Farmer viewpoint: Organic sector offers unique sustainability model for all agriculture

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Like most farmers, I’m a fan of tools. Having bought a fixer-upper of a farm, there’s a list of construction projects that seems to grow at the bottom more quickly than things are crossed off at the top. In my opinion, no tool has revolutionized farm construction more than the cordless drill.

As a farm kid, I recall that most things were held together by nails (and sometimes baler twine). Screws were relatively rare – they were more expensive, slower to install, and if a pilot hole was required, you’d need to be within reach of electrical outlet or prepared to carry along a brace and bit. Nowadays, screws are almost everywhere. Cordless drills have made them easier and faster to drive than a nail, with far less skill required; they’re still a little more expensive than nails, but by golly, if it’s held together by screws, it’s not going to come apart!

There are drawbacks, of course, in addition to the extra expense. Cordless drills lack the finesse of a screwdriver, so stripped heads or snapped screws are more common. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as a long walk back to the house to switch up a dead battery with only a couple screws left to drive. And if something does need to come apart–with nails, even if a hammer wasn’t handy, it was nothing that a bit of leverage or a well-aimed kick couldn’t solve – with screws, in the absence of a screwdriver, you’re, um, pretty much screwed.

Still, the cordless drill holds a place of honor here: it’s the go-to tool. The hammer and nails come out for the big building projects, and screwdrivers only get used in places where the cordless drill is too large or clumsy to do the job.

All this came to mind after reading Marc Brazeau’s recent musings on the Genetic Literacy Project on “full tool-box” agriculture. He posits that “full tool-box” conventional agriculture can be more sustainable than organic farming with its “restricted tool box” because it can employ all of the sustainability-enhancing techniques of cover cropping, diverse rotations, polycultures and integrated pest management plus continue to use the GMO seeds, synthetic chemical pesticides, and fertilizers prohibited by organic standards.

Bringing these “Conservation Agriculture” techniques to mainstream agriculture is a laudable goal, and one I fully support. I’m inspired and excited by the conventional farmers I see adopting these techniques and wish they received wider recognition.

The challenge is that although “full tool-box” farmers could do this in principle, they rarely do so in practice. The biggest challenge, paradoxically, is that full toolbox. I enjoy the feel of a hammer in my hands, I love exercising my nail-pounding skills, but when something needs fastened quickly and fastened well, I’ll usually reach for the cordless drill. Farmers have the choice to employ cover crops to build fertility, but fertilizers have the guaranteed promise of immediately available nutrients right on the label; they can use IPM to manage pests, but the sprays will knock ‘em dead for sure; they can plant all the crops they want, but corn and soy are going to generate the most profit per acre. The alternatives are more risky, take longer to show returns, are more expensive or are less convenient. Those with a broader perspective, a long-term vision, and a willingness to defy convention will blaze the trail, but most others will hang back and ask, “what’s in it for me?”.

That is precisely where, despite all the scorn directed at them by critics, the organic standards have a positive impact. They are, of course, based on a larger set of principles (a topic for another post), but one of their greatest impacts is to reach out and in effect say, “if you’ve got a cordless drill in your toolbox, that’s all you’re going to use, and soon enough everything in sight will be screwed and when the batteries run out you’ll have forgotten that nails exist, much less be able to swing a hammer.”

In addition, this “restricted toolbox” can drive innovation: organic farmers have maintained and improved cover cropping and other practices precisely because the other tools weren’t available. The full-toolbox paradox is also well-illustrated by antibiotic use in organic dairy cattle: the topic continues to generate hot debate in organic farming circles, but no one can deny that the prohibition spurred the development of new alternatives. (I explore this issue in more depth in this post).

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many tools are in the toolbox if most people just pull out the most convenient ones most of the time. While it’s important to realize that other factors, even the “cordless drills,” can drive positive innovation (the role of herbicides in no-till production is a good example of this), the problem, as we’re now beginning to realize, is that over-reliance on these convenient, highly-effective tools can have negative impacts.

While Brazeau criticizes a study for failing to account for the positive impacts of high-input/high-yield agriculture, he likewise fails to address the inherent compromises and threats. What’s the tradeoff between fewer acres farmed and hundreds of thousands of people possibly losing access to safe drinking water? Agricultural scientists have recognized this fact, and they are struggling with ways to convince farmers, particularly conventional ones, to use “little hammers” instead of the “one big sledgehammer.”

One of the best ways to encourage change is to incentivize it–to offer more money for using the hammer instead of the cordless drill. Ideally, it should be a market-driven premium: those who benefit from being able to take things apart without a screwdriver, or those who enjoy the aesthetics of nails can pay the associated costs. Again, this is another advantage offered by the organic system: the standards encourage adoption of certain practices and reward those who follow them.

No system is perfect of course, and the intent of this post is not to advocate that everyone should go organic. Nor is it to claim that organic production is the one and only path to sustainability. But rather than dismissing organic standards as arbitrary restrictions and the organic market as a distraction that overshadows conservation agriculture, we should recognize the role that they play in guiding farmers’ behaviors and decisions. For all of its imperfections and contradictions, the organic sector is still the predominant model of moving a set of sustainability-focused intentions from principle to practice. Understanding the context and the motivation of organic farmers and consumers can help develop the required strategies to expand Conservation Agriculture to, as Brazeau puts it, “where the farmers is.”

Rob Wallbridge is an organic farmer and consultant based in Western Quebec. He advocates for high-quality organic food and informed communities in agriculture. Follow him on Twitter as @songberryfarm and on his blog, The Fanning Mill.

  • marcbrazeau

    Well done!

    • marcbrazeau

      The idea of market based certification is one I go round and round on when it comes to Conservation Agriculture. It’s a discussion we’ve been building up to in Food and Farm Discussion Lab.

      While I would like to see conventional farmers who farm sustainably gain greater recognition, I worry that a certification system encourages farming to the rule rather than the result and that methods that lower costs and improve yields should result in greater profits without the need for a consumer price premium that raises the cost of food unnecessarily.

      I don’t currently have a good answer there. I know that I would like to see more targeted research at finding out which methods/techniques/combinations increase profitability while lowering impacts and I’d like to see funding for extension services to get the word out. Research has shown that social capital matters for the uptake of new techniques. Extension agents can play a big role in that.

      • Here’s a good rule of thumb: If a farm is profitable over the long term, then the farmer could not possibly be ruining his soil. Hence, the overwhelming majority of farmers across the United States and Canada are already well and truly sustainable.

        • marcbrazeau

          Tell that to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

          • You know very well – or at least I hope you do Marc – that more technology is the solution; GMO crops that fix their own nitrogen for instance.

            And besides, for all the examples you provide, surely you’re aware that organic farming causes far more erosion while also contributing to nitrogen run-off.

