Organic Farming as Crop Insurance

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Organic farming combines conservation-minded methods with technology, but does not use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, organic farming relies on enhancing and building soil fertility. Still, for a farm to survive in a market economy, it has to be profitable.

Long-term studies show that organic farming increases both energy efficiency and economic returns, the latter driven by rising consumer demand. Increasingly, the question is less about whether a farm can afford to go organic and more about how to go about it. The addition of natural biostimulants – acids like humic and fulvic; protein hydrolysates like fish; extracts like chitin, betains and seaweed/kelp and finally, microbials like mychorrhizae, trichoderma and beneficial fungi – are playing a greater role in improving both conventional and organic crops from environmental and economic perspectives. Andaman Ag sells an array of these established and ground-breaking biostimulants.

A number of recent studies report that organic farming methods not only retain soil fertility in the long term, but prove cost-effective in the short term. Organic farming methods are producing similar yields and quality to conventional practices due to our increased understanding of combining materials in ways that produce the very best results.

However, here’s the biggest news flash about organic farming: it’s an insurance policy! Yes, an insurance policy – and one that every grower should consider. When extreme conditions like heat waves, floods or frost occur, organic crops produce much greater yields than conventional crops. Imagine if there was a genetically modified crop that produced a 30% gain in yield – it would be all over the press! Yet, after 30 years of side-by-side research, the Rodale Institute has demonstrated that organic farming is better equipped to feed us now and well into the ever changing future. Organic corn yields were found to be 31% higher than conventional yields in years of drought. The higher water-holding capacity, more expansive root systems, and superior plant health produced by organic soils likely plays a key role.

It is often said it doesn’t matter how much it rains, but how much of it you can use, and organic matter can be thought of as a giant sponge. Every percentage point increase in organic matter in the top 8 inches of soil enables that soil to hold an additional 18,000 gallons of water per acre. That is the equivalent of 0.67 inches of rainfall held in the soil for later use by plants. Organic matter makes rainfall more useable and it makes flooding more manageable.

A study of soils in Michigan demonstrated potential crop-yield increases of about 12% for every 1% increase in organic matter. In a Maryland experiment, researchers saw an increase of approximately 80 bushels of corn per acre when organic matter increased from 0.8% to 2%. Organic farming methods are crop insurance against challenging growing seasons. It’s an idea that deserves practical consideration.