rodale 30yr study

David Hare-Scott wrote:

i've not gotten to the details yet...

i'd accept soil stability in many places that still have topsoil.
the differences in productivity between topsoil and subsoil is significant. when any farm runs out of topsoil the required inputs for reaching the same level of outputs as before is quite large (especially when using high yield grains) sometimes by several factors or even a magnitude shift.
in the future those costs will be much higher as cheap oil turns into more scarce oil.

if the subsidies already in place for the conventional system are made available to the organic system it would be a fair comparison.
the conventional system has all the advantages in many areas because the infrastructure is already in place to support it along with the marketing and lobbying of politicians to ensure it continues. the conventional system is also getting a free pass on pollution and abuse of fresh water resources and destruction of topsoil turning land into desert or salt pans.
to do an accurate comparison we need to list all the costs of each. the conventional system may be more efficient, but it may also be more efficient at destruction or pollution or wasting fresh water.

yes more labor, but last i knew unemployment is a concern.
i think much of the scaling problem is over- hyped. if you take most of the greens and fresh veggies production and do what the Cubans have done then you've concentrated the perishables nearer to the population centers. transportation and infrastructure costs stay reasonable. for the farms further away they shift to a crop rotation system which gives them transportable plantstuffs or animals, but i think it is much better to process the animals on the land where they are raised to keep the nutrients there as much as possible (and transportation from the population centers should be bringing organic materials out when they are picking up stuff to bring in). this reduces fuel costs as then only the actual edible parts are shipped. you get an increase in fuel costs hauling organic materials from the cities, but there is some cost in that already because the stuff currently ends up in a landfill or at a recycling center.

eventually energy costs and an accurate assessment of the pollution costs will show that organic systems are viable. large scale organic farms exist now.
if food becomes scarce you can be sure that there will be a wider push to encourage more people to grow food in small plots and to reclaim unused spaces or to restore degraded areas. already i see a lot more gardens than before.

i don't know what your local horticultural trial is about. how large is it?
the claims of the Rodale study is that the labor and fuel increases of the organic approach are more than compensated by the reduced input costs and the higher prices for the organic outputs. i think the cost of fuels can be worked on in various ways that aren't considered useful now, but will become more important when the price of oil goes up.
i think with an accurate accounting of the damage from conventional system the organic system comes out even further ahead. my own small scale practice has shown me enough details and i'm not even pressing production very hard or getting very complicated.
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