          • marcbrazeau

            I was responding to your assertion that most farms are already sustainable. The relative merits of organic farming are an irrelevant non-sequitur.

          • Right. So what you’re saying is we should just ignore all the claims Rob Wallbridge makes in this article, and carry on a little side-debate of our own?

            When I said conventional farms are sustainable, I was referring to the fact that they use far less fossil fuel and cause far less erosion than organic farms. As you can see, I was responding to Rob’s article, and your uncritical support for it.

            And I thought you were a scientist.

          • marcbrazeau

            A. That is not how you framed it. You said:
            “Here’s a good rule of thumb: If a farm is profitable over the long term,
            then the farmer could not possibly be ruining his soil. Hence, the
            overwhelming majority of farmers across the United States and Canada are
            already well and truly sustainable.”

            Which is a BS claim. And it is obviously a categorical statement, not a statement about sustainability relative to organic.

            B. Being more sustainable than organic is not the same thing as being sustainable.

            C. I’ve offered critiques of Rob’s article and Rob’s article was a response to my critique of organic farming. I was critical of his claims about eutrophocation being a problem of conventional farming rather than one of scale. And I was critical of the idea of using marketing certification as a way of incentivizing Conservation Agriculture.

            When have I ever claimed to be a scientist and what does that have to do with you fatuous circular claim that long term profitability and sustainability are synonymous?

            WHY WHY WHY DO YOU ALWAYS INSIST ON MISREPRESENTING EVERYONE YOU HAVE THE SLIGHTEST HINT OF DISAGREEMENT WITH?

            You just twist and twist and twist and twist everything everyone else says and it’s really really tiresome. You truly are a one man pox.

          • You have a completely unrealistic view of what constitutes sustainability Marc, one which impunes the integrity of every farmer in the world, organic or otherwise.

            Life is about making choices. Not holding your breath waiting for perfection.

            As Lord Walter Northbourne, one of the fathers of the organic movement, put it in 1931, “If we waited for scientific proof of every impression before deciding to take any consequential action we might avoid a few mistakes, but we should also hardly ever decide to act at all.”

          • marcbrazeau

            Once again, you are responding to a straw man that you have constructed in your head.

          • Not a fan of Lord Walter Northbourne I take it?

          • Ray Linn

            Mischa states as “fact” that conventional farms use far less fossil fuel than organic farms yet fails to substantiate his statement (see his verbal dance with detroit58 elsewhere in this discussion).

          • JoeFarmer

            Marc,

            There is some pretty reasonable evidence that suggests that there has always been a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

            I don’t think that justifies excessive ag waste ending up there in any way. But to support a population, things like that are inevitable.

            The question is how do we manage it? Legislation? Voluntary measures? Population control?

          • marcbrazeau

            What about Lake Erie or Chesapeake Bay.

            Nevertheless. There is a lot happening already. The USDA has reached 70% of their goal of 2 million miles of buffer strips.
            http://www.iptv.org/mtom/story.cfm/news/7421/mtom_20030314_2827_news

            More cover cropping, precision ag. Farmers test soil from multiple points in the field and then don’t vary their application rates accordingly – technology will catch up with that pretty soon.

            I think subsidized crop insurance could be contingent on demonstrating best practices and conservation ag. A fertilizer tax has worked in other countries to get farmers to be more strategic in their usage.

            There’s not one answer, there’s a dozen. Culture, tech and regs.

          • marcbrazeau

            We had a pretty good discussion on this the other day in Food and Farm Discussion Lab. Someone made a good case for a nitrogen and phosphorus removal plant in Memphis, rather than trying to herd cats.

            https://www.facebook.com/groups/FAFDL/permalink/1606197016276607/

        • marcbrazeau

          So folksy.

          • Again, are you actually saying that organic land-management is the solution Marc?

        • marcbrazeau

          Topsoil erosion in Iowa. Plenty of acres are losing amounts well beyond replacement rates.

          • I see. So you’re saying that a return to organic practices like tillage for weed control would alleviate this?

      • First Officer

        The biggest obstacle to the Organic way is its blanket rules of no synthetic fertilizers, no GMO’s and no synthetic materials if it’s at all possible to, “get by”, without them. There may be many good innovations that come out of the organic methods but none can violate conservation of matter nor the drive for pests to take as much as possible nor the shortcomings of present strains.

        • JoeFarmer

          Yep.

          They’ve hamstrung themselves by rejecting modern ag tech.

          So they have no choice but to demonize modern ag tech. They have no option. They can’t compete without a guilt or scary-dangerous marketing program.

          • hyperzombie

            They can’t compete without a guilt or scary-dangerous marketing program.

            I think it is starting to run its course and it will stop working in a few years. Already in Europe sales are declining and never got above 10%.

          • JoeFarmer

            “But Europe has banned GMOs!”

            Not really, we export 50 million of tons of GM soy there every year. Not to mention GM corn. Which has helped us (trade $$$) and them, because they don’t have the mad cow problem any more.

            But try to explain that to an agricultural creationist! They are three generations removed from what it used to take to grow their own food, but they just know that those organic pickles and kale from the farmers market are all that. Not to mention the quinoa.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            There is a point of diminishing returns that, I agree will be reached soon. No real evidence. Just think the higher prices and limitations of organic inputs will lead to it

      • Rob Wallbridge

        Thanks for the comments, Marc. Certification systems certainly do have their compromises, I won’t deny that. In the organic world we criticize it as the “input substitution model” – simply replacing conventional inputs with organic-approved inputs without addressing the larger system.

        I’m 100% behind your call for increased research and extension. As was mentioned in the FAFDL thread, I think the NRCS is doing a fantastic job – guys like Ray Archuleta are rapidly gaining near-celebrity status now – that’s social capital at work!

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    So, the tool box analogy has at least 2 sides. Now get into some details that will assist me.

  • marcbrazeau

    I’m not sure that the eutrophication example necessarily holds water. The problem there is as much about scale and regulations as it is about a set of methods. Someone once said something along the lines of “Whatever we are doing the most of, that will always be the biggest problem in the world.”

    In head to head match ups, this is an area where organic comes out ahead in impact by the acre but loses group in impacts by the unit produced. Which is not to point the finger, but to point out that if organic was being practiced on a mass scale, people would be pointing the finger at the problems it would be causing.

