Data collected and published by USDA scientists from long-term agricultural research stations in Iowa and Maryland found that organic cropping systems sequestered significantly more carbon in the soil than comparable conventional cropping systems. Another analysis published by European researchers examined data from over 70 different studies to determine how transitioning from conventional farming to organic farming affected soil organic carbon. They found that agricultural soils under organic management stored a lot more carbon compared to those under conventional management, confirming the potential of organic agriculture to contribute to climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration.

Additionally, studies that compare energy efficiency of organic farms to conventional farms continue to find that organic farms are more energy efficient. 

Are there certain areas where more research is really needed?

TM: One of the top areas where I see a real research need is developing scientifically supported agronomic practices to improve the sustainability of our agricultural system while simultaneously providing benefit to farmers—hence creating incentive for the agricultural industry to implement environmentally friendly practices. For example, some research suggests that organic practices that build soil health also make crops more resilient to climate change by increasing the ability of soils to retain water in drought conditions and improving the structure of the soil to make it more resistant to erosion during heavy rains. I think that as the reality of climate change sets in, more farmers are going to start looking for new solutions. If science demonstrates that the best on-farm practices to protect crop yields during severe weather events are the same best practices that mitigate climate change and build soil health, everyone wins.

Another area needing more research is the development of crop varieties that are adapted to organic production systems and extreme weather such as heat or drought. Nearly all crop varieties planted in the U.S. are developed for high-input agricultural systems that maximize yield above all else. As a result, most organic growers only have access to crop varieties not developed for organic systems, let alone a changing climate. Increased research into climate-resilient varieties that are adapted to organic management systems is imperative for increasing and maintaining yields needed to meet the growing demand for organic products (let alone the food demands of a growing population).