A farmer windrows
organically grown wheat near Morris, Minn. Click the image for more
information about it.
Growers Can Make More Money by Going
Organic By Don
Comis July 25, 2006
It looks like Minnesota grain farmers could make more money by
switching to organic grain crops. That's the conclusion of a four-year study
being announced today at the American
Agricultural Economics Association's annual
meeting in Long Beach,
Archer, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) economist, and
Kludze, an ARS soil scientist, will present a paper on this study,
conducted at the Swan Lake Research Farm near Morris, Minn. The study was
unusual in that it analyzed both economic risks and transition effects of
switching to organic farming.
The 130-acre Swan Lake farm is representative of typical corn-soybean
farms in Minnesota. The ARS
Central Soil Conservation Research Lab in Morris leases this farm for field
research from the local
Soil and Water Conservation Research Association.
Archer and Kludze compared an organic corn-soybean rotation and an
organic corn-soybean-spring wheat/alfalfa rotationhalf grown with
conventional tillage and half with strip tillagewith a corn-soybean
rotation using conventional tillage. Strip tillage involves tilling only the
middle of the seedbed. The scientists found that when strip tillage is used
with organic farming, one of the transition risks is an increase in weeds until
farmers learn to manage the system.
Computer simulations projected costs, yields and risks over a 20-year
period, using yield and economic data from the four-year study, as well as crop
price records of recent years.
Records showed that organic crops fetched much more than conventional
crops: soybeans, up to $14 more per bushel; corn, up to $3 more; and wheat, up
to $5 more. Organic alfalfa hay is too new to have a track record, so
researchers recorded it as selling for the same price as conventionally grown
Another computer model projected that farmers would net an average $50
to $60 more per acre a year by going organic, even with the highest transition
costs. The premium price advantage would outweigh the initial higher costs and
possibly lower yields, even if organic prices were to drop by half.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.