Authored by: John P. Reganold , Jonathan M. Wachter

Terrestrial Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Print publication date:  June  2020
Online publication date:  May  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138333918
eBook ISBN: 9780429445651
Adobe ISBN:


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Organic agriculture is a quickly expanding global market force that seeks socio-economic and environmental sustainability on local and global scales. It relies on the integration of a diversity of farm components, cycling of nutrients and other resources, and stewardship of soil and environment. This entry discusses organic agricultural practices, the history and extent of organic agriculture, organic certification, and the sustainability of organic agriculture. Although organic farming systems produce lower yields than conventional agriculture and thus have higher land use for similar yields, they are more profitable and environmentally friendly. Organic systems also deliver equal or more nutritious foods with less to no pesticide residues. Additionally, initial evidence indicates that organic agriculture is better at delivering ecosystem services and some social sustainability benefits. The performance of organic agriculture in the context of sustainability metrics indicates that, although now occupying 1.4% of global agricultural land, it can play a much larger role in feeding the world in an unpredictable future. No one farming system alone will safely feed the planet. Rather, a blend of organic and other innovative farming systems, such as agroforestry, integrated farming, conservation agriculture, and still undiscovered systems, will be needed for future global food and ecosystem security.

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