Agricultural Ecology

Organic Farming

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Science  06 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5527, pp. 17
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5527.17a

The reluctance of much of the agricultural sector to adopt “organic” procedures—the production of crops and livestock without recourse to inorganic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides—stems from fear of increased costs over those of “conventional” farming. Letourneau and Goldstein have studied tomato production on 18 commercial farms (half of them managed organically) in the Central Valley of California; they find that the withdrawal of synthetic insecticides does not lead to increased crop losses as a result of pest damage. The arthropod communities on the organic farms contained a greater diversity of species and a greater abundance of natural enemies (predators and parasitoids) of pest species. Particular arthropod groups were affected more strongly by surrounding habitat and fallow practice than by insecticides. Overall, these results suggest that the use of pesticides in this system does not lead to a net economic benefit and that organic procedures can promote biodiversity and may sustain productivity. — AMS

J. Appl. Ecol.38, 557 (2001).

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