Assessing the Real Productivity of Organic Farming Systems in Contemporary

Authors: Awanindra Kumar Tiwari

Journal Name: Plant Science Archives



This article provides a comprehensive analysis of the productivity of organic farming systems in comparison to conventional agricultural practices. Amidst the growing emphasis on sustainable agriculture, organic farming has gained prominence for its environmentally friendly methods. However, the efficiency and productivity of organic farming remain subjects of debate. This analysis focuses on key aspects such as land usage, crop yield gaps, and the challenges faced by organic farming in maintaining productivity. Studies indicate that organic farming typically requires 2-3 times more land than conventional farming to produce the same amount of food, highlighting a significant efficiency challenge. Additionally, the yield gap between organic and conventional farming, estimated at 29 to 44% depending on crop types, further underscores the productivity challenges in organic systems. Despite these challenges, the environmental benefits of organic farming, such as reduced pollution, enhanced biodiversity, and improved soil health, are notable. The article concludes that while organic farming faces hurdles in achieving the productivity levels of conventional methods, its environmental sustainability and potential contributions to climate change mitigation are significant. Future advancements in organic farming practices, focusing on innovative pest control, soil fertility management, and crop variety development, are crucial for enhancing its productivity and overall sustainability.

Download this article as


In the realm of modern agriculture, the debate between organic and conventional farming methods has become increasingly prominent. As the world grapples with environmental challenges and the quest for sustainable food production, organic farming has emerged as a potential solution, acclaimed for its eco-friendly practices [1-3]. However, one of the most pressing questions in this debate concerns the real productivity of organic farming systems. This article aims to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the productivity of organic farming in comparison to conventional agriculture, focusing on aspects such as land use efficiency, crop yield, and the broader environmental implications.

Organic farming, defined by its avoidance of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, relies on natural processes and materials to cultivate crops [4]. This approach is rooted in principles of ecological balance, conservation of biodiversity, and the maintenance of soil health. However, the efficacy and efficiency of organic farming are often scrutinized, especially in the context of global food security and the increasing demand for agricultural produce. This comparative analysis delves into various dimensions of organic farming productivity. It examines the land area required for organic farming relative to conventional methods and explores the yield gaps that exist between the two practices. Additionally, the article addresses the challenges inherent in organic farming, including pest control, nutrient management, and the impact of crop rotation on annual yields.

Beyond the immediate concerns of yield and land use, the article also considers the broader environmental impacts of organic farming. These include the benefits of reduced chemical runoff, enhanced soil fertility, and biodiversity preservation. In doing so, the analysis provides a holistic view of organic farming’s role in contemporary agriculture, balancing the scales between productivity and sustainability [5-6]. This comprehensive approach aims to shed light on the true potential of organic farming and its place in the future of global agriculture.

Understanding Organic Farming

Organic farming eschews synthetic chemicals, relying instead on natural processes and inputs to cultivate crops. It emphasizes soil health through natural composting, green manures, and crop rotations. Leguminous crops, which enrich the soil with nitrogen, play a pivotal role in these rotations, coupled with cash crops like vegetables and spices. This method not only maintains long-term soil fertility but also supports ecological balance.

Productivity Analysis of Organic Farming Systems

A key metric for assessing the productivity of any farming system is the land area required to produce a certain amount of food. Studies have shown that organic farming generally requires more land—about 2–3 times the area used by conventional farms—to produce the same quantity of food [7-10]. This finding raises questions about the efficiency of organic farming, especially in a world grappling with limited land resources and increasing food demands. When assessing the productivity of organic farming, several key factors need to be considered, including land use efficiency, crop yields, and the challenges inherent in organic agricultural practices.

Land Use Efficiency

A critical aspect of productivity in agriculture is land use efficiency. Studies have shown that organic farming often requires more land compared to conventional farming to produce the same amount of food [11]. The need for larger land areas in organic farming can be attributed to the absence of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which conventionally boost crop yields. The organic approach, which relies on natural fertilizers and pest control methods, typically results in lower crop densities and longer growth periods. However, this increased land requirement must be weighed against the environmental benefits of organic farming, such as reduced chemical runoff and better soil health.

Yield Gaps

The yield gap between organic and conventional farming is a significant point of discussion. On average, organic farming yields tend to be lower by about 20-25% compared to conventional methods [12]. This gap can vary widely depending on the type of crop, climatic conditions, and the specific organic farming techniques used. While advancements in organic farming practices are helping to narrow this yield gap, achieving parity with conventional yields remains a challenge. Factors like pest and disease management, soil fertility, and the efficiency of organic fertilizers play a crucial role in determining these yields.

