Just another organic yield comparison?

Written by Andrew Kniss

Wheat and wndmills. Credit: Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Wind Energy Program http://www.inl.gov/wind

Today, PLOS ONE has published a paper that I co-wrote with Randa Jabbour and Steve Savage titled “Commercial crop yields reveal strengths and weaknesses for organic agriculture in the United States.” In this paper, we describe our analysis of USDA data to compare organic and conventional crop yield data for 25 different crops. But is this just another organic yield vs conventional comparison for partisans to throw at each other in debates? We hope not. We’d prefer to throw that “debate” out the window – and instead focus on where each form of agriculture is doing best and start a conversation about how we can improve them all by learning from each other.
The paper is a more robust version of an article that Steve wrote last October. After I read Steve’s article in Forbes, I asked him if he’d be interested in applying some statistical analysis and submitting his idea to a peer-reviewed journal. We also enlisted the help of Dr. Jabbour who is an agroecologist at the University of Wyoming with extensive research experience in organic systems, and after several months of work we finally have a publication that I think we’re all pretty proud of.
I know what you’re thinking: “Does the world really need yet another comparison between organic and conventional crop yields?” My honest answer is “probably not.” That said, I thought I’d provide a brief explanation here of what makes our analysis a little different from previous research, and why I think it is a contribution was worth our time and effort.
First, I’d like to address some things our paper is not. We are not saying that organic farming is better or worse than conventional farming, and our analysis simply can’t justify such a broad conclusion. Simply analyzing differences in commercial yields (as we have done) is insufficient to choose a “winner” with respect to farming systems. Lower yield is not, in itself, evidence that farming is “harming the environment.” From the article:

“But agricultural systems should not be judged on yield alone. A primary goal for agriculture of the future should be to produce enough food to feed a growing population, and to do so while minimizing the negative impacts of that production. Organic agriculture has demonstrable benefits to the environment on a per unit area basis, however, those benefits are often negated or reversed on a per unit production basis because organic systems tend to yield less per area.”

And that last line is why we feel it is indeed important to quantify the differences in yield. Organic agriculture has many benefits, but the reduced efficiency has the potential to cancel them out. There is typically a trade-off between crop yield and ecosystem services for any given plot of land. To maximize both yield and ecosystem health, it is important to quantify both yield and ecosystem health. Our paper is one small piece of this larger puzzle.
Several previous meta-­analyses have compared organic crop yields with conventional crop yields, most notably Seufert et al. (2012) in Nature, Ponisio et al. (2014) in Royal Society of London B Biological Sciences, and de Ponti et al. (2012) in Agricultural Systems. These analyses suggested that yields in organic agriculture lag significantly behind those of more conventional production systems. Most of the data these analyses used, however, came from published studies of controlled experiments. Agricultural research, by necessity, often takes a reductionist approach in order to best isolate and quantify the effect of interest. Additionally, research equipment, labor availability, and scale of production is typically much different between field research and commercial production. We don’t consider these differences between research and commercial production to be negative per se; in fact I employ similar methods in my own field research. However, because of these limitations, controlled research may not always accurately reflect the level of innovation and practical constraints of real-world production agriculture.
The differences between commercial production and field research don’t necessarily bias yield differences between organic and conventional systems in any systematic way, so I am certainly not implying that previous analyses are “wrong.” But we felt there was value in comparing the estimates from previous meta-analyses with real commercial production data. The analysis we present in this article offers this perspective, based on organic and conventional crop yield data reported to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of their 2014 agricultural producer surveys. Our analysis uses USDA survey data representing over 10,000 organic farmers and nearly 800,000 hectares of organic farmland to estimate actual production differences between organic and conventional agriculture in the United States.

Figure 1 from the paper shows some of the crops that yielded lower – and higher – in organic systems.

Our results are mostly in line with previous works, but with some interesting differences here and there. One of the more interesting results we found was that although most organic crop yields were significantly less than their conventional counterparts, organic hay yields consistently out-performed conventional hay. We found that there wasn’t a consistent relationship between the organic yield gap and conventional yield potential, as had been proposed in the past. In some crops, there were a few states that were able to produce similar or even better yields with organic production compared to conventional. But because of the geographic scale of the data we used, we couldn’t determine why that was the case.
We feel our paper shows that there are opportunities for both conventional and organic producers to learn from one another. Some crops (like potato) consistently illustrate large yield gaps and merit more organic-focused research to support these producers. But organic hay production consistently out-performed conventional, so perhaps there are organic practices that could be adopted by more conventional farms to improve efficiency. Organic dry edible bean yields were about 26% lower than conventional yields overall, but there were three states where the organic yields were greater than conventional. So could conventional dry edible bean producers in learn something from the organic producers in states where organic yields are greater? Could those same conventional producers not only improve yields but reduce their environmental impact? Or are some organic producers achieving high yields at the expense of the environment, depending on their water use and soil management? Our conclusion:

“Examination of commonalities and differences between organic and conventional production practices in states with the best and worst yield ratios could be informative. Detailed knowledge of these specific production systems is necessary to investigate these comparisons, presenting an important opportunity for cross-commodity collaboration as well. Our findings support the importance of research funding at the federal level to facilitate such collaborations which may be otherwise difficult to execute but which are crucial to improving the sustainability of US agriculture.”

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161673
Where will the debate go next? What can get us to a situation where collaboration is the norm and not conflict?

Written by Guest Expert

Andrew Kniss is an Associate Professor of Weed Ecology & Management at the University of Wyoming. He has a PhD in Agronomy with a minor in Statistics. He teaches undergraduate & graduate courses including Ecology of Plant Protection and Weed Science & Technology. His research focuses on developing sustainable weed management programs in agronomic crops.


  1. Having a little trouble with this – what would “organic” hay producers do differently then conventional hay producers to get more yield? What do they have in their “toolbox” that conventional farmers do not?

  2. I’m not surprised by any forage result except perhaps the haylage result. I always expect more yield if I don’t control weeds in my forage crops–and I routinely do not control weeds in forage when they will not do any harm.
    I farm several forages, including haylage, alfalfa as hay, triticale as silage and hay, and also oats as silage and hay.
    I’m not surprised at all with the yield results, but there is more to be considered.
    Quality is not mentioned, yet is an important metric. With forages, I can blow the doors off the barn with product when all I focus on is yield.
    The forage grains (trit/oats) are the only crops I routinely do not spray with pesticides of any kind. I raise some “organically” meaning compost is the only input. Forage grains also do extremely well with lagoon water, manure, or compost. Forage grains fertilized with these have higher protein.
    The following conditions may present unequal comparisons:
    What is the age of the alfalfa stand? Conventional ag will be more likely to extend the life of a stand because of more options for weed control. Newer stands are relatively weed-free and yield significantly better.
    Weeds will cause far more problems in hay and weeds are also far more palatable in a silage crop, and may be allowed to grow.

  3. I farm all of the forages mentioned, using both organic and conventional methods. We make compost, have pen pack manure, and lagoon water. By organically, I mean that compost or a natural fertilizer is the only input–no synthetic fertilizers or inputs. (I’m not USDA certified, but my growing methods on these fields are virtually identical to a Certified Organic farmer)
    Commercial alfalfa hay must be weed free to be marketable. Not only does the herbicide impact alfalfa yield, but having weeds will enhance the gross yield numbers (no herbicide=more included weeds to weigh up).
    Grain forages respond amazingly well to animal waste as fertilizer.
    Certified Organic forages sell for a premium, even if they are of low quality. Low quality conventional forage is a bottom-dweller on price. In the west, there is a push on conventional farms to cut early, take a yield loss, and sell a higher quality product for more money.
    Using “yield only” in forage is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many factors involved. I”d really like to see the test results of the forages.

  4. Excellent thesis. We need the best of EVERY ag system to feed 9-10 billion more sustainably.

  5. wow a question that I can answer.
    Organic hay farmers ( I know of only one in my area), they use compost and manure, as much as 60 tons per acre. The compost and manure give the hay nutrients, but at the same time smother the crop, leading to lower yields. Conventional hay farmers use synthetic fertilizers to do the same thing, but it doesn’t smother the crop. (300lbs compared to 120000 lbs) to do the same thing.
    Organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic fertilizers, even though in most cases they are better for the land and the farmer.

