Comparing the Environmental and Economic Advantages of Organic and Conventional Farming

by Coco Coyle

In the Niayes region in Senegal, a country on Africa’s western coast, over three quarters of the population rely on local agriculture for their livelihood as well as for food. Furthermore, agriculture causes approximately one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, so investigation of more sustainable farming practices may assist in reducing agriculture’s contribution to global warming. Binta and Barbier (2015) found that in the Niayes region, for farms of the same size, conventional practices are more economically profitable than organic practices. Thus while organic farming results in lesser greenhouse gas emissions and better health for farmers and consumers, conventional practices utilizing inorganic fertilizers and pesticides are more common. Ways to encourage more organic farming would be to develop local markets for organic produce, and to invest in research to improve organic management. Continue reading

Influence of Extreme Weather Disasters on Global Cereal Production

by Coco Coyle

Increases in numbers and intensity of extreme weather disasters are linked to climate change and rising global temperatures. Agriculture is both a cause and a victim of climate change, and is susceptible to natural disasters and extreme weather disasters (EWDs). Lesk et al (2015) estimate global cereal production losses resulting from four major types of EWDs—extreme heat, droughts, extreme cold, and floods—in the period 1964–2007, analyze the underlying processes resulting in those losses, and identify several areas with potential for further study. They found that extreme heat disasters and droughts on average reduced national cereal production by 9–10%, while there was no significant drop in production from extreme cold and floods. Continue reading