Organic Apple Study

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

A new American study has found that organic farming is not only good for the environment. The study found that organic farming can increase profits for farmers. It also found that trees grown organically can produce better tasting fruit.

Scientists from Washington State University organized the study. Their experiment is believed to be one of the first to compare the effectiveness of organic farming with other methods.

Organic farmers do not use chemicals to increase their crops or to control insects, weeds and disease. Many people believe eating organic food is more healthful than eating food produced with chemicals. Americans are willing to pay more for organic food products. Organic food is one of the fastest growing areas of American agriculture. The number of organic farmers is growing at a rate of about twelve percent each year.

In the study, the scientists grew Golden Delicious apples on three experimental farms in Washington state. The scientists used a different method on each farm. On one farm, they treated the apple trees with fertilizer products and chemicals to kill insects.

The scientists used organic farming methods to grow apples on the second farm. They used natural wastes as fertilizer and biological methods to control insects. On the third farm, the scientists used both methods. They added chemical treatments, but limited their use.

The Washington State University scientists kept detailed records of their experiment. They measured the different kinds of fertilizer and chemicals used. They even measured the amount of fuel used by farm machinery. The scientists produced an environmental report for each growing method. Nature magazine reported their findings.

The scientists found that the organic system took longer than the other methods to earn a profit. However, organic farming was the most energy efficient and did the least harm to the environment. It provided more profit by the end of the six-year study. People who tasted all the apples said the organic apples tasted the sweetest.

Several agricultural experts praised the study. But others questioned the findings. They noted that some organic crops may grow well in Washington State, but not in other areas.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English