Organic Agriculture, Climate Change, and Food Security

By Criveanu, Radu Catalin; Sperdea, Natalita Maria | Economics, Management and Financial Markets, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Organic Agriculture, Climate Change, and Food Security


Criveanu, Radu Catalin, Sperdea, Natalita Maria, Economics, Management and Financial Markets


1. Introduction

The mainstay of the paper is formed by an analysis of the adaptation aspects of organic agricultural practices, the high contribution of agriculture to anthropogenic GHG emissions, and effects of organic farming on species richness. We are specifically interested in how previous research investigated the potential contribution of organic agriculture to the global food supply, the potential climate change impacts on land and agricultural systems, and the role organic agriculture can play in stabilizing and lessening the impacts of climate change.

2. The Mitigation and Adaptation Potential of Organic Agricultural Systems

Organic agricultural methods are more environmentally sound than intensive agriculture, are likely to increase species richness of weeds, plants in field margins and other agricultural habitats, and may increase the abundance of many species and organism groups compared with conventional methods. Organic farming increases diversity in the agricultural landscape, and may enhance local densities of insect predators and soil fauna. Organic agriculture covers farming systems where the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers is prohibited. Biodiversity in agricultural landscapes is affected by many factors other than the farming system. Landscape structure and heterogeneity contributes to biodiversity in agricultural areas. Positive effects of organic farming on species richness and diversity appear in intensively managed agricultural landscapes. Biodiversity can be expected to benefit from organic agriculture. Different organisms react in different ways (Pera, 2013b) to organic farming. Natural enemies are negatively affected by conventional management to a larger extent than other insects and pests. The incentive to use organic fertilizers, manure and ley is higher in organic farming. (Bengtsson, Ahnström, and Weibull, 2005)

The total share of emissions from the agriculture and food sector is at least one-third of total emissions. Agriculture is highly dependent on climate conditions, being subject to change and variability. Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and an increase of extreme weather events affect agricultural productivity. Organic agriculture farmers should implement a series of practices that optimize nutrient and energy flows and minimize risk. Refraining from the use of synthetic inputs does not qualify an operation as organic, unless it is accompanied by a proper farm design and management that preserves natural resources from degradation. The reduced dependency on energy inputs in organic agriculture reduces vulnerability to rising energy prices. Organic agriculture can sustain food security by supplying alternatives to agricultural inputs. By abstaining from synthetic input use, organic agricultural systems adapt to local environmental conditions. Growing different assemblages of crops in time and space may enhance the agro-ecosystem resilience (Miguez and Sztulwark, 2013) to external shocks. Diverse cropping systems in developing countries rely on cash crops and on food crops for household consumption. The diversification of cropping systems makes efficient use of available nutrients, with improved productivity and economic performance. Organic agriculture must integrate plant and livestock production to optimize nutrient use and recycling. A nutrient excess on the farm leads to a high N20 emission risk and to an inefficient use of the world's limited resources. Reduced erosion goes along with reduced losses of soil organic matter. (El-Hage Scialabba and Müller-Lindenlauf, 2010)

3. The Role Organic Agriculture Can Play in Stabilizing and Lessening the Impacts of Climate Change

There are many factors that influence the abundance of organism groups in the agricultural landscape. Individual farmers can manage their land to increase the abundance of beneficial organism groups. Farming practice partly explains variation in species richness and abundance in agricultural landscapes. …

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