Nature Publishing Group, publisher of Nature, and other science journals and reference works
my account e-alerts subscribe register
Saturday 21 October 2017
Journal Home
Current Issue
Download PDF
Export citation
Export references
Send to a friend
More articles like this

Letters to Nature
Nature 330, 370 - 372 (26 November 1987); doi:10.1038/330370a0

Long-term effects of organic and conventional farming on soil erosion

John P. Reganold*, Lloyd F. Elliott & Yvonne L. Unger

*Department of Agronomy and Soils, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA
Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA
Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469, USA

Conventional, intensive tillage farming systems have greatly increased crop production and labour efficiency. But, serious questions are being raised about the energy-intensive nature of these systems and their adverse effects on soil productivity and environmental quality1,2. This concern has led to an increasing interest in organic farming systems because they may reduce some of the negative effects of conventional agriculture on the environment3,4. We compare the long-term effects (since 1948) of organic and conventional farming on selected properties of the same soil. The organically-farmed soil had significantly higher organic matter content, thicker topsoil depth, higher polysaccharide content, lower modulus of rupture and less soil erosion than the conventionally-farmed soil. This study indicates that, in the long term, the organic farming system was more effective than the conventional farming system in reducing soil erosion and, therefore, in maintaining soil productivity.



1. 1. Bidwell, O. W. J. Soil Wat. Conserv. 41, 317-320 (1986). 2. Papendick, R. I., Elliott, L. F. & Dahlgren, R. B. Am. J. Altern. Agric. 1, 3-10 (1986). 3. Vereijken, P. Neth. J. Agric. Sci. 34, 387-393 (1986). 4. Clancy, K. L. Am. J. Altern. Agric. 1, 11-18 (1986). 5. US Department of Agriculture Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming (US Government Printing Office, Washington, 1980). 6. Jenny, H. Factors of Soil Formation (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1941). 7. Soil Conservation Service and Washington Agricultural Experiment Station. Soil Survey of Spokane County, Washington (US Dept Agriculture, US Government Printing Office, Washington, 1968). 8. Bolton, H. Jr, Elliott, L. F., Papendick, R. I. & Bezdicek, D. F. Soil Biol. Biochem. 17, 297-302 (1985). 9. Lockertz, W., Shearer, G. & Kohl, D. H. Science 211, 540-547 (1981). 10. Oelhaf, R. C. Organic Agriculture (Allanheid, Osmun, Montclair, 1978). 11. Allison, F. E. Soil Organic Matter and Its Role in Crop Production (Elsevier, New York, 1973). 12. Johnston, A. E. Soil Use Mngt 2, 97-105 (1986). 13. Lynch, J. M. J. gen. Microbiol. 126, 371-375 (1981). 14. Molope, M. B., Grieve, I. C. & Page, E. R. /. Soil Sci. 38, 71-77 (1987). 15. Weilgart Patton, A. G. thesis, Washington State Univ. (1982). 16. Soil Conservation Service, Forest Service, and Economics, Statistics and Cooperatives Service Palouse Co-operative River Basin Study (US Dept of Agriculture, Washington, 1979). 17. Soil Conservation Service in cooperation with Washington State University Agricutural Research Center Soil Survey of Whitman County, Washington (US Dept of Agriculture, US Government Printing Office, Washington, 1980). 18. Schertz, D. L. /. Soil Wat. Conserv. 38 10-14 (1983). 19. Uhland, R. E. Crop Yields Lowered by Erosion (USDA-SCS-Tech. Paper-75, USDA Soil Conservation Service, Washington, 1949). 20. McDaniel T. A. & Hajek, B. F. in Erosion and Soil Productivity (ed. McCool, D. K.) 48-58 (American Society of Agricultural Engineers, St. Joseph, 1985). 21. Busacca, A. J., McCool, D. K., Papendick, R. I. & Young, D. L. in Erosion and Soil Productivity (ed. McCool, D. K.) 152-168 (American Society of Agricultural Engineers, St. Joseph, 1985). 22. Young, D. L., Taylor, D. B. & Papendick, R. I. in Erosion and Soil Productivity (ed. McCool, D. K.) 130-142 (American Society of Agricultural Engineers, St. Joseph, 1985). 23. Miller, M. F. & Krusekopf, H. H. The Influence of Systems of Cropping and Methods of Culture on Surface Runoff and Soil Erosion (Bull. 177, Missouri Agriculture Experimental Station, Columbia, 1932). 24. Jamison, V. C., Smith, D. D. & Thornton, J. F. Soil and Water Research on a Claypan Soil (Techn. Bull. 1,379, Agricultural Research Serivce, US Dept Agriculture, US Government Printing Office, Washington, 1968). 25. Russell, E. W. Soil Conditions and Plant Growth (Longman, London, 1973). 26. Reeve, R. C. in Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 1 (ed. Black, C. A.) 466-476 (Am. Soc. Agron., Madison, 1965). 27. Brink, R. H. Jr, Dunbach, P. & Lynch, D. L. So// Sci 89, 157-166 (1960). 28. Metting B. & Rayburn, W. R. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 47, 682-685 (1983).

© 1987 Nature Publishing Group
Privacy Policy