    >>Median response ratios showed that nitrogen leaching per unit of area was 31% lower from organic farming compared to conventional farming and 49% higher per unit of product . The median response ratio of N leaching per unit of area based on original field investigations alone (#0.1053) was not significantly different from zero, whereas the median response ratio of model based studies (#0.4032) was significantly different from zero. There was a large but insignificant correlation between nitrogen input ratio and nitrogen leaching in the ‘field experiments’ group (Spearman’s Rho 1⁄4 #0.80, N 1⁄4 5, P 1⁄4 0.10), whereas there was no correlation in the ‘models’ group (Spearman’s Rho 1⁄4 #0.07, N 1⁄4 31, P 1⁄4 0.71). There was no correlation between the proportion of grass in the rotation and nitrogen leaching response ratio (Spearman’s Rho 1⁄4 #0.13, N 1⁄4 18, P 1⁄4 0.60). These results suggest that modelling studies may overestimate the benefits of organic farming in the reduction of nitrogen leaching.

    The main explanation for lower nitrogen leaching levels from organic farming per unit of area was the lower levels of nitrogen inputs applied. Higher nitrogen leaching levels were explained by poor synchrony between the nutrient availability and crops’ nutrient intake. Especially, after incorporation of leys, the nitrogen losses tend to be high (Syväsalo et al., 2006). The use of cover crops in conventional systems was found to reduce nitrogen leaching resulting in a lower leaching level than organic farming.

    Median nitrous oxide emissions were 31% lower from organic systems when the impact was allocated per unit of field area, but 8% higher when the impact was allocated per unit of product. Median ammonia emissions followed a similar trend with organic systems having 18% lower emissions per unit of area and 11% higher per unit of product. The lower nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions from organic farming per unit of area were mainly due to lower overall nitrogen inputs in organic than in conventional systems.

    The median response ratio for phosphorus losses showed 1% lower emissions from organic systems (Fig. 1A). Only one study found lower phosphorus losses from a conventional system. That was due to incorporation of green manure resulting in increased mineralisation of crop residues in the organic system. The organic systems included in the study had 55% lower total phosphorus inputs compared to conventional systems.<<

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479712004264
    [PDF] http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/18208928/1586534823/name/Does%2Borganic%2Bfarming%2Breduce%2Benvironmental%2Bimpacts%253F%2Be%2BA%2Bmeta-analysis%2Bof%2BEuropean%2Bresearch.pdf

    • Organic farming – which I have been a part of for over thirty years and am a big supporter of – is harder on the environment. It requires more fossil fuel per-acre and per-bushel, and causes far more erosion than conventional min-till and no-till farming. There is simply no way around it. Organic researchers tried to come up with alternatives, but failed.

      • Rob Wallbridge

        Citations needed, Mischa. You may be correct if you only measure fossil fuels consumed on-farm, but any analysis I’ve seen that also accounts for the embodied energy of fertilizers and pesticides contradicts your assumption. Same for soil erosion – there are contradictory studies on whether or not organic ag increases soil organic matter content and carbon sequestration better than conventional, but I’ve yet to see one conclude the opposite.

        • Citations? how about if you start by providing some?

          Please show how exactly organic standards are having a positive impact when almost HALF of all organic food tests positive for prohibited pesticides.

        • Ray Linn

          Mischa likes to make claims of “fact” about energy comparisons of organic and conventional farming systems but does not care to substantiate. See his tail chase with detroit58 elsewhere in this discussion.

      • Ray Linn

        Can you back up your “more fossil fuel per-acre and per-bushel” statement? This study does not support your claim:
        http://www.organicvalley.coop/fileadmin/pdf/ENERGY_SSR.pdf

        • No I can’t Ray. You see, I work for Monsanto, and I just thought it sounded good to say that so I made it up. Is that wrong?

          No seriously, here’s an absolutely ridiculous quote from the article you cite: “Weed control in the organic systems was achieved by crop rotations, cover crops, and mechanical cultivation (Pimentel et al., 2005). Obviously, because no herbicides and insecticides were used in the organic farming systems, this improved energy efficiency in the organic systems, when compared to the conventional system.”

          WRONG!

          Mechanical weed control uses at least ten-times more fossil fuel per-acre than herbicide application. Any farmer can tell you that.

          • detroit58

            MP – while critiquing RL’s link you have not offered any backing of your own claim. I too would like to see your references on the subject.

          • Hey, I know…

            While I’m at it, I’ll also provide you with a reference proving diesel-powered tractors are more efficient than horses!

            Why exactly do you think the overwhelming majority of farmers AREN’T organic?

          • detroit58

            MP, why is it when you make some bold claim and are questioned about it, you do everything but substantiate it? Either move the discussion forward with some references to back up your ag energy claims or RETRACT IT. Surely someone so vested in his cause would have done the research.

          • My point is substantiated very nicely by the article Ray Linn cited to try to discredit my point.
            See for yourself:
            http://www.organicvalley.coop/fileadmin/pdf/ENERGY_SSR.pdf

            To suggest that because organic weed control is achieved by mechanical cultivation instead of herbicides, energy efficiency is thereby REDUCED is the height of absurdity.

          • detroit58

            Mischa, as I follow you in your quest, I have to point out these times when you revert to circular posting. Forget Mr. Linn for the moment since you say its absurd anyway. Either back up your points or RETRACT and say the research hasn’t been done. No shame in your game to do so.

          • So, you actually believe it’s more efficient to cultivate weeds than spray them?

            (On one hand, I can’t believe I’m actually having this conversation. On the other hand, it’s so much fun that I think I’ll continue.)

          • detroit58

            Another circular conversation with Mischa.
            Unable to stand by your words – “Organic farming…. requires more fossil fuel per-acre and per-bushel” – or offer any support to back your statement, you have to employ the conversational merry-go-round. Keep repeating the spray/cultivate mantra instead of answering the call-out.
            Here are some for you – try not to obfuscate:
            “Average energy costs lower in organic systems”
            Energy Efficiency of Conventional, Organic, and Alternative Cropping Systems for Food and Fuel at a Site in the U.S. Midwest – Gelfand, Sieglinde, Snapp and Robertson

            “Fossil energy inputs for organic crop production were about 30% lower than for conventionally produced corn.” Environmental, Energetic, and Economic Comparisons of Organic and Conventional
            Farming Systems – Pimentel, Hepperly, Hanson, Douds, and Seidel

            “Energy input use on organic production was 52.5% lower than that of conventional production”
            Comparison of organic and conventional farming system in term of energy efficiency – Klimeková and Lehocká

            I suppose you will pick apart the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial that found an average of 30 percent less fossil energy used in organic farming.

            So, don’t offer any support for your statements, just have your wash-rinse-repeat fun.

          • Wow. So you won’t admit it, but it appears that you actually believe cultivating weeds is more energy-efficient than spraying them.

            Tell us Detroit58… where do you farm?

          • detroit58

            You are a hall of mirrors Mischa. You state some wild claim as fact concerning energy use on organic vs conventional farming, then in your VERY typical discussion technique, keep repeating some tangential side note. BACK UP YOUR CLAIMS. I say, get you off your “dirty organics” mantra and you revert to flailing around.

