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Research Matters...Yield and Food Quality

Research Matters...Yield and Food Quality

Ken Cockhull | Horticulture Weekly

One element in the debate about the relative merits of organic and conventional systems of growing is the impact they have on food quality. Food quality is notoriously difficult to define but the article below attempts this and reviews the effects of yield and of organic production on food quality. Organic systems generally produce food containing a higher concentration of nutrients than conventional systems and so could be said to produce food of a higher quality.

However, the review also concludes that it is not possible to maximise both yield and quality simultaneously, regardless of the growing system.

So as organic systems generally produce lower yields, this may contribute to the higher nutrient concentrations in organic food. A somewhat similar conclusion was reached from experiments reported earlier this year (HlV, 3 April).

The review questions whether nutrient concentration is the best estimate of food quality and stresses that the mix, balance and form of nutrients in food are also important.

For example, organic production systems often increase the concentrations of phenolics and antioxidants in food, both of which are beneficial to human health.

In addition, experiments suggest that long-term organic production may also affect soil characteristics that could influence food quality.

The Impacts of Yield on Nutritional Quality: Lessons From Organic Farming by Benbrook (2009). HortScience 44 (1): 1214 Members of ISHS can view HortScience from the website

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. Jul 3, 2009

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