 lbs. per tilled plot.
(BTW, my dissertation will be published before any of the three papers that will come from my diss.)
One of the amendments used came from livestock, one was a green manure, the other was an agricultural waste product, composted cotton gin trash (CGT). The CGT gave the best disease suppression, highest overall yields (an average of 161.7 lbs/plot, while fertilizer gave only 151.9 lbs/plot), was free, and reduced environmental pollution. (What was the cotton Gin going to do with it?)
The thing that's important is that this information has to make it into the hands of those that can use it! If we can convince growers that not only will organic amendments grow food, bu they can reduce disease, and be sold at a higher price, then I think even the most recalcitrant grower will think twice about organic farming. . .
okay, I'm stepping off my soapbox, besides I'm preachin' to the choir here. (I was trying to think of another cliché I could throw in, but drew a blank. . . ) . . .
Let me know if I'm wrong. . . Russ
Here are some references that I've used in a paper that is planning to be published sometime this (make that the next) millennium:
Klonsky, K. and L. Tourte 1998. Organic agricultural production in the United States: debates and directions. Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 80: 1119-1124.
Langley, J. A., E. O. Heady and K. D. Olson 1983. The macroimplications of a complete transformation of U.S. agricultural production to organic farming practices. Agric. Ecos. Environ. 10: 323-333.
Lohr, L. 1998. Implications of organic certification for market structure and trade. Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 80: 1125-1133.
Thompson 1998. Consumer demand for organic foods: What we know and what we need to know. Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 80: 1113-1118.
-- Russ Bulluck Ph.D. Candidate Department of Plant Pathology North Carolina State University PO Box 7616 Raleigh, NC 27695-7616
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The soil population is so complex that it manifestly cannot be dealt with as a whole with any detail by any one person, and at the same time it plays so important a part in the soil economy that it must be studied. --Sir E. John Russell The Micro-organisms of the Soil, 1923 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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