Can organic cropping systems be as profitable as conventional systems?

April 6, 2009

Which is a better strategy, specializing in one crop or diversified cropping? Is conventional cropping more profitable than organic farming? Is it less risky?

To answer these questions, the University of Wisconsin's College of and Life Sciences and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute agronomists established the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial (WICST) in 1990. This research is funded by USDA-ARS.

Systems ranging from species-diverse pasture and organic systems to more specialized conventional alfalfa-based forage and corn-based grain systems were compared at two sites in southern Wisconsin from 1993 to 2006.

Crop production analysis was published in the 2008 March-April issue of while this companion article focuses on the net returns and associated risk exposure of these systems. Full research results from this current study are presented by Chavas et al. in the 2009 March-April issue of Agronomy Journal.

"In our study we found that diversified systems were more profitable than monocropping," explains Joshua Posner, University of Wisconsin.

With feed grade premiums the organic systems were more profitable than the Midwestern standards of continuous corn, no-till corn and soybeans, and intensively managed alfalfa.

Rotational grazing of dairy heifers was as profitable as the organic systems. And to our surprise, including risk premiums into the evaluation did not change the ranking of the systems. This study indicates that governmental policy that supports mono-culture systems is outdated and support should be shifted to programs that promote crop rotations and organic farming practices.

More information: View study's abstract here.

Source: American Society of Agronomy

Explore further: Alternative farming cleans up water

Related Stories

Alternative farming cleans up water

July 19, 2007

Although the addition of nutrients to soil helps to maximize crop production, fertilizer can leach nutrients, polluting the water supply. A recent study by researchers at the University of Minnesota shows alternative cropping ...

Are organic crops as productive as conventional?

March 25, 2008

Can organic cropping systems be as productive as conventional systems" The answer is an unqualified, “Yes” for alfalfa or wheat and a qualified “Yes most of the time” for corn and soybeans according to research reported ...

Keeping yields, profits and water quality high

May 8, 2008

One of the key questions facing agriculturalists in the 21st century is how to produce adequate amounts of food and farm income while protecting environmental quality. Diversified, low-external-input (LEI) farming systems ...

Managing carbon loss

December 3, 2008

As the United States continues to develop alternative energy methods and push towards energy independence, cellulosic-based ethanol has emerged as one of the most commercially viable technologies. Corn stover remains the ...

Preventing soil erosion in continuous corn

January 12, 2009

With recent increase in the cost of energy and subsequent explorations into alternative energy sources, the increased harvest of corn residue for cellulosic ethanol production is likely in the future. This may be especially ...

Recommended for you

Ice sheets may be more resilient than thought

September 3, 2015

Sea level rise poses one of the biggest threats to human systems in a globally warming world, potentially causing trillions of dollars' worth of damages to flooded cities around the world. As surface temperatures rise, ice ...

Clues from ancient Maya reveal lasting impact on environment

September 3, 2015

Evidence from the tropical lowlands of Central America reveals how Maya activity more than 2,000 years ago not only contributed to the decline of their environment but continues to influence today's environmental conditions, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.