Researchers from the University of Oxford have revealed new information about the advantages that come from organic farming.
Sean Tuck, lead author of the study and Professor of the Department of Plant Sciences said: “Our study has shown that organic farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity. Organic methods could go some way towards halting the continued loss of diversity in industrialised nations.”
The study looked at 94 studies covering 184 farms. The data dates back 25 years to 1989, and had some interesting results. On average, organic farms were found to support 34 per cent more plant, insect and animal species than their conventional counterparts. Furthermore, organic farms had approximately twice the number of pollinators such as bees.
The study showed organic farms, whether established to produce organic meat or produce, had greater species richness when the land around them was farmed intensively, or conventionally. In order to find species richness, the researchers re-analysed the data. They used satellite imagery to see how much the surrounding land was being used and how this affected the abundance of species on the organic farm.
When the land around the organic farm was more intensively farmed, particularly when it contained large amounts of arable land, the species richness was much more pronounced. According to Lindsay Turnbull, senior author of the study and of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, this is understandable as the biodiversity benefits of organic farming make these areas a safe haven from pesticides and other chemicals.
The correlation between species richness and organic farming needs to be studied at greater depth in order to fully understand variations in data and what is taking place Mrs Turnbull said. Research on organic farming in tropical and subtropical climates as well as in developing nations are two area in particular that can be studied further.