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Agroecology and the Disappearing Yield Gap

Agroecology and the Disappearing Yield Gap

In 2012, Nature published a study by Seufert, Ramankutty, and Foley that stated that organic agriculture yielded 25 percent less than conventional agriculture, a conclusion that was erroneously drawn due to statistical bias. Research recently published by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, which uses three times the number of farms and a more accurate statistical procedure, has found "that when organic farms employ agroecological practices like inter-cropping and crop rotations, the organic-conventional yield gap all but disappears.” Importantly, "what this new study shows is that agroecology – not organic agriculture per se – is the key to yield and sustainability.”

This finding should have significant policy implications, but for decades our academic, scientific, and governmental institutions have had a serious basis towards high-input industrial agriculture, with a trifling percentage of budgets dedicated to organic agriculture (less than two percent of the USDA's current research budget, for instance, goes towards organic agriculture). The solution to ending hunger, argues Eric Holt Gimenez, is not providing farmers with GMOs or petrol-chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, but to equip farmers with the political stability, land, water, and resources necessary to produce food for themselves with agroecological methods. It's time for policy – and governmental funding – to reflect the reality that agroecology, more than petrochemical dependent industrial agriculture, is our best chance for feeding the world and creating a resilient agricultural infrastructure in face of climate change.

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