In one of the most comprehensive studies of it’s kind, researchers from Washington State University did a side-by-side comparisons of organic and conventional strawberry farms. The study found that the organic farms produced more flavorful and nutritious berries while leaving the soil healthier and more genetically diverse.
Among the findings:
- The organic strawberries had significantly higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds.
- The organic strawberries had longer shelf life.
- The organic strawberries had more dry matter, or, “more strawberry in the strawberry.”
- Anonymous testers, working at times under red light so the fruit color would not bias them, found one variety of organic strawberries was sweeter, had better flavor, and once a white light was turned on, appearance. The testers judged the other two varieties to be similar.
The researchers also found the organic soils excelled in a variety of key chemical and biological properties, including carbon sequestration, nitrogen, microbial biomass, enzyme activities, and micronutrients.
DNA analysis found the organically managed soils had dramatically more total and unique genes and greater genetic diversity, important measures of the soil’s resilience to stress and ability to carry out essential processes.
“Our findings have global implications and advance what we know about the sustainability benefits of organic farming systems,” said John Reganold, Washington State University Regents professor of soil science and lead author of a paper published in the peer-reviewed online journal, PLoS ONE. “We also show you can have high quality, healthy produce without resorting to an arsenal of pesticides.”
For the study, researchers analyzed 31 chemical and biological soil properties, soil DNA, and the taste, nutrition and quality of three strawberry varieties from 13 conventional and 13 organic farms in California, where 90 percent of the nations strawberries are grown.
“There is no paper in the literature that comprehensively and quantitatively compares so many indices of both food and soil quality at multiple sampling times on so many commercial farms,” said Reganold.
Washington State University