For decades, a growing number of consumers have turned to organic produce as a healthier alternative to vegetables and fruits grown with chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
It turns out that organic crops are better suited for farmlands subjected to drought conditions, according to a study published today in the the journal Nature Plants.
John Reganold, the lead author of the paper, has visited hundreds of farms – organic, conventional and everything in between – in his study of soil science and agriculture at Washington State University. He says there’s one thing organic farmers all have in common:
When you visit their farms, they want to show you their soil.
“They want to talk about earthworms and the life in the soil, but I don’t see it with conventional farmers,” Reganold says. Conventional farmers want to talk about yields, he says, “bushels per acre, tons per hectare.”
The key to withstanding the effects of climate change, while feeding a growing global population, lies in building healthy soil, Reganold says.
Organic farmers can’t rely on synthetic fertilizer to enrich their soils so they use other methods, like mixing in compost, manure and plant debris to fertilize soil. That added organic material locks in moisture and nutrients more effectively than soil that has been conventionally farmed and contains less organic material, Reganold says.
“It holds more water. It holds more nutrients. It allows water to get into the soil and go through the surface layer and let the soil hold it instead of running off and taking soil with it,” Reganold said.