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Title: Identifying and characterizing pesticide use on 9,000 fields of organic agriculture

Notwithstanding popular perception, the environmental impacts of organic agriculture, particularly with respect to pesticide use, are not well established. Fueling the impasse is the general lack of data on comparable organic and conventional agricultural fields. We identify the location of ~9,000 organic fields from 2013 to 2019 using field-level crop and pesticide use data, along with state certification data, for Kern County, CA, one of the US’ most valuable crop producing counties. We parse apart how being organic relative to conventional affects decisions to spray pesticides and, if spraying, how much to spray using both raw and yield gap-adjusted pesticide application rates, based on a global meta-analysis. We show the expected probability of spraying any pesticides is reduced by about 30 percentage points for organic relative to conventional fields, across different metrics of pesticide use including overall weight applied and coarse ecotoxicity metrics. We report little difference, on average, in pesticide use for organic and conventional fields that do spray, though observe substantial crop-specific heterogeneity.

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Nature Publishing Group
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Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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