  6. Using “yield only” in forage is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many factors involved. I”d really like to see the test results of the forages.
    Totally agree…

  7. But the compost and manure, as you say, would lower yields for the organic farmer. Kniss is reporting higher yields of hay for Organic farmers than conventional. Steward’s comments on quality sound more consistent.
    But, let’s say for a moment quality is the same. I still wonder how much farmland it took to produce the manure used to fertilize the hay fields (for both conventional where manure is used and organic)

  8. JRS and HZ hit the nail on the head with “QUALITY” when it comes to forages. In our neighborhood forages are grown primarily for dairy cows. We’ve been at it a long, long time and we grow legumes (alflalfa, clover) and grasses. People outside the dairy industry usually misunderstand our forage cropping methodology and even many people inside the dairy industry misconstrue the relative importance of “yield” and “quality”.
    JRS is correct when he points out that weedy stands of alfalfa, if nearing maturity when cut will tend to yield heavier than pure stands, especially if those comparable alfalfa stands are several seasons old. Our experience around here is that organic dairymen grow virtually no alfalfa and there are good reasons for it: it is expensive to establish and grow, the stands run out and become overgrown with weeds very quickly, leafhoppers routinely make a wasteland of untreated first cutting alfalfa, grass is the prevailing “all natural” fad (and it is just plain easier to grow), livestock manure is the only fertilizer organic dairymen have and it brings less to the table for alfalfa than for grass (mainly because alfalfa fixes its own nitrogen)..
    Dry hay is predominantly grown by organic dairymen — conventional dairies tend these days to use mostly haylage. For example, here we don’t put up much dry hay and where we do it’s on ground that’s not convenient or not suitable for our staple forage crops. I’d be a little embarrassed to have anyone weigh our dry hay yields ’cause they’re not great; the dry hay program around here is what it is…a vestige of the old days and a ‘stewardship of open space’ sort of endeavor…it’s certainly not a contest.
    Haylage is a very different matter. That’s where our protein and many of our other nutrients come from that supports milk production. The typical organic dairyman around here produces about 14.000 lbs milk per cow per year and conventional dairymen produce about double that amount. The difference is mostly in the nutrition offered the cow and a significant portion of that difference accrues largely to nutrients in the forages that are grown on the respective farms. As we’ve perfected our forage quality programs here, our cows have voted their enthusiastic approval by their phenomenal health and productivity.
    Modern conventional farmers tend to cut haylage early and often to get the finest quality possible for tour cows. Organic farmers not so much. Where I might routinely take 3 or 4 cuttings of alfalfa, 4 or more cuttings of grass each season my organic neighbors might take only 1 or 2 cuttings of each. Farm bulletins and even research papers have a bad habit of reporting the yield of “first cutting” only, so my first cutting, taken in May or early June, will be less than my organic neighbor’s first cutting taken at the end of June or middle of July…in that sense by weight I’ve been out-produced nearly two to one by the organic guy (but the quality of my cuttings will be head and shoulders above his). By the time the season is ended and all cuttings have been put in the silo I will have taken nearly as much yield by weight (sometimes even more) and far, far more nutrients by weight than my organic counterpart…and our respective cows will produce accordingly.
    So I suspect a lot of the discrepancy in the haylage yields (and perhaps some of the dry hay yields) is confusion over “first cutting” yields versus total seasonal yield. Because I, as a conventional grower, can use nitrogen applications to support grass growth and pesticide where needed to control leafhopper in my alfalfa I have the clear advantage in potential production, by weight, of hay crop forages. And nowadays, with our whole-farm nutrient management program, I am using manure nutrients as fertilizer to much greater effect than my small organic dairy neighbors.
    Another possible discrepancy may be affiliated with crop rotations. Sure the alt-ag cranks and organic cultists are always preaching about crop rotation as the holy grail, but out here in real life my organic dairy neighbors don’t seem to have received the memo — they tend to keep everything in more or less permanent grass. They really don’t grow much corn (too bothersome with bugs and weeds and all) and practically no soybeans (can’t spare the land to grow cash crops). On our conventional farm our hay forage crops are part of our crop rotation schedule and few hay crops stay in for more than a few years. That means we have more first year hay crop yields (which nearly always are substantially lower than for established hay stands) factored into our average, whereas my organic neighbors seldom do.
    So, at the end of the day, when it comes to measuring hay crops the QUALITY, that is nutrient value is the most important metric, then volume or “yield”. And when all cuttings of haycrop over a season are included in the calculation there won’t be much difference, at all, in overall yield by volume or weight. Misunderstanding by agronomists unfamiliar with forage production of how hay crops are managed and reported out here in the real world is understandable, under the circumstances. They are traditionally fixated upon wet weight, and typically overlook dry weight and forage quality…and that’s why I follow agronomists’ recommendations for row crops but politely ignore their opinions about forage crops.

  9. Wow, i had no idea that organic milk yield per cow was 1/2 of that from conventional.

  10. I wonder about the fuel used to transport and then spread all that compost and manure, too.

  11. Yep. Always has been. That’s sort of been the point of continually evolving our conventional dairying techniques, always trying to eliminate obstacles that prevent cows from comfortably producing to their genetic potential. The genetic potential of my cows isn’t all that much different from my organic neighbor’s cows but by complying with organic standards and with his obsolete facilities and equipment he throws up more and higher obstacles for cows to overcome…and his rules won’t evolve.

  12. Andy, for collaboration at the researcher or farm level it would be best to ignore even the terminology of organic and conventional. I agree that the appropriate question is what practices will enhance productivity and minimize risk and do so with the best environmental outcomes. Researchers like you and Randa do well to focus on the real issues and innovations. I appreciate your work to properly analyze the USDA data on yield. It is information that is useful for the civilized part of the discussion about sustainability.
    The problem is that the organic “super brand” is dominated by something much bigger than the farming side and which is more driven by downstream marketers who profit from the perception that consumers need to spend the extra money to be safe. Most of this mainstream marketing of organic is based on implied safety and environmental claims even though that implies that most of what the retailer or food company sells is not really safe. Compounding the problem, there is a highly aggressive subset of organic marketers who actively (and inaccurately) demonize their conventional competition as a way to drive their business (prime example Only Organic). They are also the part of the organic brand which funds activist groups like EWG or RTK.

  13. And there are other organic brands/farmers that are true to proper practice and growing procedures that the products have a nutritional advantage over their competitors.

  14. I’d say all the organic farmers I’ve met online and in person are true to proper practice and growing procedures. They are very committed to the ideal. My experience in interacting with brands, i.e. companies, has been less so. They have talked the talk, but have not necessarily walked the walk. Again, just my experience, but I’ve gotten similar impressions from others. Do you have specific examples?

  15. Me too, AgroforestryWTF, I also want to know what those “nutritional advantages” are. Kindly enumerate those, if you would.

  16. How do you manage your nutrient needs, especially in alfalfa, using organic-oriented methods.
    Alfalfa has a large Potassium demand and a pretty good Phosphorus demand per ton. It would seem to me that applying manure would add a bunch of unneeded Nitrogen. Granted, I only grow about 4 acres of alfalfa, but doesn’t the surplus N in manure make the alfalfa “stemmy” and reduce the RFQ?
    It would seem to me that that would be kind of a double-whammy: Excess N reducing the RFQ and also stimulating weed growth via the “stemminess”.

  17. Alfalfa typically gets 11-52, the manure and compost go onto corn and small grain forages. The lagoon water goes wherever the h we can get it on without salt damage.
    Having those non-GMO customers has its advantage. They only pretend to care about real quality, as long as its green and non-GMO, they’ll grab it up. That means the uglier, yet better stuff goes into our own cattle.
    We put up a minimum amount of forage as hay, everything possible for our use is haylage or grainlage. Which brings up a question. Does the term “haylage” include small grain silage in your area? What is called a “xxxxlage” seems regional. In the west, earlage is taking the ears, in the east its called snaplage(combine header on a chopper). What they call earlage, we call “High-Cut”, a regular silage corn head, but cutting just below the ear.
    I get a real kick out of these know-nothing “experts” who think a little compost will perform magic anywhere it is used. It is a special Ignorant/Arrogant combination. We both know who the two worst of those dunderheads are commenting on Disqus recently.
    I don’t try to be “organic oriented”, it just turns out that compost-only sometimes happens to be the best tools to use on that field.
    It would be a massive mess to have compost/manure as the only option, but having it a readily available option to be used when it makes sense is a real benefit.

  18. higher omega and antioxidant levels. Simple google search will tell you from credible universities.

  19. The 3 year rule. I like to use all available tools, and not limit my options. If I cpuld go year by year, I’d take part in some of that premium.
    It is a great experience to see a field that has struggled for 40 years, then have a few years of GMO cropping practices, combined with modern soil testing make a tremendous difference.
    I have been asked by a customer to go certified organic for double the money. I sincerely don’t feel it is the best for our farm.

  20. Yea I’m not to fond of large branding companies and their organic products. You can tell with quality when purchasing goods. An amazing example I love is organic valley. Their website is also very informative and their product quality is one of the top I’ve ever had in the US

  21. Dr. Savage: Does the term “haylage” used in this paper include silaged grain forage?

  22. true to proper practice and growing procedures
    really?then why does over 40% of organic produce test positive for banned pesticides?
    They are very committed to the ideal.
    well of course they are, they get paid over 3x more for the exact same thing. I would also talk up my farming method if it paid 3x more,,, nope on second thought, I am not a douchebag so I wouldn’t.

