Consumers perceive organic produce as safer and healthier, and expect it to have greater nutritional value (see References 1). With respect to rice, agricultural researchers find some discernible advantages for farmers and the environment from growing rice organically. Comparing other qualities of organic and conventionally grown rice, however, scientists find fewer differences than purchasers might expect.
According to a 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Research Service, organically grown rice contains less protein than rice conventionally grown with inorganic fertilizer, but that starch and mineral contents do not differ (see References 3). In a 2007 study published in the "Journal of Agronomy for Sustainable Development," however, researchers found that organic rice contains more iron and less copper than conventional rice (see References 5).
Taste and Cooking Quality
Researchers at the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center evaluated 20 different rice cultivars to understand the effect of organic agriculture on rice flavor and texture, and in an Experiment Station Bulletin published in 2009, found no difference in the taste or aroma of organic versus conventionally grown rice. Organic rice did appear to be whiter and softer when cooked than conventional rice. (See References 2)
Impact on Soil Quality
In a 2004 study in the "Journal of Sustainable Agriculture," scientists found that using organic methods improved the quality of soil. Improved soil quality, defined as looser, deeper mud, made it easier to prepare paddies and control weeds. The researchers attributed the improvement to the higher levels of soil organic matter in organically managed rice paddies, as a result of farming practices such as crop residue recycling and application of animal manure. (See References 6)
Profitability for Farmers
In studies of rice farming in the Philippines, Teodoro C. Mendoza found organic farming requires only 1/3 the cash capital needed for conventional rice production, but necessitates more manual labor in the form of weeding, spreading straw and applying manure and compost and controlling snails by hand-picking (see References 6). Growing rice organically is four times more energy efficient than the conventional method. As a result of the lower input and energy costs, organic rice farmers in the Philippines earn $7 per $1 cash expense, while conventional farmers earn only $2 per $1 of expense. (See References 4)
- "The Journal of Agrobiotechnology, Management & Economics"; Perceptions of Genetically Modified and Organic Foods and Processes; Jon C. Anderson, et al.; 2006
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service: Update on Organic Rice Research: Texas Rice, Highlighting Research in 2009; A.M. McClung; July 2009
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service; Effects of Fertilizer Inputs and Conventional Versus Organic Management on the Physiocochemical Properties and Sensory Quality of Diverse Rice Cultivars; Elaine T. Champagne, et al.; November 2006
- "Livestock Research for Rural Development"; Comparative Productivity, Profitability and Energy Use in Organic, LEISA and Conventional Rice Production in the Philippines; T.C. Mendoza; December 2002
- "Agronomy for Sustainable Development"; Nutritional Quality of Organic Rice Grown on Organic Composts; Supradip Saha, et al.; March 2007
- "Journal of Sustainable Agriculture"; Evaluating the Benefits of Organic Farming in Rice Agroecosystems in the Philippines; Teodoro C. Mendoza; 2004
Grace Grimm has been a professional writer since 2008. Her work on birding and the environment has appeared in "The Jack Pine Warbler: The Magazine of Michigan Audubon," "The Pine Press" and on numerous websites. She is an ecologist with a bachelor's degree in zoology and a master's degree in conservation biology.
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