Lentil has been overlooked by organic farmers mainly because of low and unstable yields. Scientists Viguier et al. demonstrate that growing lentil in intercrop with low-density spring wheat under organic farming rules provides higher profitability than sole crops, despite additional costs associated with grain sorting.
Peat is the standard substrate used in nursery transplant production although its utilization is cause for environmental and ecological concerns. Scientists Pascual et al. review the new substrate alternatives for organic production. They reckon that compost or other materials supplemented with coir and minerals can bring added values that peat cannot provide, including seedling nutrition, the presence of beneficial microorganisms and pathogen suppression, and allow a more sustainable production.
Olive is a key crop in the Mediterranean basin. Scientists Pleguezuelo et al. analysed the situation of organic farming in Andalusia. They emphasize the need for educational and research programs to promote the demand for these products. They reckon that further support for funding research is essential to characterize the effects of olive cultivation on soils and biodiversity.
Many people highlight the need to increase yields in organic agriculture to provide more organic food for a growing population. Scientists Röös et al. recently reviewed the opportunities and risks of revising the main factors controlling yield in organic agriculture. For example, increased nitrogen inputs carry many risks and few opportunities, whereas the management of ecosystem services provides many risk-free opportunities for improved pest control, thus increasing yields. Organic agriculture needs to reconsider fundamental principles to improve food system sustainability.
What are the convergence and divergence between organic agriculture and agroecology ? Scientists Migliorini and Wezel recently reviewed and compared the principles and practices defined and described in EU organic agriculture regulations, IFOAM norms, and scientific literature in agroecology. They concluded that although these two streams differ on some points, both offer promising contributions for a more sustainable agriculture, especially if their principles and practices transform the agro-food systems.
Organic agriculture seeks to reduce our reliance on non-renewable resources and to affect positively human health. However, its capacity to feed the growing world population is questioned. Scientists Lesur-Dumoulin et al. analysed an extensive dataset of yields from organic vs conventional horticulture and showed that in organic agriculture, yields are on average 10 to 32% lower than in conventional agriculture. Extreme yield reductions (>50%) are very unlikely and there is no evidence that organic agriculture gives more variable yields than conventional one.
Conversion to organic farming is a great challenge in vineyard systems, causing major changes in system structure and management. Agronomists Merot and Wery proposed six complexity indicators to assess modifications to cropping system structure and management during conversion. They demonstrate that conversion to organic viticulture increase the complexity of vineyard structure and management. These indicators can be extended to all agricultural systems to diagnose the impact of organic farming conversion.
The industrialization of agriculture has often led to lower efficiency, pollution and greater dependence on non-renewable energy. Organic agriculture and traditional agriculture are thus potential alternatives. Agronomist Pérez Neira studied the energetic and economic behavior of cacao in traditional, semi-intensive traditional, technified and organic farms in Ecuador. Results show that well-managed organic farms improve energy efficiency by comparison with technified or semi-intensive management strategies, and also improves the economic performance.
Conservation agriculture embraces the three principles of minimal soil disturbance, maximum residue cover and diverse crop rotations. However, organic farmers are reluctant to give up their ploughs due to concerns about weeds, crop disease and nutrient supply. Agronomists Cooper et al. review data from organic experiments and found that yields were not as negatively affected by reduced tillage intensity as expected.
Organic farming aims at reducing the use of mineral fertilisers and pesticides, and producing safe and tasty food. Agronomists Pirdashti et al. explain that growing ducks in rice field has many benefits such as weed control and fertilisation by ducks and high quality rice and duck meat.