  23. Man, it is so nice to get the real poop from someone who understands the realities and practicalities instead of the Google farming experts. People are so fixated on the belief that there is a right and wrong way to farm, and so inundated with organic propaganda, and who wouldn’t prefer the fairy tale. Their understandings are not wrong, per se, to buy into the idealism of organic, but woefully simplistic. Those who are around farming understand that it is not about right or wrong, perfection and imperfection, but rather understanding that any method including organic comes with tradeoffs, and externalities and that organic is only one way of solving the problems that farming presents that has its advantages and disadvantages compared to less restricted methods that we awkwardly call conventional.
    I really think we ought to come up with a new nomenclature, as organic is actually conventional as its rejection of innovation by definition makes it conventional, What we now awkwardly call conventional we should call non innovation restricted agriculture or perhaps just progressive agriculture.

  24. “Alfalfa typically gets 11-52…”
    Just so we’re speaking the same language, that would be 0-11-52 if it were a synthetic fertilizer, right? I could totally be misinterpreting, but I go by an old ISU field guide for alfalfa.
    Basically the old Iowa State guide says there’s 6 lb elemental P and 48 lb. elemental K removed per ton per acre, plus 30 lb. elemental Ca and 6 lb Mg. Plus micros.
    Anyhoo, around here, silage (BMR corn) and soybeans are what the dairymen around here grow the most. Alfalfa would be next, then products that would maybe be called haylage. What do you call round bales that have sat for a long time?
    Not to throw a dart at you, but the first documented case of Palmer pigweed here came from a dairy operation that imported some kind of cottonseed meal/waste… now it’s in a dozen counties.

  25. Not trying to speak for pdiff, but the evangelism about organics comes from the citiots for the most part, not the growers, at least from my seat. Or that’s how I interpret what he’s saying, anyway.
    Gary Hirshberg didn’t grow up on a farm, in other words. He’s a shylock* that saw a big money opportunity and has lied, cheated and stolen to turn Stonyfield into an organic powerhouse.
    *I said shylock because you can’t really say dishonest “Joo” these days and get away with it, even if it’s true.

  26. That’s faith, not science. It is still the same building blocks of nutritional composition, NPK essentially, just the source of those nutrients is different.

  27. Not good enough. Post facts, please. Otherwise your city-dweller musings will be discounted as the garbage they are.

  28. I think if you look at his posting history, he’s an organic evangelist, not someone who is even casually acquainted with science.

  29. No, MAP, 11-52-0. Potassium is my overload factor from the manure, we still supplement Phosphate.
    Our typical application is 200 lbs, or 104 units. we get 7+ tons /year. There are supposed to be more efficient P methods that are more readily available, but I’m not really quick to jump on the salesmans bandwagon.

  30. FYI, my wife’s law firm has received inquiries from farmers as to potential remedies from organic farmer neighbors whose fields are full of weeds.
    That is, beyond what has already been established by statute and case law as precedent. Interesting stuff that I can’t elaborate on, unfortunately. Except to say that merely managing statutory noxious weeds my not protect a producer from tort action when it comes to weeds like Palmer that represent a serious threat..

  31. from the citiots for the most part, not the growers
    I see it as a Cult, for the most part. The crazy ideas may come from the top but most (Not all) , growers swallow it hook line and sinker, there are the profiteers, that jump on the bandwagon to make extra coin, but for the most part, I think it is a Cult.

  32. Not quick to jump on the bandwagon? According to the experts, you know GMO Watch and the like, farmers are all hopeless simpletons and easily manipulated by big bad AG’s sales pitches and they in their noblesse oblige wonderfulness are out to liberate you from that tyranny. You should be more appreciative.

  33. I guess universities base their research numbers off of scientific equipment that produce numbers from faith. Quite an interesting opinion.

  34. Color me confused, but I thought we were talking about organic or organic-recognized methods of fertilization.
    What kind of manure causes a K overload?
    Maybe we are in too different of areas. Around here, typical swine manure would be something like 58 lb N, 48 lb. P2O5, 30 lb K2O per 1000 gal.

  35. Yep, it’s a religion. The great thing about being a shylock like Hirshberg is that he takes advantage of science-deficient people, and has an army of disciples to re-amplify the message.
    We’ve talked about this before. 50 years ago, most people had a grandpa, uncle or aunt that was a farmer. Now we have less than 2% of the population that are farmers.
    Look at the stupid TV ads. Panera Bread with their, “Clean Food” campaign. Meh.

  36. I see you have presented exactly nothing to support your claim that, “here are other organic brands/farmers that are true to proper practice
    and growing procedures that the products have a nutritional advantage
    over their competitors.”
    So we can now discount your claim as bullshit. Thanks for sharing.

  37. You’ve provided exactly zero facts to support your claim.
    Just like every other organic evangelist that runs their mouth off but has never set foot on a farm.

  38. I’m guessing that the hay was fertilized with manure rather than composted manure. There are some pretty big GHG issues with either – composting emits quite a bit and manure can to depending on how stored and how long. The best environmental alternative is anaerobic digestion

  39. Wrong. Your bias is strong. It’s clear to see you have some sort of financial interest against the Organic movement. We all now you’re a fake farmer.

  40. Fakefarmer spam trolling comments again. Please thoroughly read comments and ignore fakefarmer

  41. Look, you can find a university study that can tell you what you want to hear and organic promoters are just as capable of bias and motivated reasoning as anyone else. I don’t dismiss that in crop to crop, study to study, comparison’s you might find examples of some nutritional claimed component differences, sometimes favoring organic, sometimes not. I just simply dispute that it is a recognized, accepted given that organic always or in any significant way, achieves a nutritionally superior product. I don:t think of organic as inferior, I just not convinced that organic is somehow magically or systematically superior in nutritional density to justify paying a premium.
    There probably isn’t and probably won’t ever be a definitive empiracal answer to the question of whether organic methods produce higher quality products in terms of nutritional value. But I don’t think an empiracal answer is what people want anyway.

  42. It’s all in the procedure. Whether it be conventional or Organic. Overall in comparison from best conventional practice vs best Organic practice. Organic produce and dairy are nutritionally superior in antioxidants and fatty acids. It has not yet shown that the vitamin difference is superior in either practice.

  43. I flagged your comment because Karl and Anastasia try to provide an environment for intelligent discussion.
    And your posts don’t even begin to meet that standard.

  44. “The best environmental alternative is anaerobic digestion.”
    But wastewater treatment plants aren’t really exciting, except to civil engineers. And that’s not a dig at civil engineers, that was my profession before I became a farmer. Let’s face it, there aren’t a whole bunch of people that would be interested in the specifics of a sludge press.

  45. Keep spinning around, kid. I don’t care.
    You have supported exactly zero of your claims.
    If you want to try again, be my guest.

  46. @disqus_Cr8yNogHAJ:disqus @disqus_fnvDpgu5cC:disqus I haven’t read through the entire discussion between the both of you but I can see that both are tossing invectives at each other, accusing each other of being fake farmers or city dwellers, neither of which is helpful. How about we stop casting stones attacking people, and instead focus on the evidence? If y’all want to have a discussion about whether there are real nutritional advantages to organic crops or not, have at it, although I would like to point out that you may have missed out on the spirit of this article, which is that both sides have something they can learn from each other and the organic vs conventional debate is a misleading debate.

  47. Fair enough.
    But Mr. “AgroforestyTBD” has offered no facts of any kind. Please review the discussion here to confirm.
    Compare that to my discussion with Randall Stewart about alfalfa and associated management issues.
    This is your venue to do with what you wish. I would ask you to be fair if you decide to delete posts. Thanks.

  48. No problem. I have blocked this user. I will no longer have any response towards him. He is known for his stone throwing remarks as you can see from his history. I would love to have those comments deleted that have such stone throwing comments in them.

  49. There is emerging science that antioxidants are an over hyped nutritional fad and can be detrimental to health in some ways.
    I’m not trying to win a debate as there is really no right or wrong answer. Both systems (although it’s really not accurate to place all of farming in an us vs. them, right vs wrong, dichotomy – you might be surprised at the overlap in practices and I also think technology over the next twenty years will increasingly blur the line between conventional and organic) seek to solve the problem of supplying sufficient nutrients to support plant growth and development and to mitigate stresses ( although drought and other stresses can sometimes result in favorable concentrations of some nutritional components by weight or percentage). I think organic is winning the argument that we need to pay better attention to soil health and quality as an element of productivity, but I think it will lose the argument that dogmatic organic strictures are the only or necessarily optimal means to achieve it.

  50. I want to know what you have read or know about the overhype of antioxidants…
    I have done many comparing and contrasting of diets across the world. The practices used per country and lifestyle. I have researched age groups and lifestyles of those who live to certain ages. It’s quite a complex study. There is a lot that we or I do not know. So far based on current knowledge top quality organic practices benefit human health based on very minimal scientific available research. Rat studies and the effort to mitigate environmental factors do not do diligence for health factors of the human body.

  51. That is the first time I’ve seen baleage called haylage–it must be a regional thing.
    The entire xxxxage termonology is inconsistent, varying from region to region and farm to farm.
    At least Shredlage is a trademarked term. 🙂
    When meeting with professionals from different regions, have resorted to naming the crop, naming the harvesting method, then just saying “silage.” “Oats chopped as silage” or “Alfalfa baled as silage”
    A small criticism. Using generic terms like “hay” and “haylage” is not helpful. This is because many different crops with different fertilizer responses can be put up as “hay” or “haylage.” For example, small grains as forage (rye, triticale, oats, barley, and wheat) will react completely differently to a manure or compost application as will alfalfa or clover. Yet all of those crops can be lumped together as “hay” or “haylage.”
    For example, I get an excellent response when putting manure/compost on triticale, but it is almost a waste of time putting it on alfalfa.
    I am really interested in what specific crops “haylage” represents in this article.

