The Farming Systems Trial was launched in 1981 with a clear goal: Address the barriers to the adoption of organic farming by farmers.
For more than 40 years, the Farming Systems Trial (FST) at Rodale Institute has applied real-world practices and rigorous scientific analysis to document the different impacts of organic and conventional grain cropping systems.
The scientific data gathered from this research has established that organic management matches or outperforms conventional agriculture in ways that benefit farmers and lays a strong foundation for designing and refining agricultural systems that can improve the health of people and the planet.
The FST compares three core farming systems: a chemical input-based conventional system, a legume-based organic system, and a manure-based organic system. Corn and soybean production is the focus of each system because 70 percent of U.S. acreage is devoted to growing grain.
In 2008, each core system was further divided to compare standard full-tillage (FT) and emerging reduced-tillage (RT) practices.