Organic Pioneer: Dr. David Pimentel

Major issues associated with industrial food production led Dr. David Pimentel to research human population and to champion pesticide reduction and energy conservation. Pimentel is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University and coauthored the 22-year review of the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial in 2005.

Following publication, Pimentel told Grist, "Yes, we can produce these crops organically, with less energy, while improving the sustainability of the soil." We are pleased to be honoring him this year at our Organic Pioneer Awards on September 13, 2013.

Dr. Pimentel and Rodale Institute researchers found:

"Soil organic matter (soil carbon) and nitrogen were higher in the organic farming systems providing many benefits to the overall sustainability of organic agriculture.

Although higher soil organic matter and nitrogen levels of the organic systems were identified similar rates of nitrate leaching were found as in conventional corn and soybean production.

Fossil energy inputs for organic crop production were about 30% lower than for conventionally produced corn.

Depending on the crop, soil, and weather conditions, organically managed crop yields on a per hectare basis can equal those from conventional agriculture, but it is likely that organic cash crops cannot be grown as frequently over time because of the dependence on cultural practices to supply nutrients and control pests."

Read the full 22-year report here. Or see the 30-year update here.

5 Responses to “Organic Pioneer: Dr. David Pimentel”

  1. Diego M Sierra

    I’m retired and I have a little dairy production with 40 cows in Colombia, between threes and a conservancy soil program.
    I’m interesting inthe Rodale institute website , publications and about the famous profesor Pimentel.
    Thanks a lot
    DM Sierra

  2. James Zucchetto


    How are you? I hope well. I would be interested in the most recent analyses that you have conducted and published on biofuel systems, i.e., the energy/materials/emissions of whatever biofuel system you may have analyzed most recently. I’d be particularly interested in corn to EtOH, and celulosic systems to “drop-in” fuels, be they gasoline or diesel.

    Thanks for you attention.

    Jim Zucchetto, Sr.Program/Board Director
    Board on Energy & Environmental Systems
    National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine

  3. Larry Schlussler

    When crops are exported minerals are permanently removed from the soil.
    There was no mention of mineral replacement in the organic system. Healthy soils are better at extracting harder to get at minerals. It seems that over a longer time period these harder to extract mineral will be depleted and external inputs will will be needed.
    What are your thoughts on this issue?

  4. Toni Miebach

    Dear David Pimentel, discussing a at least lesser part of livestock meat production conventional farmers bring up the argument that a sustainable management of nitrogen and phosphate fertilization would be solely possible in combination with livestock farming and the production of necessary liquid manure. Fertilization only with mineral feritilizers would destroy the soil, are produced with high energy (N) and limited mineral P.
    Are there data available documenting sustainable fertilization without animal derived fertiliser.
    Herbivores are able to digest agricultural byproducts, like rests of oil seeds and plants that cannot be used for nutrition of humans. This organic material would be wasted. How do you deal with this argument?


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