  52. It also been suggested that, since organic is allowed to use manure from conventional livestock, this provides organic with a large input of N, originally fixed synthetically.

  53. What kind of manure causes a K overload? The kind that comes out of our cows’ butt.
    OK, you know I suck as an agronomist when it gets to technical terms. 🙂
    I’m always adding Phosphate, and watching the Potassium levels that they don’t overload when adding manure/compost. The lagoon water is especially high in Potassium.
    I have never bought Potassium as a synthetic fertilizer. I want to get rid if it. Our western, arid soils are high in Potassium.
    I’ve heard mid-western dairies are always high in Phosphate around their operations….and I’m thinking “Dang, I want some of that!”

  54. Synthetic fertilizer mainly to alfalfa, and haven’t you heard of Velpar, Sencore, 2,4-DB, and Pursuit?

  55. conventional dairies tend these days to use mostly haylage
    What does the term “haylage” mean to you? What specific crop, and how is it harvested?

  56. Positive detection is practically meaningless with modern detection methods. Very low levels are essentially detectable everywhere. The farmers I know are not cheating, if that is implied. They risk losing far too much.

  57. The omega, I assume, refers to omega 3 in milk (cow). This result was clearly shown to be a function of grass feeding, not organic practice. Antioxidants were shown slightly higher in the Benbrook study. A deeper dive into the papers they used (yes, I have), however, shows much variability and inconsistency (similar to what the paper above shows). It should also be noted that neither the levels of omega 3 nor those of the antioxidants in these studies were at known biological relevant values. What’s more, there is mounting evidence now that too much antioxidant is a bad thing, not good.

  58. There is a pretty good concise summary on the topic that illustrates the point I was making.. I don’t have ability to paste a link but it is entitled, “Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype” in a publication called “The Nutrition Source” by the Harvard School of Public Health.
    I am not questioning, from my admittedly layman’s perspective, that antioxidents probably play a role in health. I have come across more articles recently like the one i cited that are questioning the value of dietary choices or supplements to increase antioxidents intake to prevent chronic health problems, and some evidence that too much can be detrimental in some ways. The article doesn’the say avoid them, just that we probably get the optimal amount from a varied but normal diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I have seen a couple metastudies, including the famous Stanford one, and studies touted by organic advocates that suggest higher antioxidants in organic, but even if true, is it really a significant nutritional advantage.

  59. Maybe, JRS, I should have been more clear; I intended a distinction between dry hay and ensiled hay crop, ie. “haylage” — that is to say, we don’t feed much dry hay, essentially none to our dairy herd (a tiny bit of first quality dry hay goes to calves). Our hay crops are virtually all chopped, stored and fed as ensiled product…and we use a lot of that, we rely upon it and would be lost without it. We also feed a lot of corn silage. When we put up dry hay it is off odd lots and at the distant fringes of our little territory where it isn’t efficient to convoy the entire field harvesting entourage. That dry hay gets rolled up in big round bales and those that aren’t used to feed our calves vanish into a couple of little beef herds, some sheep and a few goats the nieces and nephews fart around with and probably to various horses that are harbored among them.
    I realize each neighborhood & farm has it’s own shorthand for crops and cropping. I use the term “haylage” to mean ensiled forage from legume hay crop (eg: alfalfa, clover, trefoil…) and from grasses (orchard grass, rye grass, timothy, brome grass…). Corn would be “corn silage” around here. On the rare occasion that we might ensile oats, that’s “oatlage” to us, rye or wheat would probably be “ryelage” and “wheatlage” (can’t remember the last time any of that was put up on this farm). Sorghum or sudan grass, likewise would be “sorghum silage” or “sudan silage” (we’ve seldom put this up except on a dry cow facility we used to operate). “Straw” around here means oat straw, otherwise that is “rye straw”, “wheat straw” and so forth. If ever we ensiled pea vines, soybeans or other such legume that would be referred to around this farm as “pea vine silage”, “soybean silage”, etc. (I recall dad and uncles reminiscing about “pea vine silage”). We used to temporarily ensile and feed some wet brewers grains and our feed crew at the time referred to that as “snot” and a few other things that don’t bear repeating in polite company (it actually was decent feed, though, when used appropriately).

  60. Joe – you correctly stated “Not trying to speak for pdiff, but the evangelism about organics comes from the citiots for the most part, not the growers, at least from my seat. Or that’s how I interpret what he’s saying, anyway.”
    Sometime the old saying “the customer is always right” is not true and those growers that cater to these uneducated urbanites – knowing deep down inside that nothing they claim is supported by science are also a bit “slimey” in my view.

  61. That’s it, that’s all ya got? Those two teensy weensy barely discernible attributes? And that’s worth 2X to 3X the normal price for foods? P.T. Barnum would have loved you fools!
    BTW, when we google nutrition differences for organic food here’s what pops up…
    The excellent Stanford study settled the matter once and for all time — there is no significant nutritional or health advantage to organic food. None.

  62. Yep, potassium from cow manure can build up in soils over time where too much manure has been applied for too long. We have to watch it around here when putting up feed for dry cows — some of those little old mom and pop farms we’ve acquired have fields near the barns and along the roads that are high K. No big deal for much of anything else, though. Damn, now some armchair agrarian putz will launch into hysterics over potassium levels (without knowing what potassium is, or even how to pronounce it).

  63. OK, JRS, just to muddy the water some more, around here we would refer to balelage (from alfalfa, clover or grass) nutritionally as “haylage” when we’re working up a ration and operationally as “baleage” (that’s the polite term, “ball buster” seems to be lesser of the vulgar terms applied) when we’re putting it up and handling it. We once put up some experimental “oatlage” as “baleage” by way of humoring a salesperson and would-be nutritionist, and that stuff, around here, I refer to as “garbage” and it is not to be brought within a mile of this place ever again at risk of violence and pain of physical injury.
    BTW, I fail to apprehend all the excited enthusiasm around “baleage”. It’s slow and clumsy to put up, it’s tricky to store without hail, birds or vermin punching/chewing holes in the plastic wrap and spoiling it, it’s labor intensive as hell and nasty to strip the plastic at feeding time, the stinky slimy plastic lays around and attracts flies from out of nowhere until you can dispose of it by methods best kept discrete. A damned pain in the ass and an unrivaled mess, to boot. If any field work gets warped so out of round that it needs to be put up as “balelage” around here, then that’s a job best sold cheap one of our neighbors, who runs a small dairy and who seems to enjoy frogging around with plastic and large unwieldy lumps of snot. More power to him, I say.

  64. Oh, yeah, there’s also the fermented grains that we have our idiosyncratic names for. Ensiled shelled corn is “high moisture corn” or “HMC” around here. If it’s ground husked ear corn, then it’s “high moisture ear corn” (don’t see much of this anymore, not many New Idea corn pickers left, either). We see a little ensiled product from field corn harvested with a “snapper” head, and that’s “snaplage” or “earlage” when it appears on one of our farms. We’ve also had the occasional load of new harvested seed wheat ferment into a semi-solid mass in the bed of a truck under cover of a machine shed, and we had no difficulty inventing appropriate names for that debacle…and I really don’t want to talk about it.

  65. Actually, anerobic digesters are finding their way onto large dairy farms to produce methane used to generate electricity. It’s a big capital investment (’bout $1 – 2 million when all said and done) but the technology seems to work reliably these days. It’s quite the adventure to install one of these on a working dairy like ours. I remain a bit cynical about how it will feel when the gen set gets worn and everything including the concrete holding tanks are corroded, but that will certainly be someone else’s issue to deal with.

  66. The organic producers I’m familiar with and the rest I’ve learned about are exposed to precious little risk of losing anything simply because they are not inspected or monitored in any meaningful way. They can operate with impunity and without any real risk of “getting caught”, ’cause there’s no one to “catch” ’em and the inspectors they see once a year, or so, are all good friends, dedicated pushers of the organic charade, and are even very likely to be a cousin or other distant relative. You seldom ever hear of any organic operator losing their certification, complicated and anal retentive as all the nitpicking little details are to achieve and maintain certification — if your car had to meet such a litany of arbitrary capricious checkpoints to pass annual inspection as organic uses, why, you’d be walking or bicycling to work most of the time and the junk yards would be filled with late model cars (and not all Volkswagens, either).

  67. All the more reason to apply the precautionary principle to organic foods. I say, have them show us proof of 100% safety for organic foods in the form of long term human feeding studies. They can’t do that, so organic food should be banned, according to their own reasoning re: “GMO”.

