The research team compared yields of organic and conventional agriculture (including low-intensive food production) in 293 examples, and estimated the average yield ratio (organic versus non-organic) of different food categories for the developed and the developing world. With the average yield ratios, they modelled the global food supply that could be grown organically in the current agricultural land base. The results indicate that organic methods could produce enough food to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base.
They also estimated the amount of nitrogen potentially available from nitrogen fixation by legumes as cover crops. Data from temperate and tropical agroecosystmes suggest that they could fix enough nitrogen to replace all of the synthetic fertilizer currently in use.
The report concluded: “These results indicate that organic agriculture has the potential to contribute quite substantially to the global food supply, while reducing the detrimental environmental impacts of conventional agriculture.”
According to Model 2, the estimated organic food supply
exceeds the current food supply in all food categories, with
most estimates over 50% greater than the amount of food
currently produced. (p. 91)
Model 1 yielded 2641 kcal
person-1 day-1, which is above the recommended value,
even if slightly less than the current availability of calories.
Model 2 yielded 4381 kcal person-1 day-1, which is 57%
greater than current availability. This estimate suggests
that organic production has the potential to support a substantially
larger human population than currently exists.
Significantly, both models have high yields of grains, which
constitute the major caloric component of the human diet.
Under Model 1, the grain yield is 93% that of current
production. Under Model 2, the grain yield is 145% that of
current production. (p. 92)
There is no question, absolutely no question, that these systems are far more productive. Just to give you an example. On our farm, in our county, one of the measures for pasture production is in cow days per acre. In other words a ‘cow day’ is what one cow will eat in a single day – that’s one cow day. And so in our county, the average cow days per acre is currently 80 cow days per acre. That’s what an acre of pasture does. On our farm, and I already told you at the top of the program what our farm looked like 50 years ago without a single chemical fertilizer and without planting a seed, we own no plow and no disc, and in 50 years, we have moved this farm to average 400 cow days per acre – that’s five times the county average. And so, the fact is, if Monsanto figured out a way to get 1% increase in yields in something it would make the front page of the New York Times. I’m telling you ways to double and triple production without chemical fertilizer, without even planting anything and it doesn’t make the obitituary page.
What stimulates the nutrient cycling is the onsite biomass regeneration cycle. Not the least of which of course is the earthworm community. You know it’s amazing that earthworms can eat a pound of stuff in their front end and send it through their alimentary canal, bring it out their back end, the same pound of stuff, and its like three times the calcium, seven times the nitrogen, eleven times the potassium, fourteen times the phosphorous, plus an elevating of all the whole trace elements, boron, cobalt, copper, molybdenum – all those things are increased. And what’s amazing is that nobody knows how that’s done. It’s actually not concentrated, it’s actually acted on by some sort of activity in the earthworm. Some bacteria for example, are free living, they are not rhizomes like legume roots like alfalfa and clover, they are free-living bacteria that will bring up to 100 lbs. of nitrogen per acre per year out of the atmosphere and put it in the soil but they only really become active at 4% organic matter and most of our soils are not anywhere close to 4% organic matter anymore. They used to be, back when the buffalo were here and perennial grasses, but they are not now. I think it’s fascinating that we actually produced more nutrient density in what is now the U.S. 600 years ago, than we actually do today, even with all of our petroleum and everything, So the whole secret of the nutrient cycling is to tap into the green material to capture more solar energy, put it into green material that can de-compose and go into the soil, and the best way to do that is with an herbivore – lamb, goat, cow – some sort of herbivore, that is what I call the bio- mass accumulation re-start button to prune that forage off and re-start the fast biomass accumulation cycle. If you don’t have that, what you just have is the bio-mass just goes into senescence and in senescence simply vaporizes the CO2 off into the atmosphere and it doesn’t do anything any good. So it’s the animal that recycles, that starts that whole fast metabolism cycle to metabolize the solar energy into biomass through photosynthetic activity…
So yes, these systems work. And the way they work is to go back to historically – well the way nature built soils in the first place; which was with primarily herbivores. So if you really want to eat on a low energy system, quit eating chicken and quit eating so much pork and eat grass-finished beef because grass-finished herbivore is the most nutrient dense substance that doesn’t require any tillage. It fertilizes itself, and doesn’t require any tillage. As soon as you take that herbivore and put it in a feedlot, on an irrigated grain-based system, then it all breaks down from an energy standpoint and, of course, that’s where a lot of the studies that impugn livestock come from. But throughout the world, the great prairies and the great soil building regions of the world, from the Serengetti in Africa to the plains of America with buffalo to the Australian continent 200 years ago that had 10 marsupial species to do the disturbance, all of those were built with herbivores, disturbances, and rest and perennials. Those are the four cornerstones of a system that works. The reason all civilizations throughout history have been built around the herbivore, lamb, goat or cow is because the herbivore is the only domestic animal that can harvest non-tilled, non-planted material. Omnivores like chickens and pigs require some sort of a grain component which then requires tillage. And until cheap energy and cheap machinery, tillage was extremely expensive…The main thing was lamb, goat and cow which was the herbivore. That was the main thing – or deer or bison or whatever – but the point is, that those herbivorous creatures can do or are made to do very well without any tillage whatsoever. And tillage has only actually been doable on a large, grand scale just in the last century.
These insect-proof and herbicide-resistant crops make farming so much easier that many growers rely heavily on the technology, violating a basic tenet of pest management, which warns that using one method year after year gives more opportunity for pests to adapt.
Monsanto is already at the center of this issue because of its success since the 1990s marketing seeds that grow into crops that can survive exposure to its Roundup herbicide, a glyphosate-based chemical known for its ability to kill almost anything green.
These seeds made it so convenient for farmers to spray Roundup that many farmers stopped using other weedkillers. As a result, say many scientists, superweeds immune to Roundup have spread to millions of acres in more than 20 states in the South and Midwest.