Challenges in Organic Farming

Organic farming faces unique challenges that impact its productivity. Pest and disease control in organic systems often requires more labor-intensive methods and a deeper understanding of ecological relationships. Additionally, maintaining soil fertility without synthetic fertilizers requires careful management of organic matter, green manures, and crop rotations. These practices, while beneficial for long-term soil health and environmental sustainability, can initially be less efficient in terms of immediate crop production, while organic farming faces challenges in terms of land use efficiency and yield gaps compared to conventional farming, it offers significant environmental benefits [13]. The lower yields in organic farming are counterbalanced by its positive impacts on soil health, biodiversity, and overall ecosystem sustainability. As the agricultural sector continues to evolve, the role of organic farming in feeding a growing global population sustainably becomes increasingly pertinent. Future advancements in organic farming techniques and a better understanding of its ecological benefits will be crucial in maximizing its productivity and potential. Moreover, the crop rotation practices integral to organic farming often result in a reduction of the number of crops harvested per year. When this factor is combined with the inherent yield gaps—estimated at 29 to 44% depending on the crop types—the overall productivity of organic farming systems appears to lag behind that of conventional systems.

Yield Gaps and Challenges

The yield gap between organic and conventional farming is influenced by various factors. Organic farms, by eschewing synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, often face greater challenges in pest control and nutrient management [14]. However, it’s important to note that this gap varies significantly depending on the type of crop, local environmental conditions, and the specific organic farming practices employed.

Yield Gaps and Challenges in Organic Farming

One of the critical aspects of assessing the productivity of organic farming systems lies in understanding the yield gaps between organic and conventional farming and the inherent challenges that organic agriculture faces.

Yield Gaps between Organic and Conventional Farming

Organic farming typically yields less compared to conventional farming. This yield gap is primarily attributed to the non-use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which are potent in boosting crop production in conventional systems [15-16]. Organic methods, relying on natural processes and inputs, often result in lower crop densities and slower growth rates. The extent of this yield gap varies significantly based on crop types, environmental conditions, and the specific organic farming techniques employed. On average, organic yields are estimated to be about 20-25% lower than those from conventional farming, although this can be much higher or lower depending on the specific circumstances.

Challenges Leading to Lower Yields in Organic Farming

1. Nutrient Management: Without synthetic fertilizers, organic farmers must rely on natural sources of nutrients, which can be less concentrated and slower to release. Managing soil fertility through compost, animal manures, and green manures requires careful planning and can be labor-intensive [17].

2. Pest and Disease Control: Organic farming prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, leading farmers to depend on biological pest control, crop rotations, and other natural methods. These practices, while environmentally sustainable, may not always be as immediately effective as synthetic pesticides in controlling pests and diseases [18].

3. Weed Management: Controlling weeds without chemical herbicides is a significant challenge in organic farming. Mechanical and manual methods used in organic systems are often more labor-intensive and less efficient [19].

4. Varietal Selection: Many crop varieties have been bred for optimal performance with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and may not perform as well under organic conditions. The development and selection of crop varieties better suited for organic systems is an ongoing challenge [20].

Mitigating Yield Gaps

To mitigate these yield gaps, continued research and development in organic farming methods are essential. This includes developing more efficient organic fertilizers, improving biological pest control methods, breeding crop varieties suitable for organic cultivation, and innovating weed management techniques. Moreover, understanding the ecological and environmental benefits of organic farming is crucial. While organic farming may produce lower yields, its positive impacts on soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem sustainability are significant [21]. These benefits must be factored into any assessment of the overall productivity and viability of organic farming systems, while the yield gap between organic and conventional farming presents a significant challenge, organic farming remains a vital part of the solution to sustainable agriculture. The challenges inherent in organic farming are balanced by its environmental and ecological benefits. Future advancements in organic farming practices and technologies will be critical in addressing these challenges and enhancing the overall productivity and sustainability of organic agriculture [22].

Environmental Considerations and Sustainability

Despite the challenges in productivity, the environmental benefits of organic farming are substantial. Organic methods lead to reduced pollution, enhanced biodiversity, and improved soil health [23]. These practices are more in harmony with natural ecosystems, promoting a balanced environment. Furthermore, organic farming can contribute to mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration in soil. To enhance the productivity of organic farming, innovations in organic agricultural practices are crucial. Research in organic pest control, soil fertility management, and crop varieties suited for organic cultivation could help narrow the yield gap. Furthermore, understanding the socio-economic aspects of organic farming, including market demands and consumer preferences, is vital for its growth and sustainability.

Future Directions in Organic Farming

As organic farming continues to evolve, addressing the challenges of yield gaps and environmental sustainability, future directions in this field must be geared towards innovation, research, and policy development [24-25]. These efforts will be crucial in enhancing the productivity and sustainability of organic farming systems.

