Author(s): Reganold JP, Glover JD, Andrews PK, Hinman HR
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Abstract Escalating production costs, heavy reliance on non-renewable resources, reduced biodiversity, water contamination, chemical residues in food, soil degradation and health risks to farm workers handling pesticides all bring into question the sustainability of conventional farming systems. It has been claimed, however, that organic farming systems are less efficient, pose greater health risks and produce half the yields of conventional farming systems. Nevertheless, organic farming became one of the fastest growing segments of US and European agriculture during the 1990s. Integrated farming, using a combination of organic and conventional techniques, has been successfully adopted on a wide scale in Europe. Here we report the sustainability of organic, conventional and integrated apple production systems in Washington State from 1994 to 1999. All three systems gave similar apple yields. The organic and integrated systems had higher soil quality and potentially lower negative environmental impact than the conventional system. When compared with the conventional and integrated systems, the organic system produced sweeter and less tart apples, higher profitability and greater energy efficiency. Our data indicate that the organic system ranked first in environmental and economic sustainability, the integrated system second and the conventional system last.
This article was published in Nature
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