In the tug of war over whether organic farming is really better than conventional chemical-laden farming, a new study in the online peer-reviewed journal PLoS One comes out solidly in support of the benefits of organic. Self-described as the most comprehensive study of its kind, researchers from Washington State University found that commercial organic farms produce was more flavorful and nutritious strawberries, while leaving the soil healthier and genetically diverse.
In coming to that conclusion, the scientists analyzed 31 chemical and biological soil properties, soil DNA, as well as the taste, nutrition and quality of three strawberry varieties on 13 organic farms and 13 chemical farms in California, where 90% of the US strawberry crop is grown.
Science Daily sums up the findings:
- The organic strawberries had significantly higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds.
- The organic strawberries had longer shelf life.
- The organic strawberries had more dry matter, or, “more strawberry in the strawberry.”
- Anonymous testers, working at times under red light so the fruit color would not bias them, found one variety of organic strawberries was sweeter, had better flavor, and once a white light was turned on, appearance. The testers judged the two other varieties to be similar.
As far as soil quality goes, DNA analysis showed the organically managed soils to have more total and unique genes, as well as greater genetic diversity. Organic soils also were superior in carbon sequestration, microbial biomass, enzyme activity, and micronutrients.