Info

Sources: Adapted from Smolik, Dobbs & Rickerl (1995) and Dobbs & Smolik (1996).

Sources: Adapted from Smolik, Dobbs & Rickerl (1995) and Dobbs & Smolik (1996).

payments, was essentially the same for the conventional and alternative systems of Study 1, but 26% higher for the conventional system than for the alternative system of Study 2 (Table 1.2). In contrast, production costs (including labor, but excluding land and management time) were 12% and 28% lower in the alternative systems of Studies 1 and 2, respectively, than in the corresponding conventional systems (Table 1.2). Comparisons of herbicide and cultivation practices similar to those used in the conventional and alternative systems indicated that weed control in the latter was less costly. Compared to the conventional systems, weed control costs (including labor) in the alternative systems were 13% lower for maize, 13% to 28% lower for soybean, and 89% lower for wheat (Smolik et al., 1993).

Largely because of lower production costs, the alternative systems of both Studies 1 and 2 were economically competitive with the conventional systems. In Study 1, average net income over all costs except land and management (i.e., planning, organizing, marketing) was 29% higher for the alternative system; in Study 2, average net income was 3% higher for the conventional system (Table 1.2).

Different results were obtained from the on-farm comparison. The conventional farm in Study 3 used a two-year maize-soybean rotation and applied synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, whereas the alternative (organic) farm used a four-year rotation (maize-small grain + alfalfa-alfalfa-soybean) and did not apply synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Livestock production, which occurred on both farms, was not evaluated in this study, and premium prices for the organic crops were not included in the baseline analyses. Various forms of government farm support payments were included in the analyses.

Over the eight-year study period, earnings from crop production on both farms in Study 3 were considered "respectable for the area" (Dobbs & Smolik, 1996), but the conventional farm was more profitable than the alternative farm (Table 1.2). Crop production costs were lower on the alternative farm (Table 1.2), but did not overcome the effects of lower crop yields and a smaller percentage of the cropland being used for maize and soybean, which were more profitable than small grains and alfalfa during the study period. Although weed densities in maize and soybean were higher on the organic farm, results from research station experiments led the investigators to conclude that weeds were unlikely to have influenced yields substantially on either the conventional or alternative farm (Dobbs & Smolik, 1996).

Results from these studies indicate that cutting costs for weed management and other farming activities can increase the profitability of crop production under certain circumstances. However, a favorable outcome is not guaranteed. The success or failure of cost-cutting strategies depends on crop choices, impacts of government farm programs, skills and knowledge of farm operators, site-specific soil, weather, and pest conditions, and other factors (Welsh, 1999). More research is needed to increase or maintain crop yields while reducing production costs. This might be achieved, in part, by focusing on ecological processes within farming systems that can reduce requirements for cultivation, herbicides, and other external inputs.

Growing Soilless

Growing Soilless

This is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to growing organic, healthy vegetable, herbs and house plants without soil. Clearly illustrated with black and white line drawings, the book covers every aspect of home hydroponic gardening.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment