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Nelson Mandela University (2019)

Comparing organic and conventional farming systems in George, South Africa

Swanepoel, Marike

Titre : Comparing organic and conventional farming systems in George, South Africa

Auteur : Swanepoel, Marike

Université de soutenance : Nelson Mandela University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2019

This study presents some of the findings of a long-term comparative study at the Nelson Mandela University George campus which started in 2014. This research compares the differences in crop yields and soil fertility under conventional and organic farming systems. Although previous research that was conducted will be presented briefly, the main focus of this dissertation is to report on the research results generated during the 2016/17 and 2017/18 cropping seasons. The baseline study (indicator measurements) was done in 2014 and investigated soil fertility before the different farming systems were implemented. The rapid increase in human population threatens food security, especially in developing countries. Climate change together with the degradation of soil and other natural resources due to high-input industrial farming, provide further challenges in terms of agriculture and future food security. Agricultural production in South Africa faces three obstacles : water scarcity, infertile soils and poor institutional support. Therefore, regenerative and sustainable agriculture practices such as organic farming, are increasingly being promoted as an alternative to conventional farming systems in southern Africa. What is the best way of farming ? This is the question every farmer is confronted with. Some say organic whilst others say conventional, but how do we determine this ? What is the role of crop rotation in pest management, soil fertility and crop yield ? So we set up the research to compare the two farming systems so that decisions can be based on sound scientific findings. Results showed a significant increase in the case of the organic yield in season 2016/17 for cabbage and in both seasons (2016/17 & 2017/18) for cowpea and sweet potato, proving that organic farming yields can increase over time. Soil fertility changes from the baseline year (2014) till the end of season 2017/18 were compared. Overall organic farming systems showed very promising results with higher levels of soil pH followed by a significant increase in important soil nutrients (P, K & C) compared to conventional systems. Crop rotation also had positive effects.

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