1. Advancements in Agricultural Technology: The integration of new technologies in organic farming can significantly improve efficiency and productivity. Precision agriculture, using tools such as GPS and data analytics, can optimize resource use and management in organic farms. Additionally, advancements in biotechnology, including the development of organic-compatible pest-resistant and drought-tolerant crop varieties, could substantially reduce yield gaps.

2. Enhanced Research and Development: There is a need for increased research focusing on organic farming methods, particularly in areas such as soil fertility, pest and disease management, and crop genetics. Collaborations between agricultural scientists, organic farmers, and environmentalists can lead to more effective and sustainable organic farming practices.

3. Policy and Incentive Support: Governments and international bodies can play a crucial role in promoting organic farming through supportive policies and incentives. This includes subsidies for organic farmers, funding for organic farming research, and assistance in obtaining organic certifications. Policies that encourage sustainable agricultural practices can make organic farming more viable and attractive to farmers.

4. Educational and Training Programs: Educating and training the next generation of farmers in organic practices is essential. This involves not just the transfer of knowledge but also the fostering of an understanding of the ecological and environmental principles underlying organic agriculture.

5. Consumer Awareness and Market Development: Building consumer awareness about the benefits of organic products can drive market demand, providing an incentive for more farmers to adopt organic practices. Developing robust markets for organic products, both locally and globally, can ensure economic viability for organic farmers.

6. Addressing Global Food Security: Research and dialogue on how organic farming can contribute to global food security are necessary. This includes understanding the role of organic farming in diverse agricultural contexts and developing models that integrate organic practices with broader food production systems.

7. Sustainability Assessments: Continuous assessments of the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of organic farming will be important [26-30]. These assessments should consider the long-term impacts of organic farming on soil health, biodiversity, and climate change mitigation. Organic farming, with its emphasis on sustainability and ecological balance, presents a compelling alternative to conventional agriculture. However, the challenges in productivity, particularly in terms of land efficiency and yield gaps, cannot be overlooked. Balancing these challenges with the environmental benefits is key to advancing organic farming practices. As the global community continues to seek sustainable agricultural solutions, organic farming remains an important piece of the puzzle, one that requires ongoing innovation and support to realize its full potential.


The analysis of organic farming practices in the context of contemporary agriculture reveals a complex landscape with both challenges and opportunities. While organic farming faces issues related to lower yields and higher land requirements compared to conventional farming, it offers substantial benefits in terms of environmental sustainability, soil health, and potential long-term viability. The requirement for increased land and the associated yield gaps in organic farming underscore the need for ongoing research and innovation. Developing more efficient organic farming techniques, enhancing pest and disease resistance naturally, and improving soil fertility management are crucial steps in closing the productivity gap. Moreover, the adaptation of new technologies and the breeding of crop varieties suited for organic cultivation can play a significant role in boosting the efficiency of organic farming systems.

Despite these challenges, the environmental benefits of organic farming are undeniable. The practices used in organic farming contribute significantly to soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem balance. The avoidance of synthetic chemicals and the emphasis on natural processes make organic farming a more environmentally friendly approach, aligning with the growing global demand for sustainable and ecologically responsible farming methods. With increased consumer awareness and demand, supportive policies, and continued research and development, organic farming can significantly contribute to sustainable food systems. The balance between meeting global food demands and preserving environmental integrity remains a key challenge, but organic farming, with its ecological and health benefits, offers a promising pathway. In conclusion, while organic farming may not be a panacea for all the challenges facing modern agriculture, it represents a crucial element in the diverse toolkit needed to achieve sustainable food production. Embracing organic farming practices, while continually innovating and addressing its limitations, can help pave the way towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious agricultural future.


