Study: “Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health”

This link is to a very rigorous study spearheaded by USDA and university researchers in Iowa on the Marsden Farm. The publication itself is quite lengthy and I have yet to read/study all parts of it but the abstract and conclusions are very enlightening. As usual, we should always approach the issues critically and examine the details if we are able and capable.

From the abstract: “Results of our study indicate that more diverse cropping systems can use small amounts of synthetic agrichemical inputs as powerful tools with which to tune, rather than drive, agroecosystem performance, while meeting or exceeding the performance of less diverse systems.”

 As usual, I let the study/article speak for itself. My commentary doesn’t mean much.

I’m also throwing in a link to an opinion in the New York Times by Mark Bittman. I think Bittman does a real good job of explaining the high points of the research but he also disparages the USDA rather harshly and I think his comments are unfounded. I heard about this study through USDA email, believe it or not, and then through other social media. The idea that USDA funded the research and now is trying to hide it is simply absurd. I respect Bittman and what he does for the most part (Foodmatters is one of my favorite documentaries) but his language regarding an agency that’s trying to go the right direction is not helping anything.  – He called someone at the USDA and they declined to comment… Who, an office secretary? Of course they are going to decline to comment – they didnt’ do the study and may have been totally ignorant of it’s existance.

I would encourage you to also read the comments on the research article at PLOS ONE if you want to learn. If you just want to get worked up then read the comments on Bittmans opinion.

About Chuck

Soil Scientist USDA/NRCS, Owner -
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