  68. Similar to us in west.
    Very few around here put up balage. I’ve only seen one. Same experience as you–difficult, time consuming, and a bit of a mess. I’ve only been at a couple of western dairies that had balage and they cussed it.
    Virtually everyone uses SPFH for all crops, and puts it in a bag, bunker (has walls), or drive over pile (concrete, blacktop, or gravel, then pile it high and run over it as many times as possible to get out the air).
    Almost everyone uses large square bales for dry hay. (hay of all kinds, trit, oats, alfalfa).
    Out here, we also raise a mixed crop we call 3-way or 4-way which is a mix of (farmers choose the mix) rye, wheat, oats, barley, triticale, sometimes interseeded into a declining alfalfa stand. If harvested as hay, beardless is popular.

  69. Out of curiosity I looked up different “haylage” references.
    The most popular is what I call balage, and this is what you call haylage.
    However, it also refers to:
    Alfalfa specifically
    Drier silages specifically (silage = 30%-40% dry matter, haylage = 40%-60% dry matter, hay = 82%-90% dry matter)
    “Here” haylage specifically refers to chopped alfalfa. This is the same as Dr Dan Undersander at the University of Wisconsin who referred to it identically as I do. http://www.uwex.edu/ces/forage/pubs/drying_forage.pdf
    My conclusion? Ban any form of “hay” or “xxxxlage” termenology in scientific papers. Instead, refer to the specific crop, and how it is harvested.
    If the “haylage” in your paper refers to any type of small grain plant used as forage (rye, wheat, triticale, oats, or barley), then my experience is in complete agreement with this paper. I have superior response to manure/compost/lagoon water when I apply to small grains as forage. In fact, I can’t get the same results using “conventional” methods. I expect “organic” small grain forage to do better. I raise it that way, and I’m a conventional/GMO farmer with any type of fertilizer available to use.
    When I saw “haylage” used in this article, I couldn’t reconcile the results with my experience. However, if “haylage” includes small grain forage, this matches my results.

  70. We’ve not gone to large square hay bales since we don’t sell hay. Still keep a line of older haying equipment w/ round baler and a seasonal crew who we seldom see unless they bust something big and need to drag the remains back here to the shop to weld it back together. One of our shop crew carts fuel to ’em and sees to any mechanical needs and our field crops manager tells ’em where to cut next, otherwise they are on their own out there doing their own thing. Same local crew for years now, they keep comin’ back each summer. I really should give ’em more recognition than I do, being out of sight so much of the time.
    We’re satisfied with big round bales ’cause we can move ’em around with just about any loader on the place (can even roll ’em around with a 4-wheeler, I’ve noticed, wincing) and they can be stored outside. The baby calf feeders seem content to have our feed crew stand a bale at a time up on end so they can unwind what they need for feeding each day. Standard round bale feeders work for the rest.
    Years ago we virtually scandalized the neighborhood when we demonstrated that you can roll really super quality dry hay into a large round bale…until then (and still today with too many people) the common wisdom was large round bales were best used for wadding together goldenrod and burdocks and other native weeds…then complaining about all the waste at the feeder.

  71. I dunno, JRS, if some organic magic existed that routinely produced 50% more haylage (and good high quality haylage) I would like to think I would have been aware of it and using the technique years ago (we usually don’t miss much around here). Anyway, if it’s out there I want to know.
    The discrepancy is so huge in the report that I am confident there is an error or misunderstanding behind it. I’d be surprised if even too few observations could skew the results that much, I mean, a reliable 50% increase is huge for any field crop anywhere. Unheard of, really.
    It’s easy to misinterpret USDA categories and those are seldom standardized between reports, especially when reporting standard ag and specialty ag, like organic. I’ve often tried to reconcile some of USDA’s stuff and have always had to “normalize” the data when comparing across specialties or over long time spans (USDA and ERS occasionally changes their definitions, even starts over counting differently). So I can appreciate the effort these researchers have put into this report and I encourage them to do more of this sort of thing.

  72. Look up the serum level of ceruloplasmin and you will see the blood is already full of an anti-oxidant. Having worked on this gene in grad school I never bought into the anti-oxidant hype.

  73. organic magic existed that routinely produced 50% more haylage
    Now that I have your attention. My experience is that manure/compost/lagoon water is awesome on small grain forage. I use oats and triticale specifically. I can’t get synthetic fertilizer to keep up.
    I’ll give an example: A few years ago was a wet spring, and we had a delayed harvest. We started leapfrogging fields that would be “dry cow feed” and trying to catch up with and harvest younger triticale that could still be used in milking cow rations.
    We came back through to clean up the old-headed out trit, figuring everything we skipped is now dry cow feed. To our amazement, the triticale that had lagoon water applied had the highest yield, was completely headed out, and still tested good enough to make dairy cow feed. The trit fertilized with synthetic fertilizer was dry cow feed, and was of lower quality.
    Sometimes new discoveries are made by mistake.
    I stand firm that–according to my experience–manure based fertilizer makes my oats and triticale superior in both yield and quality.
    If the “haylage” in this paper is a grass, (and especially a small grain forage), then that is completely consistent with my experience. Manure based fertilizer blows the doors off of synthetic fertilizer in this situation. What is making this happen, and can I copy it with synthetic fertilizer? I haven’t found the key, yet.
    But “Haylage” is a term that means different things to different people. To me, it has always meant “alfalfa.” What is it referring to in this report?

  74. OK, but my feeding crew is gonna give me that old familiar deer in the headlights stare when I insist on everyone around here saying stuff like “predominantly alfalfa mixed hay crop silage” and “mixed mostly grass hay crop silage”. No telling what they might mix up for the cows then ;>)

  75. Nice deceptive article. You should not be taking antioxidant supplements. The food is sufficient enough. Bunk article. Nice try though

  76. Fools?
    Yet you prove my point that organic produce and dairy is nutritionally superior and study shows that consumers are exposed to less pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.
    I’ll have to reiterate for those who take blanket statements and run with them like you, this does not mean all organic farmers or corporations follow proper practice and procedures.
    Thank you for trying to downgrade my facts but yet I am correct. Thanks bud 🙂

  77. Ha, more myths to distract from the myths already debunked. You organic zealots have nothing but myths and deliberate lies. That’s what organic customers receive for 2X and 3X the price!
    Your omega fatty acids aren’t in sufficient concentration to impact health at all in quantities consumed in milk. Any potential benefits are grossly exaggerated. As usual.
    Your antioxidants are looking like they will prove out to more likely cause cancer than prevent it. But still you brag on them. Fool.
    Organic produce is proven to harbor pesticide residues over 40% of the time, some 4% being ILLEGAL pesticide residues. Far from being pesticide free as organic is assumed to be.
    All milk contains hormones, simply because all cows contain hormones. No discernible difference between organic and conventional milk there. Just another urban myth.
    No retail milk contains antibiotics. All milk is screened for antibiotic residues before being processed into the food supply. All of it. There are no antibiotics in any milk anyone will buy from any grocery store anywhere, ever.
    So then, NO DIFFERENCE between effete elitist organic and abundant safe affordable food except price — organic is 2X to 3X the price of good wholesome ordinary food. Only naive fools waste their grocery money on organic schlock. A fool and her grocery money are easily parted!! Fools.

  78. Idk why you keep calling me a fool and calling me a liar. What are you so angry and insecure about? What are you trying to hide?
    Thanks again for proving my point that organic products are nutritionally superior.
    Please provide something that says antioxidants in fruits and veggies are cancerous. Antioxidant supplements along with any other supplement is just junk science products.

  79. Omega 3 to 6 ratio is very important when consuming products is very important for health. Are you trying to continue to spread misleading information? It’s quite strange how you anti organic folks fly around like flies. Promoting anti organic jargon.
    Do you know that the 40% that test for illegal pesticides are mainly imports and from very few farmers who provide poor practice. That is why you have to look deep and not be fooled by misleading jargon these anti organic folk are spreading. For some reason you are trying to guide consumers in a different direction for some sort of odd purpose. You fight my facts than agree with my facts and than try to put my facts down in the dirt to be buried and not be proud of. Quite an interesting tactic you are attempting. Your best attack is doing personal attacks are calling people fools, zealots, and whatever other name you feel. It’s quite a weak strategy. Sorry you are failing and trying so hard…

  80. Oh and you call me a liar but my facts so far have been truthful and you have even admitted to them. So who’s the liar here?

  81. You’ve been given a ref before, AgroforestryWTF, and you’ve ignored it. But here you go one final time…
    Your organic claims founder but they’re all you’ve got, so you invoke wishful thinking – reciting your lies over and over will eventually make them true, right? Ha, ha, ha, bwaaa, haa, haa, ha, ha, ha! Good day and good riddance to you. Fool.

  82. That’s talking about antioxidant supplements. Anyone with half a brain knows this is about supplements. Not the trait in the fruits and veggies. Come on now. I know you have a brain. Try to use it better

  83. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…your “facts” AgroforestryWTF are anything but facts. Wishful thinking and deceptive advertising, more like. Same old organic snake oil pitch. Yawn. Go mess up a perfectly good field by planting a scrubby tree in the middle of it, why doncha? Heh, heh, heh.

