Soils after heavy rain under organic (left) and conventional management – thanks to the better soil structure, organic agriculture is better able to deal with extreme events, which are likely to increase in frequency with climate change.
Photos: Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL

08.12.2017

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Are organic farming systems more climate friendly and climate resilient than conventional ones? And does this make them suitable to maintain global food security in changing climate conditions? Our authors believe that this is the case. However, they say that in assessing mitigation and adaptation potential, one should not only look at production aspects, and make a case for a food systems perspective.

Organic farming offers several ways to mitigate climate change when compared to conventional agriculture:

First, organic farming, through its key practices of organic fertiliser use and crop rotations with forage legumes, tends to increase soil organic carbon levels resulting in carbon sequestration. This contributes to climate change mitigation, as it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and stores the additional carbon in the soil. However, depending on soil type and climatic conditions, this process usually comes to a halt after some decades, when soil organic carbon levels have reached a new equilibrium and soils are thus saturated with respect to organic carbon contents. Furthermore, this storage of organic carbon is reversible and the carbon can again be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when switching to unsustainable practices.

Second, organic farming does not use mineral fertilisers. Thus, the emissions from industrial fertiliser production are avoided. In contrast to carbon sequestration, this is a permanent mitigation benefit that can be realised every year anew.

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