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Organic Farming

The Popularity Of Organic Culture

The environmental damage and resource use associated with organic agriculture are much less than those of conventional agricultural systems. However, yields tend to be smaller, and the organically grown produce is often relatively expensive to the consumer. Overall, the balance of these two considerations suggests that society receives a positive net benefit from the use of organic agricultural systems.

However, organic agricultural systems will not become more widely adopted unless a number of socioeconomic conditions change. First, larger numbers of consumers will have to be willing to pay the somewhat higher costs of organically grown food, and they will have to modify some of their perceptions about the aesthetic qualities of certain foods (e.g., apple blemishes). Second, vested agricultural interests in big-business, government, and universities will have to become more sympathetic to the goals and softer environmental effects of organic agriculture. These institutions will have to support more research into organic agriculture, and promote the use of those systems. Lastly, it will be necessary that the practitioners of intensive agricultural systems be made to deal more directly and sensibly with the environmental damage associated with their activities, especially the use of manufactured pesticides and fertilizers.



Carroll, R.C., J.H. Vandermeer, and P.M. Rossett. Agroecology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.

Conford, P. (ed.). A Future for the Land: Organic Practices From a Global Perspective. London: Green Books, 1992.

Lampkin, Nicholas. Organic Farming. New York: Diamond Farm Book Publishers, 2000.

Soule, J.D., and J.K. Piper. Farming in Nature's Image: An Ecological Approach to Agriculture. Island Press, 1992.


Mder, P. "Soil Fertility andBiodiversity in Organic Farming." Science 296, no. 5573 (2001) 167-178.

Bill Freedman


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—Organic material made up of well-decomposed, high molecular-weight compounds. Humus contributes to soil tilth, and is a kind of organic fertilizer.


—Any chemical required for life. The most important nutrients that plants obtain from soil are compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.

Organic matter

—Any biomass of plants or animals, living or dead. The most important form of organic matter in soil is dead, occurring as humic substances.


—The physical structure of soil, closely associated with the concentration of humified organic matter. Tilth is important in water and nutrient-holding capacity of soil, and is generally beneficial to plant growth.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Octadecanoate to OvenbirdsOrganic Farming - Organic Methods Of Maintaining Soil Tilth And Fertility, Organic Methods Of Managing Pests, Use Of Antibiotics And Growth Regulating Hormones