The environmental efficiency of non-certified organic farming in China: a case study of paddy rice production
This case study compares the environmental efficiency of non-certified organic and conventional rice production in southern China. Using plot-season level survey data, we first test the existence of a "technology gap" between the two types of production, and then calculate the environmental efficiency scores based on the use of pure nitrogen, which is considered as an environmentally detrimental input within the framework of the stochastic frontier analysis. Our analysis reveals that organic farming loses its environmental performance at high nitrogen levels and especially during the initial expansion period of organic farming as newly converted organic farmers prefer to increase the use of external nutrients such as nitrogen to compensate for a potential yield loss. These results highlight the uncertainty with which conventional farmers tend to view organic farming. However, we find that the experience gained by organic farmers over time helps increase and maintain their environmental efficiency. We thus warn against the rapid expansion of organic farming and recommend more technical support and strict nutrient regulation to maintain the environmental efficiency of organic farming.
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