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The crop yield gap between organic and conventional agriculture

Tomek de Ponti, Bert Rijk and Martin K. van Ittersum

Agricultural Systems, 2012, vol. 108, issue C, pages 1-9

Abstract: A key issue in the debate on the contribution of organic agriculture to the future of world agriculture is whether organic agriculture can produce sufficient food to feed the world. Comparisons of organic and conventional yields play a central role in this debate. We therefore compiled and analyzed a meta-dataset of 362 published organic–conventional comparative crop yields. Our results show that organic yields of individual crops are on average 80% of conventional yields, but variation is substantial (standard deviation 21%). In our dataset, the organic yield gap significantly differed between crop groups and regions. The analysis gave some support to our hypothesis that the organic–conventional yield gap increases as conventional yields increase, but this relationship was only rather weak. The rationale behind this hypothesis is that when conventional yields are high and relatively close to the potential or water-limited level, nutrient stress must, as per definition of the potential or water-limited yield levels, be low and pests and diseases well controlled, which are conditions more difficult to attain in organic agriculture.

Keywords: Organic agriculture; Conventional agriculture; Yield gap; Potential production; World food security; Farming system design (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012
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