The main goal of this article is to debate the advantages, disadvantages, and economics of organic food production by putting it on the threshing floor and fully grinding it to see what we can learn. In order for producers to have a full brainstorming session, valuable material gathered over years of research has been utilized in this article.
To grasp and acknowledge the advantages, disadvantages, and economics of organic crop production in action, we must teach our brains to think outside the box. Organic production and products are a popular topic among consumers, but producers tend to avoid it since we have become so accustomed to the inorganic approach to food production.
Organic food production has a number of benefits, which we shall discuss in as much detail as possible below, including links to supporting literature.
Soil is more than simply a place for plants to root; it’s a living ecosystem teeming with biological life forms, each with its own role to perform in the soil ecosystem. To improve soil health, organic production in the ecosystem provides optimal physical, biological, and chemical collaboration. Healthy soil provides the foundation for resiliency in agricultural production and the long-term utilization of Texas’ natural resources. We’ll go through the advantages of caring for this ecosystem in this section.
Higher levels of soil organic matter support the biological population of the soil, while also improving the soil’s physical and chemical properties. The carbon released by the digested SOM acts as the foundation for soil productivity.
Increased carbon in soil stimulates the development of mycorrhizal fungi that excrete glomalin, an adhesive substance that causes greater aggregate stability in organic soil. As a result, organic soils have better porosity, drainage, and water retention, which reduces runoff and, as a result, erosion. Furthermore, soils with increased soil structure can withstand adverse effects, such as drought and flooding, better than soil with a poor structure.
At the same rate, a more favorable soil structure will increase the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of the soil, resulting in more adhered nutrients and less volatilization and leaching of nutrients. Due to an increase in soil structure, the relationship between the macro- and micropores increases, leading to the soil having a better water and nutrient holding capacity. Therefore, the soil is able to serve as a bigger reservoir for nutrients and water, with fewer losses through leaching and runoff. The decreased runoff will result in less nitrogen being fed into waterways –– nitrogen causes extreme vegetative growth in waterways. On the other hand, less nitrogen will leach out of the soil and contaminate our polluted underground water. All these problems can be minimized through organic production, ensuring a better soil structure through more stable soil aggregates.
Reduced and/or eliminated runoff, when combined with other environmentally friendly and organic techniques, is not harmful to the environment. There is no chemical or organic fertilizer runoff or leaching that pollutes water sources, underground water, waterways, wetlands, rivers, and streams. As a result, you’ll have a well-balanced environment on your farm, with practically all pests controlled biologically.
Although a better-aerated soil will store more oxygen, this oxygen will not aid in the quick oxidation of organic matter. This is due to the glomalin produced by mycorrhizal fungi, which protects the SOM from rapid oxidation, which would allow carbon to volatilize into the air and contribute to global warming. Instead, thanks to the glomalin, the SOM is broken down into minerals and carbon, which improves the health and fertility of the soil.
Accordingly, organic production increases carbon sequestration in soils, which has far-reaching implications for soil fertility, productivity, and the ecosystem. However, the impact of soil carbon sequestration is significantly greater, as we will see in the next section.
Food production is one of the most significant contributors to global warming. Organic farming, on the other hand, can be utilized to mitigate the effects of carbon dioxide on global warming. Natural soil is the largest carbon storage medium in Texas, yet disrupting it can result in a net loss of carbon to the environment.
The Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial (FST), which has been running for nearly 30 years, has amassed clear evidence that regenerative organic production is the most effective method now available for reducing CO2 emissions through soil. Researchers from all over the world agree that regenerative organic agriculture has a huge untapped potential for reducing CO2 emissions and combating global warming.
We can see that carbon emissions in fields can be contained by organic production or released into the atmosphere by conventional tillage, based on the information above. Carbon credit systems for organic or no-till cultivation might be a solution according to a variety of sources. While some dismiss it as a marketing blitz, others see it as a necessity for combating global warming through farming techniques. Carbon sequestration through regenerative organic production, on the other hand, will undoubtedly become a more realistic and vital aspect in the future.