  84. Parsing and splitting hairs. More organic snake oil. Give it a rest AgroforestryWTF, you’re repeating yourself.

  85. You need to check your standards instead of just jerking your knees. The article is from the NEJM. “The Promise and Perils of Antioxidants for Cancer Patients” appears in The New England Journal of Medicine on July 10, 2014.
    Your continued failure to source your claims, while dismissing quality sources, is pretty telling to everyone watching.

  86. Nice try bud. We know you are the one trying to spread misleading information. Many people know you are full of it

  87. “So I suspect a lot of the discrepancy in the haylage yields (and perhaps some of the dry hay yields) is confusion over “first cutting” yields versus total seasonal yield.”
    — If organic was reporting annual yield and conventional was reporting first cutting, that would indeed be pretty problematic for our analysis, and I hadn’t thought of it before you mentioned it. Based on the yields, it seemed like a plausible explanation, so I looked up the NASS survey instrument to figure out if this may be different between the two surveys. For the organic survey: “If two or more cuttings were made from the same acres, report total production from all cuttings.” And from the conventional survey: “What was the total production of from all cuttings?” It seems there is little room for confusion on this point, so both seem to be yield per acre from all cuttings that year.

  88. Sounds alright. Any chance the the organic survey reported “as fed” or wet weight and conventional reported “dry matter’ or dry weight? That would also be almost exactly the discrepancy.
    I just question the likelihood that any production method routinely produces 50% more comparable product than another. I’ve been trying to think of another example I’m familiar with in field crops with that degree of reliable difference., but so far I’m drawing a blank. A 50% increase is practically unheard of, so either you guys have stumbled onto a potential Nobel Prize discovery here or there’s an error hiding in a spreadsheet algorithm somewhere.
    I do want to thank you for making these comparisons, though, and would encourage you to keep building on this line of research.
    You mention reductionist science, and one hierarchal level you might explore next would be to look at net food production over a 15 or 20 year span comparing various crop rotations. Organic appears to struggle at that level, as well, when you begin adding in extra fallow/non-food crops to an organic rotation. For example, if a conventional rotation is 3 years of food crop and 2 years of non-food crop, and organic is 2 years of food crop and 3 years of non-food crop, even if we credit organic with equal “crop yield” annually we find in 5 year’s time conventional has out-produced organic in food crops by 50%, all other things being equal. This sort of thing is a real consideration out here on commercial farms and it has obvious implications when attempting to “feed the world”.
    Thanks again for your efforts in this area. You’re alright in my book…for an agroecologist ;>)

  89. Comical. Let’s try to stick to the food and not the supplements. Please provide something else worth reading. This article is a joke when speaking about organic products being nutritional superior to its counterparts

  90. You really need to stop embarassing yourself. I don’t know if you are incapable of reading, or your organic goggles are preventing you from grasping it, but it’s really baffling.

  91. You just can’t wrap your head around the concept that a manure-based fertilizer might be better, can you! 🙂
    Like I’m sure you do, we cut forage based on quality every time possible–which means we sacrifice yield for quality. As you well know, sometimes mother nature just doesn’t cooperate, and that is where second tier feed comes in (dry cow feed we call it)
    My experience with triticale (and oats) is that a 50% yield increase with the same quality is common when using manure-based fertilizer. It has happened year after year. I might get 3-5 DM tons from synthetic fertilizer, and get 5-7+ DM tons when we’ve hammered the lagoon water to it (through pivots)–with the higher yield being better quality. It is similar results with pen pack or compost.
    I do not see the same results with alfalfa.
    And now I remember a new xxxxxlage term. (since we don’t have enough confusion, apparently) Blacklage. Moldy alfalfa taken off the field as a salvage operation–with hopes it will be good enough to become poop.

  92. Andrew, this is indeed an interesting analysis. Most is more or less what I would have expected based on both a reading of the useful literature and my own observations. My general expectation is that grain yields would be roughly 60%, but hay yields (depending on the type of hay) about the same. Alfalfa hay would be less (unless you get to count the grass weed weight), but grass hay much the same.
    Which brings us to haylage. Here I am struggling to understand why there is such a difference between the systems. I am wondering whether there might be some differing definitions of what constitutes haylage between the organic growers and conventional growers, or whether there are differences in preferences for storage of forage that might bias the production results? If one group had a preference for haylage and another a preference for hay. Certainly in Australia haylage is very much a specialist activity with most conventional producers opting for hay or silage depending on how close they are to their markets and what stock they have. Hay is cheaper to store and transport than silage and is typically fed to both sheep and cattle, whereas silage is mostly used in dairy.
    So any ideas?

  93. Hey I am not a super rich spud farmer like you, cant afford a boom sprayer. Here the alfalfa stays pretty much weed free, unless you fertilize too much.

  94. So why waste you money on Organic produce? Conventional produce only tests positive for pesticides 60% of the time and the test conventional produce for 30% more pesticides.
    Name one farmer that has lost organic certification due to cheating?
    There is nothing to lose.

  95. Says the person posting about supplements and the article is very misleading with very little scientific explanations. Come on. I know y’all are smarter than this. Keep trying

  96. Now, JRS, you know I like and respect you, but your local bias is showing and your bullheaded obsession with triticale and oats is wearing a little thin Keep that sh!t up, and you’ll become as abrasive as I am ;>)
    Actually, if your surmise that ALL of organic agriculture’s “haylage”, as USDA refers to it, is triticale, and that ALL of conventional agriculture’s “haylage” is run out stands of pure alfalfa, except where it’s prairie grasses and weeds, then OK, maybe the numbers add up…that’s IF organic dairymen in your neighborhood perch themselves at the very precipice of current agronomic capability (organic dairymen around here all farm like my grandpa did, using his same manure management, except when they neglect their agronomy altogether).
    I don’t know your situation, JRS, but I think I know mine. We’ve been using almost exclusively manure-based fertilization these past 15 years, since here with the dairy we have plenty of manure and since we’ve adopted and pushed forward our mandatory nutrient management planning. We also are not droughty or water deficient where we are. Now, prior to all-manure fertilization we used a fair amount of synthetic fertilizer on parts of our dairy, including goosing each cutting of grass hay crop silage with nitrogen. Our yields were good then, they are better now..but nowhere close to 50% better, not even close. The magic you experience doesn’t happen for us, but I wish to hell it would — anytime I can apply some manure and get a 50% boost in production I want to know about it! I mean, we’ve got the manure and the equipment and the skilled field crew to git-r-done. I guess it must be one of those eerie phenomena that happens only in the wild and wooly west — we tenderfeet hear about a lot of that sort of really cool amazing stuff from out in your neck of the woods ;>)
    Anyway, I’ve crunched a few USDA/ERS/NASS numbers in my day and, accurate and useful as they are, I learned early on to exercise extreme care how I had to mix and match ’em to compile a useful spreadsheet. This I learned after embarrassing myself once or twice with what I thought was my best effort springing from good intentions. Going back in and correcting an error improved my effort and that was finally validated by results out here in the field. I’ve always chalked that sort of learning experience up to the wonder-working providence of science.
    Finally, apart from your personal testimonial about triticale/oats, I’m still wracking my feeble pistachio nut-sized brain to draw up a definitive list of field crops that, in the hands of typically capable producers and with only a minor production tweak (and a retro anti-technology tweak, at that), will routinely and predictably exhibit a 50% increase in performance…or a modern techno-tweak that assures a 50% decrease (and that, inexplicably, we have universally adopted). I have to admit it, the problem is beyond me.
    Since we haven’t been shown the raw USDA/ERS/NASS data, so we really must assume organic, magical as it is, produces always within the 90 – 100% range on the spectrum, infering conventional producers, all of us, fail so consistently in our work as to strike an average production no better than the 60 -65% range. For hay crop silage! And, like walking around with our fly unzipped, we’ve never known about it! We’re only being told about it now, after all these decades of mediocrity. As I explained to Dr. Kniss, either you guys have stumbled onto a Nobel Prize discovery here with this astonishing 50% increase…or there’s an error lurking in a spreadsheet algorithm somewhere. Awaiting disclosure of the raw data, I am respectfully withholding my congratulations on the Nobel Prize. I think any competent peer reviewer would do the same…except out west, right JRS? ;>) ;>0 ;>P
    Cheers, All
    PS: We Easterners seldom encounter your “blacklage”, JRS, but we do get our share of potential “snotlage” if the weather insists upon being uncooperative (which it occasionally does). When that happens, unlike you Westerners, we Easterners simply cave in to expediency and chop the stuff back onto the ground without the labor and expense of ensiling the unpromising mess, feeding it, knocking our herd and milk production on it’s ass, and finally spreading the regrettable aftermath back on the field. Hell, we just short-circuit the impending debacle — chop it directly back on the field (where it was going to end up one way or another anyway) and move on to the next location to put up top quality forage that’s acceptable feed for a high producing herd. There will be another cutting and the weather will probably be more cooperative then. Just another lazy quirk we phlegmatic Easterners have sunk to, oblivious to the prideful disdain of heroic Westerners in their vitality who always bow to tradition and revel in completing the entire bar brawl (with broken mirror, furniture and knuckles) before finally settling the little disagreement that started the whole thing, heh, heh ;>)

  97. I think you nailed it when you said that “haylage” is not the same crop when comparing organic and conventional.
    That takes it back to that xxxxxlage problem. What the heck is xxxxxlage? It can be anything,any crop can be in it. and it is highly likely a different mix of crops in conventional production than it is in organic production.
    Literally could be comparing apples to oranges for all we know. Applage or Orangage put up as balage.

