Organic Farming in the Corn Belt

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Science  06 Feb 1981:
Vol. 211, Issue 4482, pp. 540-547
DOI: 10.1126/science.211.4482.540


A small minority of farmers in the Midwest produces crops on a commercial scale without using modern fertilizers and pesticides. On the basis of a 5-year study, it appears that these farmers have more in common with the majority of farmers in the region than with certain stereotypes of organic farmers. Their farming practices (other than chemical use), the size and labor requirements of their farms, and the production and profitability they achieve differ from those of conventional farmers by considerably less than might be expected on the basis of the fundamental importance of chemicals in modern agricultural production. Compared to conventional methods, organic methods consume less fossil energy and cause less soil erosion, but have mixed effects on soil nutrient status and grain protein content.