Evaluating the benefits of organic farming in rice agroecosystems in the Philippines
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Organic rice farming utilized only 33% (39 USD ha(-1)) of the cash capital required to grow a hectare of rice when compared with conventional farm which spent 118 USD ha(-1). This much reduced cash capital expense in organic rice farming relieved women from the burden of sourcing credit to finance crop establishment. Women are in-charge of family finances. Cooperation among members of the family (husband, wife, children) enabled them to cope with the increased labor requirement of organic farming - as in spreading rice straw, preparing and applying compost, hand weeding and picking up golden snails. All organic rice farmers who participated in the study were members of farmers' organization and/or cooperative while only few conventional farmers' were members of farmers' organization. Organic farming improved the soil quality. The paddy soil was loose and had deeper mud which was attributed to the higher soil organic matter (SOM) accumulating as a result of crop residue recycling at 3-4 t ha(-1) and animal manure 1-2 t ha(-1) crop(-1). Loose and deeper mud led to easier and faster land preparation (26 hrs in CF while 16 hrs in OF), and lesser weed growth which reduced the labor required in hand weeding and time to do rotary weeding. The net revenue in organic farm was higher (332 USD ha(-1)) than in the conventional farm (290 USD ha(-1)) despite the slightly lower yields (3.25 t ha(-1)) in organic compared with the yields obtained ( 3.52 t ha(-1)) in the conventional farms. The higher cash cost in the conventional farms was due mainly to the agrochemical inputs which accounted for 83.2% of the cash cost (fertilizer, 65%; pesticides, 18.2%). The fossil fuel based energy inputs (FFEI) in the organic farms was only 18.3% (546.0 Mcal ha(-1)) of the conventional farms (2,977.21 Meal ha(-1)). For every 1 cal of fossil fuel energy used in the conventional farm, only 4 cal was produced while it was 19 cal in the organic farm. Organic farms were less energy consuming. One tonne of paddy rice utilized only 170 of FFEI while 844 Mcal in the conventional farms. The case study had shown the socio-economic, energy-use and environmental benefits of organic farming over conventional farming. Thus, national research and extension program for its promotion and widespread adoption by rice farmers in the country should be facilitated.