By Dr Judith Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.
Sponsored by microBIOMETER®
Regenerative organic agriculture has numerous benefits for the soil, the crops, and the earth’s climate. As pressure continues to grow to improve the nutrient value and safety of food production, and the health of the environment, agriculture will need to find a way to adapt.
One important issue is the conversion from traditional agriculture – and its emphasis on aggressive, often dangerous, inputs – and regenerative agriculture, with its emphasis on ecological systems and food nutrition. As with any major transition, there will be challenges to overcome. Fortunately, there are technological advancements that will assist growers in assessing their soil health practices and allow them to better evaluate their progress as they move towards a fully organic farming system. And with those organic systems come improvements not only for soil health but for human health as well.
Benefits of Organic Practices
Pesticides and environmental toxins are significantly lower in organic produce. Pesticides are responsible for neurological damage to children which is estimated to cost the EU about 1% of its gross domestic product. (1,10). Organic foods decrease exposure to environmental toxins by 70 fold (10).
The significantly better flavors and textures and high level of antioxidants in organic produce (1-13) result in higher consumption of fruits and vegetables by those consuming organic produce (11) — the nutritional value of high vegetable diet is widely acknowledged. This results in organic consumers contracting less poisoning by pesticides, fungicides, cadmium, and nitrates. And contributes to better intestinal health due to the much higher level of antioxidants in organic foods (3).
Organic Diet is associated with significantly lower risk for the following diseases (10): Non-Hodgkin’s leukemia; Obesity; Type 2 Diabetes; Asthma and Eczema; Cardiovascular disease; Hypertension; Hypercholesteremia.
Biostimulants such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are just beginning to be used to increase the yield, robustness and nutrient level of organic foods(2,7,9,13). AMF are inhibited in conventional farming.
Many nutrients in plants (1) are not recognized as nutrients by the USDA (4) which does not recognize differences in the nutritional value of organic vs conventionally grown (4). The health benefits of these have not been researched. For example, there is almost no research into the large group of polyphenol compounds (>20,000) that are produced in higher amounts and more variability by organically grown plants and have been shown to have antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antihypertensive, cardioprotective and immune modulating effects. And the role of micronutrients which are higher in organics is largely unknown. See chart below from (1)
- Barański, M., 2014. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of 280 pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Br. 281 J. Nutr, 112(794-811), p.282.
- Baslam, M., Garmendia, I. and Goicoechea, N., 2011. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) improved growth and nutritional quality of greenhouse-grown lettuce. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 59(10), pp.5504-5515.
- Cheynier, V., 2012. Phenolic compounds: from plants to foods. Phytochemistry reviews, 11(2-3), pp.153-177
- Dangour, A.D., Dodhia, S.K., Hayter, A., Allen, E., Lock, K. and Uauy, R., 2009. Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 90(3), pp.680-685.
- Hallmann, E. and Rembiałkowska, E., 2007. Comparison of the nutritive quality of tomato fruits from organic and conventional production in Poland.
- Hoefkens, C., Vandekinderen, I., De Meulenaer, B.; Devlieghere, F., Baert, K., Sioen, I., De Henauw, S., Verbeke, W., Van Camp J. (2009). A literature‐based comparison of nutrient and contaminant contents between organic and conventional vegetables and potatoes. British Food Journal 111 (10), 1078‐1097.
- Ibrahim, M., 2018. Response of Seeds Quality of Sunflower to Inoculation with Single and Mixed Species of Indigenous Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi. The Open Agriculture Journal, 12(1).
- Kapoulas, N., Ilić, Z.S., Đurovka, M., Trajković, R. and Milenković, L., 2011. Effect of organic and conventional production practices on nutritional value and antioxidant activity of tomatoes. African Journal of Biotechnology, 10(71), pp.15938-15945.
- Karagiannidis, N., Thomidis, T., Lazari, D., Panou-Filotheou, E. and Karagiannidou, C., 2011. Effect of three Greek arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in improving the growth, nutrient concentration, and production of essential oils of oregano and mint plants. Scientia horticulturae, 129(2), pp.329-334.
- Mie, A., Andersen, H.R., Gunnarsson, S., Kahl, J., Kesse-Guyot, E., Rembiałkowska, E., Quaglio, G. and Grandjean, P., 2017. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environmental Health, 16(1), p.111.
- Peck, G.M., Andrews, P.K., Reganold, J.P. and Fellman, J.K., 2006. Apple orchard productivity and fruit quality under organic, conventional, and integrated management. HortScience, 41(1), pp.99-107.
- Popa, M.E., Mitelut, A.C., Popa, E.E., Stan, A. and Popa, V.I., 2019. Organic foods contribution to nutritional quality and value. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 84, pp.15-18.
- Toussaint, J.P., Smith, F.A. and Smith, S.E., 2007. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi can induce the production of phytochemicals in sweet basil irrespective of phosphorus nutrition. Mycorrhiza, 17(4), pp.291-297.
- Worthington, V., 2001. Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables, and grains. The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 7(2), pp.161-173.