Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Advantages of buying organic food

There are a number of really great advantages to buying organic foods (especially vegetables and fruits), over buying conventionally grown foods:

1. Organic foods contain more nutrients
Studies have shown that foods grown organically have more of the nutrients available in the foods, compared to foods grown conventionally.

A report produced by the Organic Center and University of Florida reviewed 97 studies to compare the nutritional value of organic and conventionally grown plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits and cereals/grains). The authors of the review determined that the organic produce contained higher levels of eight of the ten nutrients reviewed. The review pointed out that the organic foods had much higher concentrations of a number of antioxidants and phytonutrients than the conventionally grown foods. The levels of the nutrients that were examined in the review were: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, four types of phytonutrients, protein.

Additionally, other studies suggest that organically grown foods have higher levels of iron, magnesium than foods grown conventionally.

2. Organically grown foods are better for the soil
Organically grown foods, by definition are better for the soil, as they use gentle and well established farming methods, which are known not to harm the soils. Organically grown foods use natural fertilisers, natural pesticides and natural herbicides. Organically grown foods use companion planting, which greatly reduces the need for pest control of any kind. Organically grown foods encourages a healthy ecosystem which provides plant safe insects (such as lady beetles) for pest control (of aphids).  Organic farming potentially offers a means of returning functional evenness to ecosystems.

3. Organically grown foods may help reduce incidence of cancer
Many studies have shown that foods grown organically have much higher levels of antioxidant phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins, flavonoids and carotenoids than conventionally grown foods. Phytochemicals are very important nutrients, as they inhibit the proliferation of certain cancer cells by preventing the mutation of cells, which is how cancer spreads. Studies show that the higher the levels of antioxidants in the blood, the less likelihood of cancer. 

The are a few, minor disadvantages of eating organic foods, which should be mentioned:
  • The cost of organic food can be more expensive than food conventionally grown and produced
  • Sometimes organically grown food (especially fruit and vegetables) can look a little less "perfect" than conventionally grown foods

References:
  • Benbrook C, Zhao X, Yanez J, Davies N, Andrews P. New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-based Organic Foods. March 2008 (PDF). The Organic Center. Accessed 6 July 2010
  • Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Apr;15(1):4-12
  • Crowder DW, Northfield TD, Strand MR, Snyder WE. Organic agriculture promotes evenness and natural pest control. Nature.  2010 Jul 1;466(7302):109-112 
  • Hsu YT, Shen TC, Hwang SY. Soil fertility management and pest responses: a comparison of organic and synthetic fertilization. J Econ Entomol. 2009 Feb;102(1):160-9 
  • Lairon D. Nutritional quality and safety of organic food. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 30 (2010) 33–41 (PDF). Accessed 6 July 2010
  • Raigón MD, Rodríguez-Burruezo A, Prohens J. Effects of organic and conventional cultivation methods on composition of eggplant fruits. J Agric Food Chem.  2010 Jun 9;58(11):6833-40.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Advantages and disadvantages of raised beds vs traditional garden

A small vegetable garden outside Austin, Texas

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to planting in either raised beds or a traditional garden and the use of one over the other, depends on a great number of factors.

Planting in raised beds has a number of advantages: 
  • Provide an extended planting/growing season for the vegetables (generally)
  • Can be used instead of the soil in the ground if it is of poor quality
  • Weeds can be more effectively managed
  • The soil is not compacted and roots of the plants can flourish allowing better plant growth
Planting in raised beds has a number of disadvantages:
  • There is a cost involved in purchasing the border/perimeter materials, which may not be so affordable for some
  • Less of the backyard will be utilised as the raised garden beds take up more room than a traditional garden patch
  • The more raised beds you have in your garden, the higher the costs will be to purchase the materials
  • It takes time to assemble and set up the raised garden bed before planting anything in there
  • Assembling and disassembling the garden bed material is often difficult and cumbersome if you want to move it to another part of the garden, or transport it to another home

Planting a traditional garden has a number of advantages:
  • There are no extra costs associated with planting in the ground
  • Very easy to relocate the garden in different parts of the backyard
  • It's easy to find a spot for you garden, no precise measurements required, just dig where you want to plant your seeds/seedlings
Planting a traditional garden has a number of disadvantages:
  • Planting/growing seasons is strictly limited to time frames within the season, not easy to extend past
  • Soil may be compacted which can cause some plants not to flourish well if their roots do not have freedom
  • Poor quality soil may not always be able to be reconditioned to a more appropriate state with fertilisers and other raw materials
  • It may be costly to try to invigorate poor quality soil to be acceptable for growing vegetables and fruits