By Michelle Venetucci Harvey
Sightline Daily Score
New WSU study weighs in on an age-old debate
Does growing organic really matter? Supporters of conventional agriculture say that organic farming is little more than a fad—and that organic produce lightens consumers’ wallets for no tangible benefits. And unfortunately, since agro-ecosystems are so complex, scientists have had a hard time cutting through the haze of claims and counter-claims. Until now.
“Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems,” a study led by Washington State University Regents professor of soil science John Reganold, is one of the most comprehensive, persuasive studies yet to show the nutritional and environmental benefits of organic farming. Its findings only apply to strawberries—but they do point the way to the kind of research that can, and should, be done with other crops as well.
The study design was both careful and comprehensive in scope. The strawberries were grown on 13 conventional and 13 organic fields, with organic/conventional field pairs located adjacently in order to control for soil type and weather patterns. The data was drawn from repeated harvests over a two year period, and the strawberries were picked, transported, and stored under identical conditions to replicate retail practices. And just as farming is a complex business, scientists contributing to the study range from soil and food scientists to genetics experts and statistics specialists, who analyzed 31 soil properties, soil DNA, and the relative taste and nutritional quality of three strawberry varieties in California.
The results are pretty convincing: organic strawberries are healthier, tastier, and better for the soil than conventional strawberries.
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