Published on January 17th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan

Organic Farming Trumps Conventional Farming in 30-Year Study, Big Time!


organic food

Here’s some good news for you organic addicts: a 30-year, side-by-side farming study has found that organic farming methods at Pennsylvania’s Rodale Institute beat conventional farming methods in every category.

The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at the Rodale Institute is the “longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture” in the U.S. “After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, Rodale Institute claims the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system,” Spence Cooper at FriendsEat writes.

Some key findings:

  • In years of drought, organic farming yields were higher than conventional yields. Organic corn yields were 31% higher in years of drought (and even much higher than GM corn crops.) Why? “Organic fields increased groundwater recharge and reduced run-off.” (In other years, yields were essentially the same.)
  • Organic farming improved the health of the soil. (No effect was discerned in conventional farming.)
  • Organic farming uses a whopping 45% less energy!
  • Conventional farming produces 40% more greenhouse gases.
  • Organic farming is more profitable, almost 3 times more profitable over the course of 30 years!

organic corn beats conventional corn

It was also noted that organic farming “helps sustain rural communities by creating more jobs; a UN study shows organic farms create 30 per cent more jobs per hectare than nonorganic. More of the money in organic farming goes to paying local people, rather than to farm inputs.”

organic food better than conventional

“The global food security community, which focuses on poor farmers in developing countries, is shifting to an organic approach,” Paul Hanley of the StarPhoenix notes. “Numerous independent studies show that small scale, organic farming is the best option for feeding the world now and in the future.”  I’ve also written on this numerous times over on Eat Drink Better, as have others there.

Photo credits: Organic corn by Cascadian Farm; carrots & garlic by Ed Yourdon

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

  • Pingback: Organic Bread Versus “Natural” And Conventional Bread | Planetsave()

  • This is indeed great news for those of us in the retail sector pushing organic food. There are still huge hurdles to overcome, but the more empirical data we can get, the better it will be!
    I’ve just put a post up on our blog on this article:

  • Alicia

    Excellent points!!!!
    I hope we get an answer… the past I have always trusted Rodale as they were honest sbout their findings and they educated a great many people back in the day around organic……that said….who are they now? Who did the funding of the study…..WE need to be above reproach and set a high bar for diseminating data.
    Love tje concept and your story and maybe the story needs more facts.

    • I imagine you can check out the Rodale study and examine the methodology, etc., if you like.

      30 years is obviously a pretty tremendous length for a study — would be a shame to breeze over the findings just because they come from an institute focused on the benefits of Organic.

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