Organic Agriculture

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 53–61 | Cite as

Studies on long-term performance of organic and conventional cropping systems in Pennsylvania

  • Rita Seidel
  • Jeff Moyer
  • Kris Nichols
  • Vijay BhosekarEmail author


Since 1981, organic and conventional cropping systems have been compared in a field trial at the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Cropping system differences were evaluated for yields, soil quality, economic, and energy performance. Results showed that overall organic systems produced yields equal to conventional plots while at the same time improving soil quality. Organic systems also led to greater profitability while requiring less energy and emitting fewer greenhouse gases to produce the same amount of crops as the conventional systems.


Organic Cropping systems Conventional Energy systems Corn and soil quality 



We want to thank everybody who has contributed to this trial over the last 30 years. This study would not have been possible without the dedication of countless research and project managers, farm operations crews, collaborating scientists, technicians, and interns. We especially thank Gail Gillis and Dr. Romy Das who offered invaluable help in developing the economic summary presented in this paper. Since its initiation, this project was supported by the Rodale Institute and numerous grants. The work conducted to summarize the economic and energy data presented here was supported by a NE-SARE grant, entitled “Increasing Cropping System Sustainability through the Adoption of Cover Crop and Rotational No-Till Strategies” (project number LNE08-268).


  1. Camargo GG, d. T, Ryan M, Richard T (2011) Energy usage and greenhouse gases from commodity and bioenergy crops using the farm energy analysis tool (FEAT) In preparation Google Scholar
  2. Cavigelli M, Teasdale J, Conklin A (2008) Long-term agronomic performance of organic and conventional field crops in the mid-Atlantic region. Agron J 100:785–794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cavigelli M, Hima B, Hanson J, Teasdale J, Conklin A, Lu Y (2009) Long-term economic performance of organic and conventional field crops in the mid-Atlantic region. Renewable Agric Food Syst 24(2):102–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chavas J-P, Posner J, Hedtcke J (2009) Organic and conventional production systems in the wisconsin integrated cropping systems trial: II. Economic and risk analysis 1993–2006. Agron J 101:288–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Delate K, Cambardella C (2004) Agroecosystem performance during transition to certified organic grain production. Agron J 96:1288–1298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Delate K, Duffy M, Chase C, Holste A, Friedrich H, Wantat N (2003) An economic comparison of organic and conventional grain crops in a long-term agroecological research (LTAR) site in Iowa. Am J Altern Agric 18(2):59–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Douds D, Janke R, Peters S (1993) VAM fungus spore populations and colonization of roots of maize and soybean under conventional and low-input sustainable agriculture. Agric Ecosyst Environ 43:325–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hanson J, Lichtenberg E, Peters S (1997) Organic versus conventional grain production in the mid-Atlantic: an economic overview and farming system overview. Am J Altern Agric 12(1):2–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Liebhardt W, Andrews R, Culik M, Harwood R, Janke R, Radke J, Rieger-Schwartz S (1989) Crop production during conversion from conventional to low-input methods. Agron J 81(2):150–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lotter D, Seidel R, Liebhardt W (2003) The performance of organic and conventional cropping systems in an extreme climate year. Am J Altern Agric 18(3):146–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. MSBG Mississippi State Budget Generator, Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University, (2001)
  12. Pimentel D, Hepperly P, Hanson J, Douds D, Seidel R (2005) Environmental, energetic, and economic comparisons of organic and conventional farming systems. Bioscience 55(7):573–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ryan M, Smith R, Mortensen D, Teasdale J, Curran W, Seidel R, Shumway D (2009) Weed-crop competition relationships differ between organic and conventional cropping systems. Weed Res 49:572–580CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Teasdale J, Coffman C, Mangum R (2007) Potential long-term benefits of no-tillage and organic cropping systems for grain production and soil improvement. Agron J 99:1297–1305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. OTA (Organic Trade Association) (2011) Organic industry survey.
  16. USDA-ERS (U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service) (2011)
  17. Wander M, Traina S, Stinner B, Peters S (1994) Organic and conventional management effects on biologically active soil organic matter pools. Soil Sci Soc Am J 58:1130–1139CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rita Seidel
    • 1
  • Jeff Moyer
    • 1
  • Kris Nichols
    • 1
  • Vijay Bhosekar
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Rodale InstituteKutztownUSA

Personalised recommendations