Published: October 4, 2022

Category: Organic News, The Non-GMO Blog

A study recently published in Nature Plants surveyed 542 organic fruit and vegetable farmers about the use of eight agroecological practices that promote sustainability.

“We wanted to look at how the practices differ between small-scale organic farms… and those huge farms that supply organic produce to big box stores,” said Jeffrey Liebert, PhD, who studied agroecology at Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences Section, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

They also examined signs of “conventionalization” in organic farming, including reduced crop diversity, mechanization, and a focus on high volume and wholesale production. The conclusion is that larger farms use fewer agroecological practices and that organic farming on large farms more closely resembles conventional farming—with use of organic approved pesticides and fertilizers, rather than integration of a broader suite of sustainable agroecological practices.

Large farms can drive prices down in the organic market, but the lack of sustainable practices may diminish confidence in the label.

“This conventionalization of organic farming is a real issue,” said Matthew Ryan, associate professor at Cornell and study co-author—causing weakening of the label, a lost price premium, and absence of sustainable practices.

Large farms prioritize efficiency (reduced tillage) while smaller farms engage in practices such as insectary plantings that attract beneficial insect—not so effective on large farms due to concern from retailers over crop contamination from wildlife exposure.

“This was a good example of how we can’t solve some of these issues around sustainability or biodiversity if you’re not taking a more interdisciplinary approach,” Liebert said.

Source: Cornell Chronicle

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Organic & Non-GMO Insights October 2022