Organic Wheat: Epic Fail?

frumento biologico epic fail

Organic wheat…epic fail? Today I wanted to tell you about my not exactly positive experience with the crop I sowed in October last year… Since life isn’t all roses and flowers, it’s only right that we also talk about failures; therefore, I am here to tell you mine and to make some general considerations on organic farming.

In October 2022 I sowed organic soft wheat. It was the first sowing carried out directly by us, because until the year before, not having the means yet, I entrusted myself to a contractor. Once we figured out how to calibrate the seed drill for wheat (I did about ten tests to be sure of the quantity), and decided on the quality (I opted for the Bologna), we started sowing.

The first mistake I made was a misjudgment on the amount of seed used. As you may know, the use of chemical herbicides is prohibited in organic farming, therefore, following the advice of other farmers more experienced than me, I decided to slightly increase the amount of seed per hectare, in order to try to contrast the birth of weed plants. The strategy worked for the first period, until around March only the wheat could be seen in the field then, also thanks to the abundant rains of the following months, the weeds “exploded” and invaded the fields, so much so that in part of the land the wheat has been completely overgrown by weeds. The decision to sow more densely had another negative consequence: the ears developed less and remained smaller than they should have, therefore the final yield was lower.

In the normal cultivation of wheat, in the spring, in addition to weeding, fertilization is foreseen. Since only certain types of fertilizers are permitted in organic farming, the lack of spring fertilization also turned out to be a point against me. Before wheat, there was the protein pea in the field. Like other legumes, the pea has a nitrogen-fixing and soil-improving action, but nothing replaces the effect of targeted fertilization in the right period of plant growth.

Depending on the crops, organic farming has on average 30-40% lower yields than conventional farming. Crop rotations, any fertilizations with manure or other authorized amendments and mechanical weeding techniques are not sufficient to guarantee the same harvest that can be obtained by making targeted interventions at the right times as is done in conventional agriculture. It is true that the organic product is paid more than the traditional one to counterbalance the fact of having lower yields, however, talking to both other organic producers and traders, we have all noticed that, in recent times, it is hard to “place” the organic product. There is a wholesale trend of buying organic products that come from abroad, because they cost less than the Italian product. Even if, however, I wouldn’t put my hand on the fire on the quality of organic products of foreign origin…

Did this organic wheat epic fail of mine serve as a lesson for me for years to come? Certainly! Is it my fault or are there flaws in the biological system? I honestly don’t know how to answer this. All these considerations led me to ask myself if I really want to continue on the path of organic farming or if I should instead switch to traditional agriculture.

What do you think about it? I’d be curious to read your comments! I’ll wait for you also on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube channel! See you soon!