          • Right…

            So, just to make sure we’re clear here Mr. detroit58, you won’t change your mind until I produce a reference proving to you that cultivating weeds is more energy-efficient than spraying them.

            Well, I hate to break this to you my friend, but there are no academic papers proving light bulbs are more efficient than candles, or that a diesel tractor is more efficient than a work-horse, or on driving a car beats walking.

            If only you had ever hooked up a cultivator to a tractor and cultivated a field.

          • detroit58

            Evasive verbal jousting is no substitute for real discussion. I gave you some Google Scholar research into farm system energy comparisons that happen to show you are way off base. But go ahead and repeat the opposite. Repeat some singular facet of farm energy use. Do everything but the possibility of amending a wrong position.
            By the way, your “academic paper” paragraph makes no sense. If you are weakly alluding to some idea that there is no valid scholarly research to compare farm energy use between various systems, you are wrong, again.

          • All right all right detroit58. I’ll stop having fun and try to help you out here.

            I’m familiar with all of those studies that claim organic farming uses less fossil fuel, and they all have one thing in common: they look only at smaller farms, like market gardens for instance.

            Meanwhile, I grew up on an organic grain farm. All the vegetables at a farmers market don’t add up to even a single truckload of wheat, barley or flax. If the researchers you’re relying upon were honest, and looked at the aggregate-total fuel-consumption rates of all types of organic farms, they’d find precisely what I’m telling you here: that organic farms use more fossil-fuel per-acre and per-bushel.

          • detroit58

            It is no fun having to goad you into any real discussion.

            Researchers “I’m” relying on? And again, what researchers are you relying on? (The basis of this beleaguered quest for you to substantiate a major claim of yours.)

            Yes, the research is incomplete BUT what has been done points to LOWER energy use in organic systems. Your “familiarity” with the references I noted is a bit suspect – they were not market vegetable gardens but substantially grain comparisons.

            If you have the ideal research formulation, why not add it to your “dirty organics” drumbeat?

            Unless you want to move this discussion forward we may as well terminate here. I hope you remember from previous discussions that I may not agree with your politics or vigorous singular focus, I am in the camp for better testing (across the board).

          • Perhaps I am not familiar with the study you’re referring to.

            I have never seen a study on energy consumption involving organic grain. Any organic grain farmer I have ever met – and I have met hundreds – attest that their fuel bills go up when they quit spraying, drastically so. This was also my first-hand experience when I was grain farming.

            Please send the link detroit58. I’ll give it a look.

          • hyperzombie

            Nothing says “I Love Fossil Fuels” like an Organic farmers flame weeder.

        • hyperzombie

          Nothing says I love fossil fuel like an Organic flame weeder in action…

          And remember even after flame weeding, they still have to make another pass to cultivate the grasses.

          • Ray Linn

            Maybe so if using bio-gas.

          • hyperzombie

            t is gas from fracking, dunbass

          • hyperzombie

            propane is biogas?

          • Ray Linn

            Ah, if one could use a flame weeder for many of your posts.
            Yes, the device shown uses propane which has 3-4 times the heat value of biogas. Of course you can’t conceive of any possibility making it work.

          • Ray Linn

            H, snark away instead of dealing with Mischa’s unbacked energy claim. Here is U of Nebraska’s take on the “wildly absurd” flame weeding: http://cropwatch.unl.edu/archive/-/asset_publisher/VHeSpfv0Agju/content/4963643

          • hyperzombie

            hey did you read your own link? flame weeding cost 2x more than herbicides… LOL

          • Ray Linn

            Yuck Yuck – the link says $8 – $15 per acre. If you say herbicide costs are $4 – $8 per acre, you are probably alone with that thought.

    • Rob Wallbridge

      This statement puzzles me: “The use of cover crops in conventional systems was found to reduce nitrogen leaching resulting in a lower leaching level than organic farming.” Why wouldn’t the use of cover crops in organic systems have the same effect?

      Anyway, the topic of nutrient efficiency, particularly as it relates to nitrogen, is something that really fascinates me. I’ve seen figures (from the conventional side) stating that up to half of the nitrogen applied to crop fields is never used by the plant – there’s so much potential there to gain efficiency in both systems. I think a big chunk of the answer lies in soil biology. I’ve covered it a bit in this post: https://www.realagriculture.com/2014/02/feed-soil/ and in this interview, a government soil management specialist reports that some conventional farmers are able to eliminate nitrogen fertilizer entirely through superior soil management techniques: https://www.realagriculture.com/2015/01/get-gauge-soil-health-time-dig-fence-row/

      It’s an exciting time to be a farmer!

      • JoeFarmer

        Oh for Christ’s sake, Rob!

        You act like you’re interested in research, but you can’t find a link from an actual ag university?

        “Yeah, I’m really interested about Nitrogen fertilizers, except I can’t be bothered to actually look at the research.”

        But organic is awesome, right?

        GMAFB!

      • marcbrazeau

        Rob,

        It seems the combination of being able to dial in the proper amounts of synthetic N with cover crops accounted for the result. Conventional w/out cover crops was comparable to the two organic trials.

        >> In this study, measurements of leaching and crop uptake of N, P, and K and determinations of mineral N in soil were conducted in tile-drained plots during a 6-yr period in two organic crop rotations, one with and one without addition of animal manures.

        In the latter, N was provided by green manures. For comparison, two conventional systems in which mineral fertilizers and pesticides were used (one with cover crops) were also included.

        Leaching loads of N were smallest in the conventional system with cover crops, on average 25 kg N ha−1 yr−1 over the 6-yr period.

        The corresponding amounts in the other systems were 39 (organic with animal manure), 34 (organic without animal manure), and 38 (conventional) kg N ha−1 Phosphorus-leaching loads were small overall in all systems (<0.25 kg ha−1 yr−1).

        Potassium-leaching loads reached on average 27 kg ha−1 yr−1 over the 6 yr in the conventional systems and 16 kg ha−1 yr−1 in the organic systems.

        When N leaching was expressed as a percentage
        of total N removal during the 6-yr period (leaching plus harvested N with crops), it represented 59% in the organic system without animal manure, 33% in the conventional system, and 22% in the conventional system with cover crops.

        These results clearly suggest that N use efficiency is improved if inorganic N fertilizers are used rather than green manures, especially in combination with cover crops. The superior system from all considerations was the conventional system with a cover crop.

        https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/aj/abstracts/98/3/603

        [PDF] http://dzumenvis.nic.in/Organic%20Farming/pdf/Nutrient%20Use%20Efficiencies%20and%20Leaching.pdf

  • If organic standards really result in “a broader perspective, a long-term vision, and a willingness to defy convention,” then why does almost HALF of all organic food sold in the United States and Canada test positive for prohibited pesticides?

