Is organic farming more energy efficient?
There are a number of scientific studies that show that organic farming systems are more energy efficient, measured in terms of the ratio of energy in and energy out (input/output), than non-organic systems.
One of the main reasons for this is because manufactured nitrogen fertilisers are banned. The chemical reaction to ‘fix’ nitrogen in the Haber-Bosch process requires a lot of energy. On a global scale fertilizer production uses approximately 1.2% of the world’s energy. On a farm scale, manufactured fertilisers are estimated to account for 68% of on-farm commercial energy use in the Global South, and 40% in the Global North.
There is also a relatively low input of other mineral fertilisers such as phosphorus on organic farms, lower use of feed concentrates, and a ban on synthetic pesticides and herbicides which also improve the energy efficiency of organic systems.
The energy efficiency of different farming systems, organic and non-organic, will vary with the crops being grown and the specific farm characteristics such as climate and soil.