Friday, February 12, 2010

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conventional and organic farming

A study conducted by the University of Pisa and Florence, shows that the energy balance between traditional agriculture and organic farming benefits the latter, which in particular makes much less use of fossil fuels. In contrast, however, its productivity is lower.

- Virginia Greek -

For the past nine years is ongoing at the Research Center "Enrico Avanzi", University of Pisa (in collaboration with the University of Florence), an experiment that compares the growing system traditional (ie, intensive), and biological, to evaluate the energy they bring.

have been spent on the project 24 hectares of land, 12 for each of the two types of agriculture. The crops are wheat and durum wheat, maize, faba bean and sunflower.

What the researchers have gone on to draw a proper energy balance for the different crops, ie have considered any kind of energy boost needed to get food from seed to field first. Are included in the computation, for example, the fuel used by machinery that plow the fields as well as the energy used to produce herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides.

The analysis led to the conclusion that the traditional cultivation involves a much higher energy than that required for organic farming.

"Considering only the energy from fossil fuels," said Marco Mazzoncini, Avanzini neodirettore Center in Pisa, for the traditional crops are about 21,000 MJ (megajoules) per hectare per year, while in the case of biological signals are needed only 12,000, a savings of approximately 50% of energy input into the system. "considerably higher consumption of traditional crops is derived from its massive use of chemicals. In terms of products to fertilize the soil and protect the crop from pests, conventional agriculture using the corresponding 14,103 MJ per year per hectare, while in biological recording a consumption of only 5,279 MJ: the latter, therefore, save 60%.

The difference is also reflected in the energy used for the use of machinery, but in this case (as a guess) it is very less significant: organic farming requires 6.625MJ 7.004MJ year per hectare against the conventional one.

Ultimately, the practice of organic farming saves a lot in energy used to "transform" the seed into food. This assessment, however, concerns only the inputs, ie the energy input into the system. To make a budget (which is what the researchers wanted to play Pisa) should also consider the flow of output, ie how much energy the system is able to provide the outside.

That seems just expressed an abstract concept, but in practical terms the flow of output indicates the potential nutrition of the final product. Wheat and maize are cultivated by those who used it ciberanno to produce energy, necessary to their survival and movement.

This energy can be estimated, and measurable (in MJ), just as you did for that input to the system (the rest on food labels is shown in the latter kilocalories of energy in joules and, in fact).

In terms of organic farming outputs unfortunately loses points and is bypassed by the conventional one, which is able to provide 153,730 MJ per year per hectare of cultivated land, compared to 126,512 MJ of organic. It is about a 20% difference in favor the classical system.

Looking at the percentage, the balance remains positive for organic farming, but not quite profitable as we would wish. If, therefore, turned to the biological system all world cultures, there would be a great saving of energy from fossil fuels, but is also found to lower production.

remains, however, that organic is a very efficient use of energy, ie with very limited waste. This fact produces a bit 'more than 1kg of food with 1MJ energy, while conventional agriculture have an average of only 0.3kg: the productivity index is therefore almost four times higher.

What then is the conclusion? In reality there is not a definitive: "You have two extremes," said Mazzoncini, "intensive agriculture on the one hand, other than biological. Think that the adoption of either would solve the problem of hunger in the world is an illusion. " According to the latest figures from FAO's hungry in the world were up 9% in 2009, reaching a peak of 1.02 billion, the highest recorded since 1970.

"The issue is complex," says the Center neodirettore Avanzini, "perhaps what we need is a paradigm change that, starting from agriculture, which involves the distribution system and the entire production chain. "


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