  • Jennie Schmidt

    Well done Rob, we strive for all tools in the toolbox and the things that are credited as organic practices such as cover crops, green manures, crop rotation, IPM are things we’ve done for decades as conventional farmers and practices we considea to simply be standard operating procedures.

    We have taken it to a certification level with our Maryland State Soil Conservation as Certified Agricultural Stewards, a program called FSCAP- Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program. http://www.mascd.net/FSCA/
    I blogged about it here: http://thefoodiefarmer.blogspot.com/2014/06/sustainable-ag-were-certified-stewards.html?m=1

    I believe many of us have the same goals of sustainability in mind and different approaches to reach those goals. There is no one cookis cutter method of farming sustainably. As you know we decertified our organic ground because it was sustainable for our operation. That doesn’t mean that organic isn’t sustainable. We each have a different set of circumstances that contribute to our sustainability which is why I push back when people call conventional farmers unsustainable. It simply isn’t the case. It comes down to methodology as you point out, rather than the “system” that is being applied.

    • What kind of objective testing is involved in FSCAP Jennie?

      • Jennie Schmidt

        If u go to http://www.mascd.net/FSCA u will see the inspection process and requirements. It was pretty extensive and certification reflecks that on our entire 2000 acre operation, we meet the highest standards of soil and water quality stewardship. You cannot attain certification until you meet 100% of the standards including implementation of all best management practices.

        • All right… certification… standards… okay… got it.
          But what about actual testing?

          • Jennie Schmidt

            Not sure what you mean by “testing”. Our nutrient management plans are based on soil tests, plant tissue tests, and manure tests and what the crop uptake is expected to be. The other “test” was to have inspectors walk every farm property to look at all our resource conservation and if our best management practices are in place and working as expected. So yes, if that is what you mean by “test”, then we passed. 🙂

          • Indeed. As an organic inspector, I would agree Jennie. You have indeed passed.

            What you describe is far more objective than anything that goes on in the organic certification industry.

            Tell me, in addition to soil tests, plant tissue tests, and manure tests, do you require pesticide residue tests?

          • Jennie Schmidt

            No, we are strictly a wholesale operation so that responsibility falls to the cannery and distributors who buy from us. We provide our spray records to show we complied with all labeling regulations and harvest intervals. We also get inspected annually by the dept of agriculture who reviews all our spray records and watches us load, mix, and apply chemicals both organic and synthetic. Its not realistic for a farmer to have to pay for pesticide testing and is a non-issue by following the EPA label which is the law.

          • That’s funny. I’ve done field testing for pesticides and it’s far cheaper than the cost of maintaining all the other controls you describe.

            But, of course, you don’t reject synthetic pesticides like the organic industry does, so that’s fine.

            To repeat, everything you’ve described thus far – with the exception of pesticide residue testing – shows your program to be farm-more objective than organic certification. It’s particularly encouraging to see that you test manure, something no one even imagines doing in the organic industry.

          • Rob Wallbridge

            What Jennie describes is exactly what happens during an organic inspection. I could show you manure and compost analyses from several different organic farms.

          • And I can show you test results for prohibited pesticide residues on organic crops that I have done – all of which were negative by the way. But field testing for pesticides or improperly-composted manure is NOT part of organic certification Rob.

            You know this. When will you fess up?

            A voice like your could be instrumental in moving away from record-keeping, and take us to an objective, test-based system of organic certification.

          • Rob Wallbridge

            These are direct quotes from the Canadian Organic Standards Permitted Substances List (http://bit.ly/LgOhue):

            Compost obtained from off-farm sources shall conform to the criteria in Composting
            feedstocks.

            In addition, compost obtained from off-farm sources

            a. shall not exceed the maximum acceptable levels of trace contaminants
            (mg/kg) and foreign matter outlined for unrestricted use (Category A) compost
            as specified in the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME)
            publication Guidelines for Compost Quality,

            b. shall not cause a buildup of heavy metals in soil over repeated applications,

            c. shall meet criteria for acceptable levels (MPN/g total solids) of human pathogens
            as specified in the CCME publication Guidelines for Compost Quality.

            Compost produced on the farm shall conform to the criteria in Composting feedstocks.

            In addition if made from animal manures or other likely sources of human pathogens, compost produced on the farm shall

            a. reach a temperature of 55°C (130°F) for a period of four consecutive days or
            more. The compost piles shall be mixed or managed to ensure that all of the feedstock heats to the required temperature for the minimum time; or

            b. meet limits for acceptable levels (MPN/g total solids) of human pathogens
            specified in the Canadian Council for Ministers of the Environment publication
            Guidelines for Compost Quality; or

            c. be considered as aged or raw manure rather than compost (i.e. meet the
            requirements specified in par. 5.5.2.5 of CAN/CGSB‑32.310, Organic Production Systems — General Principles and Management Standards).

          • Yes… I am very familiar with the standards Rob. I was an organic inspector, as you know.

            But there is no field testing to enforce these standards. None. If I’m wrong, please show me where I can find the results of these tests.

    • Rob Wallbridge

      That’s awesome, Jennie! Congratulations on achieving that certification – I can imagine it was a lot of work. Thanks for sharing information about it here – it’s great to see other examples of how conservation agriculture can be recognized and supported.
      Not to imply that virtue isn’t its own reward, but do you think you’ll see a “hard” return on your investment here? What motivated you to seek this certification and do you think a program like this would have broad appeal?

      • Stephan Neidenbach

        That was a beautiful exchange!

      • Jennie Schmidt

        That’s a tough assessment. We farm on a coastal plain, so our soils are sandy loam with low CEC and OM. In tangible “hard” terms, I would still say yes, the long term investment in resource conservation results in improved soil health which increases environmental sustainability and economic sustainability by improving crop health and therefore yields and/or quality of the crop.

  • AndRebecca

    Just great… till we get to the punch line with the word “incentivize” it. Just get on the US ag website and you will find we are already “incentivizing” agriculture and we are going to be incentivized to death here pretty soon. It is called taxpayer pay more in taxes and at the grocery store, a lose/lose situation, just like solar power. If you want to be a farmer, make money at it or don’t do it. When exactly did people start farming? 10000 years ago? Ya think farmers might know a little something about it by now? I think so. Come up with a legitimate way to earn a living. If you want to hobby farm, do it on your own dime.

    • Rob Wallbridge

      Hi Rebecca – I certainly agree that the US government is already “incentivizing” a lot of things. And it’s probably one of the reasons North American consumers spend a smaller portion of their income on food than just about anywhere else on the planet. The question I’d ask is “are we incentivizing the right things?

      • hyperzombie

        Why on earth would you want people to spend more money on food? Seems crazy?

      • JoeFarmer

        Oh give me a break, Rob.