  98. Agreed. Imagine being a USDA nerd and the big boss bureaucrat has assigned you the “simple” task of surveying, compiling and summarizing useful data on “haylage” production across the nation. More to the point, you have to distill your observations to one single value representative of the whole. Those are the rules of the game you are being forced to play. If you are a conscientious data geek you quit in disgust before you blow a gasket and drain out all over the cubicle floor, or if you are the typical low level bureaucrat you do the best you can to compile the goddam thing, cloak it in the most vague and distracting terminology you think you can get away with, hope nobody ever asks any probing questions and call it a good day’s work.
    Anyway, we all do the best we can with what we have to work with. Agriculture is a fantastically complex, excitingly individual, frustratingly elusive, wildly speculative, intensely boring, overwhelmingly challenging, gently reassuring, subtly audacious, raucously bland, intriguingly puzzling, blatantly obvious addictive human endeavor…and all before lunchtime, every damned day.

  99. Agreed. Imagine being a USDA nerd and the big boss bureaucrat has assigned you the “simple” task of surveying, compiling and summarizing useful data on “haylage” production across the nation. More to the point, you have to distill your observations to one single value representative of the whole. Those are the rules of the game you are being forced to play. If you are a conscientious beancounter you quit in disgust before you blow a gasket and drain out all over the cubicle floor, or if you are the typical low level bureaucrat you do the best you can to compile the goddam thing, cloak it in the most vague and distracting terminology you think you might get away with, hope nobody ever asks any probing questions and call it a good day’s work in the press release. Hey, we all have our cross to bear.
    Anyway, each of us does the best we can with what we have to work with. Agriculture is a fantastically complex, excitingly individual, frustratingly elusive, wildly speculative, intensely boring, overwhelmingly challenging, gently reassuring, subtly audacious, raucously bland, intriguingly puzzling, blatantly obvious addictive human endeavor…and all before lunchtime, every damned day. When all of that stops happening for you it is time to take a job in town greasing garbage trucks or doing great good as a community organizer, or running for public office…or something.

  100. Haylage is not a crop, it is a harvesting process. Furthermore, it is a different process and different crop regionally.
    It shouldn’t be used as a comparison unless the specific crop and the specific process can be defined and consistently compared. The same applies to “hay.”

  101. LOL, well the idea is right, but NASS isn’t quite that obscure 🙂 They actually do consider these topics and try to define them as best as possible, but as you point out, they do need to summarize everything in the end, which always entails a loss of information. For the record, I did put in an inquiry re: definitions on “haylage”, “silage”, etc with a friend there. I’ll let you know if I hear back. You all have made some very good and interesting points around this.

  102. I think you are incapable of realizing what you are providing is junk and irrelevant. I thought you people were supposed to be smart and scientific. I’m very disappointed in the lack of common sense and knowledge in these blogs.

  103. Some of AgroforestryTBD’s other comments over the last few days:
    Vaccines don’t work. It’s all about the gut microbiome. You have been tricked buddy
    Simple research on human vaccine trials shows there is no difference. Education has failed you buddy

    Vaccines are as good as a placebo.
    Trump would be amazing for the US. He cares about the well being of people and the country
    I think this one may be lost to the Twilight Zone …

  104. They are starting to become more popular here in the larger dairy operations, too. I think it’s a neat idea, but I don’t know anything about lifecycle costing of these systems – haven’t looked at that. Most of the systems I’ve seen are using the methane to run a boiler for process water, and I would think that would be relatively trouble-free as long as it weren’t an advanced technology boiler like a mod-con.

  105. That’s an interesting observation. Here’s a guess on my part: Farmer Bob endorses the ideology of organic production and starts to farm using those methods. Then reality sets in. A weed escape or an insect infestation happens that could break Farmer Bob financially. At that point, what is he to do? Go down with the ideological ship, or save his operation and live to try again?

  106. I’m too lazy to look, but maybe you know: In that USDA study that showed so many organic violations, were those produce samples taken at the farm level, at the wholesaler level or somewhere else?
    I remember an LA Times story a couple of years ago where they followed vendors at a supposedly organic farmers market, and a bunch of them were buying conventional produce and misrepresenting it as organic.

  107. Speaking of risk of losing, a couple of the big-player farm management companies here are quietly recommending to their clients to not rent to organic farmers, FWIW.

  108. Here’s a question for you: What kind of reaction to the term, “agroecology” do you see from farmers in your area?
    Around here (IA) it’s almost guaranteed to generate a negative reaction. And that’s too bad, in my opinion. Uneducated urban activists have taken over “agroecology” and polluted it with biodynamics, and wacko stuff like that.
    I think it’s a real shame that’s happened. Maybe Dr. Kniss and the other real agroecologists can salvage the term, or maybe even come up with a new one that won’t be co-opted. The point being, study of natural processes, gaining understanding of them and applying them to agriculture is an important area of study, at least I think so.

  109. Chances are, though, that USDA subcontracted that surveying task. So it wouldn’t be a meek USDA lackey, it would be a meek contract lackey working for some big company, likely a division of a defense contractor or a global I.T. company. Only real difference is the lackey working for the contractor wouldn’t be getting good benefits or any retirement.
    But point taken.

  110. And if nothing else, the NASS survey programs are persistent. If I ignore a survey that comes in the mail, I get phone calls. If it’s a serious big deal like the Census of Agriculture, they’ll actually send people out to my place.
    Really, though, if the various parts and pieces of USDA could get their act together, they’d know that I have to submit data for crop insurance (USDA-RMA) and a lot of their efforts are redundant. They should be able to take data from one alphabet subdivision and share it with another, or so you’d think.

  111. Risk of nonpayment is a factor, but the big thing is damage to the land.
    One bozo that doesn’t control weeds effectively can cause a problem that will take a decade to fix. Same is true with nutrient mismanagement, but that’s harder to see than a weed problem.
    It’s pretty hard to take a shoestring organic operator to court after lease expiration and make him pay for damage he can’t cover…blood out of an organic turnip, so to speak.

  112. But but but organic farmers care about enriching the soil and microbiome!!!

  113. If you read baloney from OCA, EWG, CFS, then yes. Groups that have nothing to do with actual farming and are just peddling ideology.
    Here in the real world, no.
    A conventional farmer renter can cause a problem that could take a decade to fix, too, in fairness. But that’s much less likely than a shoestring organic operator.
    There’s a farm management company based near me that’s recognized as the leader in their field (no pun intended). Their name happens to be the same as a major car rental company (that starts with, “H”, cough-cough). It wouldn’t be a waste of your time to read up on the business. The more you know, the more ridiculous the claims from the activist groups look. They do a good job of trying to get good returns for their landowner clients and also being relatively fair to farmer tenants. For what it’s worth from my seat…

  114. Why is it that when you show irrefutable evidence to Ted (Razorburn et al) from a non-biased source, they deny deny deny?
    And for that matter, why would India revoke the patent on Mon 531 claiming it didn’t work when their own research institution inserted the very same traits into their own cotton to be sold to Indian farmers. (This part is rhetorical, and I hope no company is foolish enough to introduce any new GM into India as a result)

  115. It’s all ideologically driven with Ted and his army of socks. That’s it, full stop.
    Ted and the universe of ideologically-driven empty heads have no choice but to deny, deny, deny. Otherwise their heads would asplode having to deal with the cognitive dissonance.
    The India/Monsanto cotton thing? It wouldn’t be the first time that a country tried to nationalize an industry just to screw a foreign company (and not having the technical chops on their own to build that industry).
    Hell, look at what the Chileans did to their domestic copper business. Do you think those tree-swinging natives could have built a major industry like copper mining on their own? Oh, hell no. Same deal with the Indians and cotton. MON is calling their bluff and bailing. Smart move, if you ask me.

  116. All the samples in the USDA Organic study were purchased at various retail stores across your great nation. My Nation did the same test 2 years earlier, and had similar results (slightly worse). But still to this day they haven’t released the data, just a press release.

  117. Well I think that most of the big organic growers are also conventional growers, and they are honest about it. They most likely rotate fields in and out of organic production, to keep the weed and insect pressure down to a min.
    The others that have swallowed the ideology, are the cheaters. Especially the smaller producers, one big outbreak and they are done. The bank does not take “Good Intentions” and moldy veggies as payment.
    I am still waiting for the Organic cotton test…. I am betting that over 50% is GMO.
    I would also like to see an organic corn test, that would be interesting.

  118. Hmmm…sounds like some kind of Canadian conspiracy to me!
    I think my, “Farmer Bob” scenario still has merit…

  119. Yep. I think it’s a lot like the old saying, “There are no atheists in a foxhole.”
    Ideology is great, until one’s bacon is about to be cooked…involuntarily.

