Food production is lower in organic farms, but what makes it more expensive than conventional farms?

Current crop productivity levels of organic farms average 20% lower than conventional farms. It is a major concern for policymakers charged with feeding the burgeoning global population. Lower productivity of organic crops has been attributed to higher crop loss due to insect and pest damage and poor nutrients available in the plant’s high growth phase when nutrient demand peaks.

Probably there is a genetic aspect that too is required to be factored in. Most of the seeds in agriculture result from sustained breeding to produce crops that can grow more when intensively cultivated, are resistant to major pests, etc. Breeding has been done to use crops that can be easily machine harvested in a low labor availability environment.

When a farm switches from conventional to organic farming, the only available seed source is varieties bred for traditional cropping; the crop requires fertilizer and pesticides for optimal yields. In organic farming, cultivation practices do not permit using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a consequence, a rapid drop in profits takes place. The low yields are seen for at least the first two years.

As demand for organic food rises across the globe, seed requirements for cultivation in organic conditions are being developed in organic seed farms. In northern Europe, where larger chunks of agricultural land are being put into organic cultivation, specialized farms for producing seeds suitable for organic cultivation are taking place.

The major challenge in breeding varieties suitable for organic cultivation is that the types available to most farmers have been more suited for conventional agriculture than organic cultivation over the years.

Organic cultivation varieties need efficient nutrient uptake and the ability to thrive even in weed competition. It calls for producing seeds appropriate to organic cultivation. There appears to progress in breeding organic cultivation-specific cereal crops in Europe (Wolfe et al., 2008, Murphy et al., 2007).

Additional reading:

Nutritional Facts- a guide to good health

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