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Iowa State Study Shows Soil-Building Benefits of Organic Practices

A study conducted by Iowa State compared organic agricultural practices to those of conventional agriculture in regards to soil-building benefits, yield, time management and more.

| May 30, 2013

Reposted with permission from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Producers making the switch to organic crops to meet growing market demand not only fetch premium prices, according to a recent study; they also build healthy soil and sequester carbon, making organic agriculture a useful strategy for dealing with climate change.

The study, published in Crop Management in April, summarizes results from the Long-Term Agroecological Research (LTAR) Experiment, one of the longest running replicated comparisons of organic and conventional agriculture in the country. The experiment began in 1998 with funding from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. The LTAR site also has been used as a demonstration plot for U.S. Department of Agriculture studies.

“Farmers interested in transitioning to organic production will be happy to see that, with good management, yields can be the same, with potentially higher returns and better soil quality,” said Kathleen Delate, agronomy and horticulture professor at Iowa State University, who leads the project.



Organic food sales have tripled in the U.S. over the last decade. To market a crop as organic, it must be grown on land that has received no synthetic chemicals for three years prior to harvest.

Organic agriculture also promotes practices such as extended crop rotations and soil amendments including animal manure and compost. Although organic practices are not the only way to improve soil health, the ISU experiment showed that some of the biggest changes over time were in soil quality, particularly once the system was established.






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