Changes in crop rotations would impact food production in an organically farmed world

Pietro Barbieri, Sylvain Pellerin, Verena Seufert, Thomas Nesme

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The debate about organic farming productivity has often focused on its relative crop yields compared with conventional farming. However, conversion to organic farming not only results in changes in crop yields, but also in changes in the types of crops grown. To date, the effects of such changes on global crop production have never been systematically investigated. Here, we provide a novel, spatially explicit estimation of the distribution of crop types grown, as well as crop production, under a scenario of 100% conversion of current cropland to organic farming. Our analysis shows a decrease of −31% harvested area, with primary cereals (wheat, rice and maize) compensated by an increase in the harvested areas with temporary fodders (+63%), secondary cereals (+27%) and pulses (+26%) compared with the conventional situation. These changes, paired with organic-to-conventional yield gaps, lead to a −27% gap in energy production from croplands compared with current production. We found that ~1/3 of this gap is explained by changes in the types of crops grown (a contribution rising to 50% when focusing on food crops only), and that such changes strongly affect the repartition of total production among different crop types. Feeding the world organically would thus require profound adaptations of human diets and animal husbandry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-385
Number of pages8
JournalNature Sustainability
Volume2
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

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Organic Agriculture
crop rotation
food production
organic farming
Crops
organic production
food
Food
crop
crops
Animal Husbandry
crop production
crop yield
cereal
Agriculture
animal husbandry
energy production
Triticum
Zea mays
food crops

Cite this

Barbieri, Pietro ; Pellerin, Sylvain ; Seufert, Verena ; Nesme, Thomas. / Changes in crop rotations would impact food production in an organically farmed world. In: Nature Sustainability. 2019 ; Vol. 2, No. 5. pp. 378-385.
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Changes in crop rotations would impact food production in an organically farmed world. / Barbieri, Pietro; Pellerin, Sylvain; Seufert, Verena; Nesme, Thomas.

In: Nature Sustainability, Vol. 2, No. 5, 01.05.2019, p. 378-385.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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