        Number one, you’re not a U.S. farmer. Feel free to critique, but at least be honest enough to show some numbers with your complaints.

        Number two, what are “we” incentivizing?

        The more you post, the more I don’t understand you, other than the you don’t know about tools thing.

        • First Officer

          Let’s not alienate anyone because of their nationality.
          We do subsidize, but so does the EU, big time, and their food prices are way higher than either the US or Canada.

          • JoeFarmer

            Fair enough.

          • hyperzombie

            Let’s not alienate anyone because of their nationality.

            Oh come on,,, what kind of fun will that be? Am I not allowed to say that the French tractors have 1 forward gear yet 6 in reverse, incase the Germans come?

          • JoeFarmer

            LOL!

            Kind of like the old ads for used French military rifles. “Rifle has never been shot, may show minor scrapes from having been dropped.”

      • AndRebecca

        We spend less money on food in this country because we have a farm to market system which is better than any in the world. But, how you could miss the inflation at the grocery store lately, I don’t know. How you could miss, at the same time, the promotion of organic farming and local foods, I don’t know. The actual American producers are getting the squeeze. On the range, you grow things with hoofs. On the plains, you grow grain. In the forests you grow trees. In the fruit/vegetable belts you grow fruits and vegetables. Then, you ship them to where you need them. Supporting locally grown foods is dreamy and pretty…but it is not even nutritionally a good idea. Let me see if I can copy these sites correctly: http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/Organic_Survey/
        http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/2012-census-organic-local/
        http://www.reed.senate.gov/news/releases/reed-holds-grant-workshop-to-help-grow-ri-food-economy
        Does it look like these folks have the consumer and taxpayer and farmer in mind?

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        What there incentivizing really means is that some of the true cost of food is hidden because it is not itemized when we pay taxes. Remember how much all those gov’t employees make becomes part of our food cost.

  • JoeFarmer

    Rob,

    All I can say is, “Oy!” And the nearest Rabbi is at least 40 miles from my farm.

    Your “go-to” tool is a cordless drill? Really?

    Go back 60 years and learn how to use a brace and bit to drill a hole and use a Yankee screwdriver to actually drive the screw. Those of us old enough to understand the carpentry tool state of the art at the time you want to restrict your ag tech to know about those tools. Do you have sliver of bar soap in your toolbox? No? Do you know why you should have one?

    The “drill” is the spiral thingy that goes in the chuck. You don’t have a cordless drill, you have a drill motor.

    And if you’re trying to drive a screw with a “cordless drill”, you are even more clueless. You should be using a cordless impact driver.

    This is why I don’t get the whole “organic” thing. It’s scientifically unsustainable, and guys like you that gush about misusing modern tools make it even worse.

    Do you know why in my great-grandfather’s and grandfather’s day we used to plant corn at 38 inch row spacing? I’d really like to know if you know.

    • hyperzombie

      sliver of bar soap in your toolbox? No? Do you know why you should have one?

      Oh,,,Oh I know. it is so you can wash your hands before your afternoon manicure….Am, I right?

      Do you know why in my great-grandfather’s and grandfather’s day we used to plant corn at 38 inch row spacing?

      I got this one as well… Darn GPS and a broken seed drill, is the only explanation.

      • JoeFarmer

        “Oh,,,Oh I know. it is so you can wash your hands before your afternoon manicure….Am, I right?”

        LOL! No. It’s because if you didn’t if you didn’t lubricate the screw threads with that bar of soap, the old Yankee screwdriver would slip and you’d drive your knuckles straight into the piece of wood you were trying to fasten!

        “I got this one as well… Darn GPS and a broken seed drill, is the only explanation.”

        Wrong again, Kimosabe. In our area, 38″ row spacing was determined based on the width of the draft horse’s hind quarters. Not so much for planting, but you’d have to make several passes with a cultivator to knock down the weeds. Percherons were popular in my grandpa’s and great grandpa’s day, other places they used skinnier horses and could go with 36″ row spacing.

        • hyperzombie

          I can just imagine the marketing back in the old days “The NEW and improved XXXX horse, Now with skinner hips and just as much POWER” or “Get Higher Yields with the New and improved XXXX horse”

          Oh, and I think the writer has never heard of ring nails, and if you really want to fasten something lag bolts and a washer will make it almost indestructible.
          And yes he should be using a impact driver not a drill.

          • JoeFarmer

            Konwing something about the marketing of draft horses back in the day would be interesting.

            Your average citizen today has no idea what a Percheron is, but anyone that has ever watched the Super Bowl knows what a Clydesdale is.

            Clydesdales are runts compared to Percherons, so that’s probably why they were popular in our area. Bigger horse, more pulling power, just like how we’ve bought our tractors over the years.

            Seeing a dozen Clydesdales towing a beer wagon is nothing compared to what Mr. Sparrow used to do. He was just a few miles north of us:

            http://data.desmoinesregister.com/famous-iowans/dick-sparrow

            He did a 48-horse hitch at one time.

          • hyperzombie

            Wow, Awesome. 48 giant horses, freakin cool.

          • JoeFarmer

            Mr Sparrow was awesome!

            You should come to Iowa for the State Fair. August 13-23, 2015. You’ll meet cool people and eat great food. Family friendly, but there’s a beer tent. Bring the missus and your little one, you won’t regret it.

          • Rob Wallbridge

            Well, Mr. JoeFarmer you certainly do seem to know a lot about me and my level of knowledge with regard to a whole slew of things. Look at me, I’m so clueless I don’t even know your real name! Carry on…

          • JoeFarmer

            I know you’re hiding behind the, “organic makes me awesome” meme.

            Ball’s in your court, pal. Explain how you’re not mining your soil. Nutrient removal isn’t exactly a new concept.

            If you buy hog manure, which most likely comes from GM fed pigs, how do you manage your nutrient application?

            At what depth do you apply? How do you balance excess P vs. the N you need? What about fall application? Do you apply your manure when the soil temp is over 50F? I don’t have to, because I have modern options.

            Sorry I rubbed you the wrong way about the “cordless screwdriver” thing, but if that’s the way you run your farm, you don’t know what you’re doing.

          • Rob Wallbridge

            The intent of this post, as I clearly stated, is not to advocate that organic is for everyone or the one and only path to sustainability. It’s about how an understanding of the organic sector may help promote greater adoption of sustainable practices in the wider agricultural community.

            If you’re interested in learning more about building and maintaining soil fertility in organic systems there are a number of great resources available. Check out http://www.EOrganic.info for a start.

            I’m going to choose to stay on topic, rather than engage in flame wars about my farming practices or fastener technology and terminology. Thanks.

          • But why should anyone bother trying to understand the organic sector when it’s rife with fraud?