Because the soil is healthier, it can provide and store nutrients more effectively, minimizing leaching and runoff. Additional nutrients can be delivered at a low cost by composting organic matter on the farm, reducing the financial burden of production. When planting pure heirloom seeds, a portion of the previous season’s produce can be used as seeds for the following season, as is necessary for organic farming certification. Because hybrid GMO seeds are rather expensive, this saves a lot of money for an organic farmer.
Agricultural equipment will experience less drag as a result of the well-structured soil particles. Fuel expenses in organic farming are considerably reduced due to this decreased drag on agricultural equipment. Aside from the lesser financial burden of planting or maintaining a field, there is an additional benefit. Because less fuel is burnt, fewer carbon emissions, which can contribute to global warming, are released into the environment.
Maintaining healthy soil makes crop production more sustainable, as the soil creates nutritional inputs for plant growth, requiring almost no organic nutrients to maintain crop yield. If organic nutrients are required, none of them will leak or volatilize into the air since healthy soil has the ability to adhere to the nutrients, reducing losses.
As integrated pest control takes place in a well-balanced ecosystem, predators that are already there will naturally control pests. Due to the natural equilibrium in the ecosystem, biological or cultural control strategies have an advantage in managing pests when they reach crop-specific and pest-specific critical levels.
In the previous section, we mentioned that less fuel burned means fewer carbon emissions, which can contribute to global warming, are released into the atmosphere. Just imagine how the effect on global warming could be minimized if all farmers utilized organic principles.
Organically grown food provides clear health and nutritional advantages over conventionally grown food. Although certified organic fruit commands a higher price, some stores may be prepared to pay you even more for your product just because it tastes better. It will be simple to create a brand name for your products, and with better marketing, you may be able to build a significant market for yourself.
In organic farming, only heirloom seeds are utilized, and no genetically modified seeds (GMO) are allowed to be planted. According to accessible sources, a loss in food nutrition is directly tied to soil depletion, and there is no clear indication that there is a difference between pure and GMO products. However, if a pure seed product tastes better than a GMO product, there must be a nutritional difference. Organic produce has more available nutrients and a better taste as it is cultivated in soil that has had its health restored.
Potential organic growers have access to a wealth of resources, including training, courses, and even financial assistance, especially during the transition period. This readily available financial assistance can make the transition to organic production easy and should be utilized.
Labor is the most important component of organic farming. It provides jobs for the producers’ families as well as residents of Texas. Another benefit is that money is spent on community development rather than worldwide multibillion-dollar corporations selling inorganic fertilizers and GMO seeds. Labor costs can be viewed as an investment in Texas communities rather than as an expense.
According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the consumer demand for organic products continues to show double-digit growth figures. An increasing demand for organic produce, therefore, creates incentives for producers and farmers over a wide range of products.
Only one out of every 1400 farms in Texas are certified organic. This results in a situation where demand exceeds supply, leaving a big gap for producers to fill in order to meet the ever-increasing need for organic products.
The enormous potential of organic products is shown in the next graph, and organic producers are needed to fill the increasing gap between supply and demand.
Organic agriculture has enormous potential, and producers who are committed to and enthusiastic about agriculture are sorely needed to fill this void in Texas.
Organic food production includes drawbacks that must be evaluated against the benefits and preferences of the producers.
A producer who wishes to become an organic food producer must have a strong desire to study everything there is to know about the complicated and complex soil-plant-atmosphere continuum, as well as the entomological relationships between potential pests and predators. This is a never-ending process, requiring constant zeal to learn, apply, and test new ideas. It should ideally become one of your key priorities. After a period of time, the producer will be able to work according to a recognized system developed by them with just modest tweaks to improve the system.
It is a delight to study the aspects that influence each other in all systems, and you will be well compensated for your contributions. Producers, on the other hand, will have a huge impact on the lives of everyone in Texas and around the world. Organic production is a science and a talent that takes a lifetime to master.
