Scientists are apparently finding that a lot of the organic farming techniques are increasing crop yields by 79% over current methods. Now, there's some vagueness to the article, as there usually is with mainstream reporting of scientific news. What they're showing is averages, and we don't get information on how the averages are calculated. Are there 1-acre plots that have 500% higher crop yield, thus skewing the results for multi-hundred acre plots of land? Or vice versa, where there's one particularly large farm that's doing extremely well, and all of the smaller farms are being swept up in its wake? Still, presuming nobody is playing fast and loose with the statistics, this is good news. People tend to use organic techniques now either as a fad or because of better tasting foods, and when it's for the latter, I'm all for it. The problem is that organic farming in the US tends to cause decreased yields in exchange for a higher price. If we can get organic techniques to give better yields, then hopefully we can have better food all around. Of course, it's important not to dismiss the sustainable aspect of the farming. Many modern farming techniques leech all the nutrients out of the soil, reducing it to a barren wasteland (like Oklahoma). Proper crop rotation and other sustainable farming techniques will keep the land viable for centuries to come without having to go through serious hoops to rejuvenate the soil. If anyone has access to the proper study and wants to give me info on how I can take a look, I'd be pleased to read through. I'm always curious about research techniques, so I can properly understand the full context of any given study.
Scientists are working on advancing their knowledge of and ability to produce new strains of wheat, and the USDA is there to help. Rather than genetically modifying the wheat by using bacteria or viruses with beneficial genes into the wheat and seeing if the genetic material sticks in the new wheat, they are analyzing any given strains of wheat's genome for beneficial genes. Then they'll manually select the wheat with the best combination of genes and see how they do. It's much like the old method of hybridization, but with a clearer view of what's going on. I recall that some Australian cattle herders were doing much the same thing a couple of years ago.