            Almost half of all organic food tests positive for prohibited pesticides, the direct result of the fact that organic crops are not tested in order to prevent fraud.

            We have nothing to teach anyone here Rob, until we clean up our act.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Mischa, One need not approve of the unfairness of not testing organic the same way that conventional is tested. I am not at all thrilled with the bunk pushed by the OCA and other groups. In fact as you know I regularly oppose them. That said. The question of what to do about P build up is a potential problem for an organic farmer. So, instead of opposing Rob, Let’s just ask. This need not be an either or discussion. I have asked our local organic types this and not gotten real good answers. The best one came from Rosie’s organics. She said she has not had one yet and attributes it to our sand. It concerns her though. She has a a PHD in plant pathology. While the, for lack of a better term “organic establishment” has it’s problems that you are well aware of. Rob does not seem to me to be their advocate. Unless I am misinterpreting his articles. He is advocating for adapting to local circumstances and sometimes using a temporarily less cost effective tool in favor of a longer view. Rob may not need to clean up his act. We do not know what his farm would test or not test positive for. I have read of conventional and organic guys spreading manure on frozen land. Only to have it end up in the local creek. Also an article cited by anti g.e. folks as evidence for resistance builkd up stated that some of these famers had used the same crop and g.e. traits for up to 6 consecutive years. There are good farmers and not so good in both areas. Because we have organic waste that needs to be recycled, here to protect the Floridan aquifer. I view some use of manure as almost necessary. So, Rob, How much of a problem is P build up and in what soils will it likely occur first?

          • I have asked Rob numerous times to come clean and admit there is no field testing in the multibillion dollar organic industry. He has either avoided the question, or pretended there was testing, only to fail to provide evidence.

            P build up isn’t the problem. Fraud is.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Mischa, I understand your contention and understood it in previous discussions. As I will probably never get certified and do not buy organic produce. It just does not effect me much. For me, the potential P build up is more important. I use horse stall muck and occasionally chicken poop, I want to make sure I do not break those tools. I do not trust certification agency results much because I believe it is easy to cheat. So, I sometimes trade with local organic folks I trust.

          • Make no mistake Eric; this affects all of us.

            The organic industry soaks consumers for billions of dollars every year, all based on unsubstantiated, tax-subsidized fear-mongering that takes aim at modern, science-based farming.

            Rob Wallbridge claims to have something to offer. Perhaps he does. But not as a member of a misguided movement with ulterior motives.

            Rob needs to distance himself from the organic industry if he wants to be heard.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            I understand that they get premiums that I consider unjustified. But that is just my opinion. I detest subsidies for any business as that constitutes using the gov’t’s monopoly on force to require non customers to help pay the costs of businesses they may not even buy from. It was wrong in the days of the Barbary pirates and Banana republics and it is still wrong today. Further it adds inefficiency to the system as gov’t employees are hired to administer the programs. And we all have to chip in to pay them. Rob does not contribute to the fear mongering with his articles. That is all I ask for to consider him to be well meaning as opposed to those who are actively promoting the bunk.

          • Rob extols the alleged virtues of running a certified-organic farm, and willingly covers up the fact that there is no field testing to ensure organic crops are safe and genuine. If he really wants to be taken seriously, he needs to reform the organic movement before doing anything else.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Mischa, How has he covered up something you seem aware of? Certainly not trying real hard is he. My crops have never been tested. Genuine, What does that mean? I am sure they are genuine or he would be bankrupt. And just how do you expect him to reform a whole movement? Please just let him answer my question.,

          • People who live in glass houses…

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Mischa, Glass houses??? I have not been throwing any stones here. I don’t get it.

          • I wasn’t referring to you, and haven’t been referring to you since I started commenting here.

          • hyperzombie

            I understand that they get premiums that I consider unjustified.

            Really? ever tried growing a real crop “Organically”? The farmers deserve the premium, the distributors and wholesalers, not so much.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            First, Allow me to say that I have always considered your alias to be grammatically incorrect. The zombies I have seen in movies were slow and seemed to be lacking any semblance of being “hyper” Further, when I first started growing I was an organic gardener, and sold my excess, over what I ate at a local market. Quite frankly I think I was guilty of an excess of beginner’s luck as I was successful beyond my skill level. That said, I should have qualified my remark as my opinion varies from grower to grower and season to season. For example I recently traded some of my fruit for veggies from an organic guy. I got so little and much was stuff that has few problems here and I consider his premium to be way to high and no longer trade with him. I get a better deal from a conventional grower that uses very few insecticides. Also, I use some organic methods, though not much of the philosophy. And consider my produce to be worth just as much as any local organic grower in my area. Biased? Yup. But I see little difference , for example, in my use of a pyrethroid and their use of pyrethrin. Also I have no respect for some of the rules. I would consider a RR, BT corn grown with organic inputs to be just as “organic” as one grown by their rules. IF, the RR, Bt corn was grow with no till, thus building the soil. So, my comment is a generality, and there are always exceptions to those. And I am willing to pay a bit of a premium because of the recycling of nutrients. Just not what they sometimes want. As for the distributors and wholesalers. I generally consider that they make more than they deserve in both cases. But freely admit that there may be factors that I’m unaware of.

          • hyperzombie

            Allow me to say that I have always considered your alias to be grammatically incorrect.

            It was my nickname in school, 12 Year olds are not known for their grammar.

            I was an organic gardener, and sold my excess, over what I ate at a local market. Quite frankly I think I was guilty of an excess of beginner’s luck

            Good for you, and I wish I had some good luck once in a while.

            I get a better deal from a conventional grower that uses very few insecticides. Also, I use some organic methods,

            They are not “Organic” methods, they are just basic “Growers sense”, use the best method for your situation, not what some panel decides, cause a bunch of city folks don’t understand farming.

            And consider my produce to be worth just as much as any local organic grower in my area. Biased?

            Good, you should always want to grow the best product for the customers, and your produce is most likely better than produce grown by people that farm with “ideology” instead of what works best.

            the RR, Bt corn was grow with no till, thus building the soil.

            Here, here. your speaking my language brother. i dont get the ban on GMOs either, especially Bt crops and rainbow papaya. Who doesn’t want less insecticides used?

            And I am willing to pay a bit of a premium because of the recycling of nutrients. Just not what they sometimes want.

            I would be willing to pay more for crops that grown in soils that are tested for quality and the proper nutrients are used. Sometimes recycling causes issues with the balance of nutrients.

            As for the distributors and wholesalers.

            I don’t know much about the either, I sell mostly to the end users.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            They may not be “organic” methods by common sense, but when I use that descriptive term at market. I sell more due to bias. Also I wondered where you came up with the alis. Hence the picking. Count you blessings though. At that age my nickname was wart.