  1. Pacini, C., Wossink, A., Giesen, G., Vazzana, C., & Huirne, R. (2003). Evaluation of sustainability of organic, integrated and conventional farming systems: a farm and field-scale analysis. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment95(1), 273-288.
  2. Reganold, J. P., & Wachter, J. M. (2016). Organic agriculture in the twenty-first century. Nature plants2(2), 1-8.
  3. Hansen, B., Alrøe, H. F., & Kristensen, E. S. (2001). Approaches to assess the environmental impact of organic farming with particular regard to Denmark. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment83(1-2), 11-26.
  4. Brzezina, N., Kopainsky, B., & Mathijs, E. (2016). Can organic farming reduce vulnerabilities and enhance the resilience of the European food system? A critical assessment using system dynamics structural thinking tools. Sustainability8(10), 971.
  5. Adamtey, N., Musyoka, M. W., Zundel, C., Cobo, J. G., Karanja, E., Fiaboe, K. K., & Foster, D. (2016). Productivity, profitability and partial nutrient balance in maize-based conventional and organic farming systems in Kenya. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment235, 61-79.
  6. Crowder, D. W., & Reganold, J. P. (2015). Financial competitiveness of organic agriculture on a global scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(24), 7611-7616.
  7. Meier, M. S., Stoessel, F., Jungbluth, N., Juraske, R., Schader, C., & Stolze, M. (2015). Environmental impacts of organic and conventional agricultural products–Are the differences captured by life cycle assessment?. Journal of environmental management149, 193-208.
  8. Seufert, V., Ramankutty, N., & Foley, J. A. (2012). Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture. Nature485(7397), 229-232.
  9. Watson, C. A., Walker, R. L., & Stockdale, E. A. (2008). Research in organic production systems–past, present and future. The Journal of Agricultural Science146(1), 1-19.
  10. Trewavas, A. (2004). A critical assessment of organic farming-and-food assertions with particular respect to the UK and the potential environmental benefits of no-till agriculture. Crop protection23(9), 757-781.
  11. Watson, C. A., Atkinson, D., Gosling, P., Jackson, L. R., & Rayns, F. W. (2002). Managing soil fertility in organic farming systems. Soil use and management18, 239-247.
  12. Rasul, G., & Thapa, G. B. (2004). Sustainability of ecological and conventional agricultural systems in Bangladesh: an assessment based on environmental, economic and social perspectives. Agricultural systems79(3), 327-351.
  13. Cederberg, C., & Mattsson, B. (2000). Life cycle assessment of milk production—a comparison of conventional and organic farming. Journal of cleaner production8(1), 49-60.
  14. Rigby, D., & Cáceres, D. (2001). Organic farming and the sustainability of agricultural systems. Agricultural systems68(1), 21-40.
  15. Murphy, K. M., Campbell, K. G., Lyon, S. R., & Jones, S. S. (2007). Evidence of varietal adaptation to organic farming systems. Field Crops Research102(3), 172-177.
  16. Aguilera, E., Guzmán, G., & Alonso, A. (2015). Greenhouse gas emissions from conventional and organic cropping systems in Spain. II. Fruit tree orchards. Agronomy for Sustainable Development35, 725-737.
  17. De Ponti, T., Rijk, B., & Van Ittersum, M. K. (2012). The crop yield gap between organic and conventional agriculture. Agricultural systems108, 1-9.
  18. Gattinger, A., Muller, A., Haeni, M., Skinner, C., Fliessbach, A., Buchmann, N. & Niggli, U. (2012). Enhanced top soil carbon stocks under organic farming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences109(44), 18226-18231.
  19. Gosling, P., Hodge, A., Goodlass, G., & Bending, G. D. (2006). Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and organic farming. Agriculture, ecosystems & environment113(1-4), 17-35.
  20. Idoko, J. A., Osang, P. O., & Ijoyah, M. O. (2016). Evaluation of the agronomic characters of three sweet potato varieties for intercropping with soybean in Makurdi, Southern Guinea Savannah, Nigeria. Plant Science Archives
  21. Bedoussac, L., Journet, E. P., Hauggaard-Nielsen, H., Naudin, C., Corre-Hellou, G., Jensen, E. S., & Justes, E. (2015). Ecological principles underlying the increase of productivity achieved by cereal-grain legume intercrops in organic farming. A review. Agronomy for sustainable development35, 911-935.
  22. Seufert, V., Ramankutty, N., & Foley, J. A. (2012). Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture. Nature485(7397), 229-232. Plant Science Archives
  23. Basset-Mens, C., & Van der Werf, H. M. (2005). Scenario-based environmental assessment of farming systems: the case of pig production in France. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment105(1-2), 127-144.
  24. Salam, M. A., Islam, M. R., Diba, S. F., & Hossain, M. M. (2019). Marker assisted foreground selection for identification of aromatic rice genotype to develop a modern aromatic line. Plant Science Archives
  25. Bellon, S., & Lamine, C. (2009). Conversion to organic farming: A multidimensional research object at the crossroads of agricultural and social sciences-A review. Sustainable agriculture, 653-672.
  26. Lammerts van Bueren, E. T., Jones, S. S., Tamm, L., Murphy, K. M., Myers, J. R., Leifert, C., & Messmer, M. M. (2011). The need to breed crop varieties suitable for organic farming, using wheat, tomato and broccoli as examples: A review. NJAS: Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences58(3-4), 193-205.
  27. Rigby, D., Woodhouse, P., Young, T., & Burton, M. (2001). Constructing a farm level indicator of sustainable agricultural practice. Ecological economics39(3), 463-478.
  28. Baroni, L., Cenci, L., Tettamanti, M., & Berati, M. (2007). Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. European journal of clinical nutrition61(2), 279-286.
  29. Balan, H. R., & Boyles, L. Z. (2016). Assessment of root knot nematode incidence as indicator of mangrove biodiversity in Lunao, Gingoog City. Plant Science Archives