Many part-time and even full-time farmers wonder if the effort of transitioning to organic farming is worthwhile and sustainable, especially given the time-consuming and costly process of becoming a certified organic producer.
If an organic field generates more than $5000 in sales, the farm or field must be certified as an organic producer. Transitioning to organic farming and keeping records of each field you want to include are both required steps in becoming certified as an organic producer. The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and accredited certification agencies serve as verifiers, ensuring that all USDA standards for agricultural and horticultural organic production are met. The TDA’s website has more information on the organic certification procedure as well as a pricing calculator.
Organic farmers must keep track of each field that is part of the program as part of their certification. One advantage is that they provide downloaded forms to fill out on their website. The costs of the certification program will vary depending on the number of acres of fields you want to include and may be calculated using a calculator on their website.
The crop must be picked as quickly as possible after it is ready and sent to a consumer or store. The reason for this is because organic produce has a shorter shelf life than that grown by conventional produce competitors. In organic production, no preservatives, waxes, or artificial ripening methods are permitted. Immediate marketing after harvesting will shorten the period it spends in storage before being consumed.
Despite the fact that organic farming reduces the impact of production systems on humans, animals, and the environment, some critics believe that growers require twice as much land to feed Texas’ ever-growing population. This claim is unfounded, as a global comprehensive metanalysis indicates that organic yields are just 5–35% lower than conventional yields.
This wide variation is attributable to the fact that not all of the study’s participants followed the best organic standards. We should expect output reductions closer to 5% in Texas due to tight certification standards, whereas producers with enthusiasm and zeal may see yield reductions of less than 5%.
Most producers who invest in conventional inorganic crop cultivation view organic food production as a labor-intensive and difficult process. In this section, we shall compare the two systems using economic data. We will need to draw some logical inferences about vegetable and fruit crops due to a paucity of study data in organic farming, particularly comparison studies.
The Rodale Institute has a 30-year-old organic vs. conventional production study that has been documented since its inception. The Rodale Institute’s website offers a comprehensive library with essential information for producers, as well as training based on their research findings. They are currently situated in Iowa, with a branch in Georgia. The Rodale Institute’s 30-year Farming Systems Trial Report and the Rodale Institute’s data were released, and the results were summarized by Dr. Rebeccas Healthy Planet. The Rodale Institute’s 30-year Farming Systems Trial Report can be studied to give the producer a better idea about organic production in general.
Contrary to popular belief, organic cultivation is not expensive for farmers. This is supported by 30 years of study evidence that cannot be disputed. It’s possible that organic agriculture output isn’t optimized during the first three to five years of transitioning to organic farming due to soil health issues.
In the long term, organic systems are significantly more profitable than conventional systems, even when the premium for organic output is ignored. According to the Rodale Institute, organic yields are higher than conventional yields, as can be seen below.
Organic grain farming is more profitable than traditional grain production because of its reduced input costs and higher yield.
Similar trials conducted around the world back up the Rodale Institute’s conclusions. Farmland LP, a US-based investment firm that converts conventional farming to organic farmland, is a supporter of the trend. They discovered that a producer might earn $1000 per year from an industrial acre of corn. An acre of organic maize yields $3000 in net profit per year, whereas an acre of tomato or squash yields $5000 per year.
Marginally lower input costs and increased yield make organic grain systems more profitable than conventional grain production.
Different vegetable crops were analyzed in a study conducted among farmers in Israel’s Gaza Strip. Most crops indicated a great potential for organic production, while others didn’t. With this study, we must underline that we have no way of knowing whether adequate organic agricultural practices were used, as mandated in Texas.
In this article, we looked at the advantages, disadvantages and economics of organic farming. With this background, you now have plenty of information regarding organic agriculture on which to base your decision about whether or not to switch to organic production. However, given all of the benefits and long-term benefits of organic farming, it can be seen as a necessity rather than as a choice.