          • Derek Wolf

            Could you be any more delirious?

            “takes aim at modern, science-based farming”

            Are you implying that there is no scientific basis behind organic methods that build soil health and create healthier, more nutritious crops?

            Plant biology, the soil ecology etc are not scientific matters anymore?

            Put down the Kool-Aid, Mischa and think about what you say during your anti-organic frenzies.

          • It never ceases to amaze me when activists like you believe farmers all across America aren’t concerned with plant biology and soil ecology.

          • Derek Wolf

            Your reading comprehension is as twisted as your thought process. Let me make this clearer for you:

            Because many farmers *do* care about plant biology and soil ecology (scientific matters), they are increasingly moving towards methods filed under: organic, agroecology, and so on.

            Do not twist my words to fit your narrative.

            Also, it’s cute that you label me as an activist – I’m just an advocate for sustainable farming.

            Passive aggressive ad homs don’t further your cause.

          • Jason

            You seem to be making the assumption that farmers are moving toward organics for humanitarian reasons when the reality is that they plant what they think they can make the most profit off of. Any perceived benefit to the soil health (I emphasize perceived) barely comes into the equation.

            And while organics are a growth area, organic acres in the US are still less than 1% of the total.

          • Rob Wallbridge

            Hi Eric, As an organic farmer, I have a plan documented to build and maintain soil fertility. Soil testing is part of that plan. The plan and associated documentation is reviewed annually by the inspector and certification body.
            My own fertility plan incorporates a number of soil amendments, including a small amount of manure/compost from my cows and hens. My soil tests low in phosphorus, so I amend with calcium phosphate and other products, and I use a microbial inoculant intended to increase plant-available P.
            P “build up” is an issue insofar as it is one factor that increases the risk of P run-off – a full discussion of the Phosphorus Index is really beyond the scope of this forum, especially considering we’ve already strayed well off-topic.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Robb, Thanks, but am a little confused. I thought we were supposed to stray way off topic. My sand is deep and there is no run off from my land even during heavy rains. So, down is the only way to go. I doubt I will ever have problems with too many nutrients. Google me and stop by if you decide to escape one winter.

          • hyperzombie

            You should come to Iowa for the State Fair.

            I would in a heartbeat, but the missus would never let me. She is still in the “baby are fragile ” mode. She even made me sell my awesome gangster prius for a Giant SUV. Maybe next year.

          • hyperzombie

            You always have the coolest Ag links, like the 2014 harvest video. Everytime I miss the big sky country I watch it.. Too many hill and trees here.

  • First Officer

    Taking away nails to force only the use of screws has it’s own costs. This is why nails still exist. The nail will not last as long but that is only a disadvantage if you need the structure at hand to actually last longer. So, the screw, by making a stronger structure than necessary, creates the waste of time, effort and the use of more expensive screws where they aren’t needed. In lean manufacturing this is recognized as one of the 5 mudas, or wastes.

    No system will ever be perfect but to deny the use of, say, wheels, where practical, just so we can see if we can come up with other solutions that may or may not be just as good is ultimately a waste of people’s talents that could have been going to taking the full toolbox even further.

    (Side note, by allowing the full toolbox of both nails and screws, we have nails that have spiral ridges and self drilling screws ! )

    • JoeFarmer

      I haven’t heard “muda” for years. I don’t even think they teach that in the modern six-sigma courses. But they don’t mention Deming, either, so props to you.

      But more to the point of pointing out how Rob Wallbridge is clueless, is that he doesn’t realize that it’s a fastener. And that’s what we’re trying to do – fasten something to something else.

      He’s about 20 years behind on fastener technology. Hilti has a whole catalog of advanced fasteners. A lot of which have nothing to do with a “cordless drill”.

      Just like we have a whole catalog of advanced agricultural technology…

      • hyperzombie

        I have not heard of this “Muda”, any tips on where I should go to learn more, wise one?

      • First Officer

        The 5 wastes are still taught, if not the Japanese term. So is asking why 5 times (or more), like, why are we fastening A to B?, Why that way, etc?

        The still talk of, “lean thinking”, which i always thought was a very funny term. 🙂

        • JoeFarmer

          How many kanban events occur every day on an organic farm 🙂 ?

          Probably a lot more than kaizen events.

          • First Officer

            You say it in jest, but, i think it’s a good question. Rob? And does such things happen on farms in general?

          • JoeFarmer

            I’m not trying to be a smartypants, but I think conventional producers like me spend more time thinking about how to improve our operations than gladhanders like Wallbridge.

            That’s because organic can’t survive without the guilt angle. Or the “it doesn’t have any of teh scary GMOz in it” angle.

  • Sadly, there is nothing “unique” about a system of farming that makes outlandish claims but fails to back them up.

    Organic crops are not tested to ensure they’re genuine and safe. Almost half of all organic food tests positive for prohibited pesticides, and there are barely any nutritional benefits to eating organic food.

    Also, three-quarters of organic food is imported from countries like China, Mexico and Argentina. Perhaps Rob believes that is what makes organic farming unique.

    • detroit58

      Sadly, there is Mischa Popoff, who makes claims about energy use comparisons of organic and conventional farming but fails to back them up.

      • And then there is Mr. detroit58 (his actual birth name by the way) who believes horses are more efficient than tractors. Whadda-guy.

        • detroit58

          Pop off – mature of you to detour your evasion to name calling.
          You make so much effort dancing instead of answering. Make a claim, then show your sources. You unequivocally state organic farms are so much more energy intensive than conventional but only offer verbal sashaying. I called you out, posted some Google Scholar research links elsewhere in this discussion that show you are likely mistaken. Your inability to retract, amend or revisit your statements shows you are not in these online discussions for real discourse.

          • I never called you a name. You chose detroit58 yourself, surely.

          • detroit58

            Okay – diversion to name discussion.

            The research, while limited, show results that are counter to your unbacked claim. Do some research and hopefully amend your position. Is that asking too much?

          • Aw c’mon! Monsanto doesn’t pay me enough to do “research.”

    • Derek Wolf

      “Sadly, there is nothing “unique” about a system of farming that makes outlandish claims but fails to back them up.”

      You mean like the rhetoric PR-spun claims of biotech?
      GRice is a great example – heralding safety and yield efficacy for a product that has not successfully passed field trials nor been safety tested.

      It can be well argued that you take the cake for unsubstantiated, wild claims that have minimal or no basis in reality.

  • It’s been two weeks since Rob posted this article, and he still won’t show any test results from his organic farm.

    This is because organic farms are not tested for prohibited pesticides or fecal coliforms. The result is that over 40% of all organic food sold in Canada and the United States tests positive for prohibited pesticides.

    Do you think maybe people in the organic sector like Rob should clean up the organic industry before lecturing farmers on sustainability?