  120. Chilean copper mines, the epitome of workplace safety. Oh, wait, the workers know that they’re at a huge risk of dying but the pay is so good they just can’t say no.
    I’m glad Monsanto pulled out, I just hope they were able to recoup their investment in that backwards land. Now who will Vandana Shiva blame when Bt cotton crops fail? Oh dear.

  121. “There are no atheists in a foxhole.”
    True that.
    Talking about bacon, I have no idea how they could raise hogs commercially using Organic methods, there has to be rampant cheating in that industry as well. Organic bans all modern disinfectants. that has disaster written all over it.

  122. American consumers just aren’t very well informed, though.
    Most Americans think that Canadian Bacon is just ham. Totally different part of the hog.
    And stuff like this is what gets me. “I want locally grown” when they don’t know what the parts of a hog are.

  123. Oh, I’m sure it will be the legacy of the departure of Monsanto, in Shiva-World.
    “They left the poor farmers with no native seeds and no future!1!1”
    “So they had no choice but to snort RoundUp!1!1!” Except that would be gramoxone, not RoundUp that kills via inhalation…
    “Ebil Monsanto seedz!” in other words. Make signs and chant!
    It’s just like Hannity and Limbaugh. They have to feed their faithful, no matter how far-fetched it is. Limbaugh was braying the other day about how the polls don’t count, because pollsters survey registered voters, and the Drumpf supporters aren’t being counted.
    Bread and circuses, whether it’s farming/food or politics.

  124. How can they be well informed? There is so much deceptive advertizing out there, “all natural”, “Hormone free”, “Pesticide Free”, and other total lies.
    Local is a new one and there is no real definition, so is local the same county, the same area, the same country, the same time zone, the same continent, same hemisphere, the same planet? No one knows.

  125. I think she will say “Indian farmers forgot how to farm naturally” They were corrupted by the evil multinationals, and only I can save them by teaching them how to farm again…

  126. I normally dismiss conspiracy theories, but I did ask Ag Canada for the data and they sent me a polite letter claiming that they cant release the data, because their corporate partner has not approved the release.

  127. Corporate organic partner?
    Must be some kind of smokescreen to cover what Monsanto is doing!

  128. Yabbut, Canadian Bacon isn’t ham for Pete’s sake!
    Once in a while I want Canadian Bacon on a pizza. Not ham.
    A good pizza place knows Canadian Bacon is lean, so it needs to go under the cheese so it doesn’t get all chewy.
    This is not rocket science. I don’t want a free-range quinoa and kale donut. When I want a pizza with Canadian Bacon, I expect the people making the pizza to understand that. I don’t want unchewable hockey pucks of Canadian Bacon on my pizza.

  129. That may be, but, are the organic hay fields benefiting from synthetic N via manure from conventionally fed livestock? If we find hay fields fertilized only by manure in both conventional and organic, it would be interesting to compare those two groups. But we must then also include the land used to feed those animals for the manure they produced.

  130. There are some weak, poorly controlled and equivocal studies showing a difference between nutritional value, but no compelling evidence. And I have found no evidence at all that oft cited differences are clinically relevant. Would be interested to know what you consider the most compelling study that supports your claim.
    More does not equal superior (assuming that organic production really produces more, a claim for which I have not seen convincing evidence). Here is an interesting discussion of antioxidants if you have an open mind: https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/more-trouble-for-antioxidants/

  131. Thanks for sending me another supplement study. That is why I speak on behalf of whole foods and herbs. whole foods are created with a certain balance within them. When we begin to implement supplements and medications we are beginning to throw the balance in a direction that is unknown.
    Not sure if you are like the rest of them trying to prove something wrong with organic foods being nutritionally superior but it’s not working. Not sure why a handful of you are showing me supplement studies but thanks for the read I guess.

  132. The point is that more antioxidants are not better. You don’t have any evidence that more antioxidants are better alone or in a “balanced” form, do you? Guess you can’t cite any studies that demonstrate nutritional superiority of organic produce either. Bet all you can offer is equivocal, poorly controlled studies, pseudoscience and woo. Bet your only argument is that “natural” is better because, well, it’s natural.

  133. And I bet you are the type of person to post anti organic BS that has zero scientific evidence behind it. Just an article that talks about some supplement that has nothing to do with organics nutritional superiority.

  134. The post discussed more than just supplements, so I guess you really did not read it. Furthermore, you are making the claim that organics are nutritionally superior, so it is up to you to support that claim and produce evidence. How am I supposed to present evidence that does not exist? In this case, the absence of evidence to support your claim is evidence that falsifies your claim. Cite one specific study that best supports your claim.

  135. there you go guessing again. How about you just stop wasting my time. You can go back on my previous posts and find them.

  136. I’ve asked NASS for clarification on this. I’ve looked through the survey instruments used for both the December Ag Survey and the Organic Survey to see if there is any obvious difference, and could find none. The questions for haylage/greenchop are worded almost exactly the same, so I don’t see how it could be systematically interpreted differently by the growers who are responding. I’ve asked NASS folks for a confirmation that they didn’t adjust for moisture content in one survey but not the other, or for any other discrepancies they could think of. Most of the other differences you mention I suspect would be regionally important. That is, a farmer in Maine and a farmer in Oklahoma may have very different ideas of what “haylage” is. But I doubt that an organic grower and a conventional grower in Maine would have this same difference in interpretation. And in many cases, farmers grow both organic and conventional crops. So I don’t think this can explain the trend either, since we accounted for (at least state-based) regional differences in the analysis. I will add more if my question to NASS provides any more insight.

  137. Make a claim and tell someone else to find the evidence. I asked you to cite what you considered to be the most compelling research that supports your claim, not for a list of citations. I guess that means there is not a single, compelling citation you can remember. Speaks volumes.

  138. Look at my chat history ding dong. It’s in there. Plus plenty of information in a Google search. It speaks volumes that you are too lazy to do self research. I look things up when people make claims. What you have tried to debunk is utter gibberish and a lack of common sense. Goodbye weak link.

  139. I’ve done the research and read the studies and haven’t found anything to support your claims, that is why I am asking you to cite the single most compelling study you think proves your point. I want to know what kind of study you think is high quality. I actually have looked at your chat history and have found nothing there that supports your claim. Now you’re just dodging.

  140. A week later and he has presented nothing to support his claim. I don’t think you’re going to see anything at this point.

  141. Nevermind, I read your comments about vaccines. All is clear now. You wouldn’t recognize a scientifically valid argument if it smacked you in the face.

  142. I agree. Just trying to give someone I don’t know the benefit of the doubt. Now I know enough not to waste my time on this person ever again.

  143. Look at its posting history. Absolutely nothing that’s fact-based.
    If that’s not enough, read its profile: “”Science” community losing respect. Old people live in bubbles.
    Vitamins are a joke. Preservatives, colorings, additives, medicines, GM
    have not been tested properly. Be Aware or BEWARE”.
    What does that tell you?
    Ya, completely dogma-driven bullpuckey.

  144. Not only an organic evangelist but if you read his posts on non-ag related topics, AgroforestryTBD reveals himself as a typical an anti-science troll with nothing of substance to add to any discussion.

  145. With all due respect, when the “other side” is obviously not interested in a science-based, rational discussion and calls people childish names, perhaps they do not deserve a place at your table.

  146. Yep. And it reacts negatively when called out. Witness my back and forth with it a week ago.

  147. My observation in the south is that when farmers use manure/compost on winter small grains, they incorporate large amounts of it pre-plant in the fall. With the manure being relatively slow release, the plants don’t suffer nitrogen stress in the spring when heads and tillers are forming. With conventional, it is almost always too wet to apply topdressing at the optimum time, and yield suffers as a result, but it is hard to know exactly how much. I think this might explain some of what we are seeing in this data, the slow release of nitrogen, optimum tillering for the stand, and the improved organic matter content of the soil using manure.

  148. This is one of the most level headed write ups I’ve seen on this topic. I think that one major problem with this topic is how condescending many people are. While people who think that chemicals are all bad are very ignorant, they are just trying to do what they think is better or more healthy. Given the history of the shoddy ethics of corporations in the past, it’s understandable why they might think this way. The real issue is green washing and psuedo scientific companies who are monetizing peoples fear and ignorance. Secondly, telling these people that they’re stupid with a smug, elitist attitude isn’t helping either. It seems like there is a lot of focus on these people, and very little focus on calling out pseudo scientific marketing.
    Really, the hyper pro gmo and anti organic crowd are just as ignorant as people who think all chemicals are dangerous. Empirical data shows that there are benefits to organic, and these people are always reluctant to question ethics or acknowledge any negative to conventional methods. Like this article get at, reality is somewhere in the middle between these two approaches to agriculture.

  149. If you have really good reading comprehension skills. You will find out really quick who these people are. Its much deeper than these “scientists” and “farmers” think. Oh and you got the little ones in the background like ‘Captain Moonlight’ who sit in the back of the crowd and say things that require no intelligence. You really cant trust these people in the blogs. You will see the clicks.

Comments are closed.