Organic farm does not improve neither soil, or water quality in rural watersheds from southeastern Brazil
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This study was conducted in a rural region where there are conventional and organic farms, the agricultural production includes more than 20 million people, and the effect on environmental quality is still poorly known in terms of indicators. Our objectives were: (1) compare soils attributes to reference areas, (2) verifying if cultivated areas under different farm systems presented differences in the soils attributes, (3) evaluate the attributes of quality water of watersheds and comparing the results with limiting values established by environmental legislation, and (4) analyze the values considering three criterion: watersheds, climatic season, and region of the landscapes. The study was conducted in two rural watersheds that have similar biophysical features and located in the Ibitina municipality, Sao Paulo State, Brazil. However, one watershed encompasses farms where landowners largely use conventional agricultural systems. In the other watershed approximately 25% of the farms there are using an organic farm system. In the two watersheds soil samples were collected in sites covered with natural forest and in sites with agriculture (one watershed being organic and other being conventional). The attributes analyzed were soil bulk density (BD), concentrations of Carbon (C) and Nitrogen (N), C:N ratio, C Management Index, and the abundance of C-13 and N-15 in the soil organic matter. Water attributes were analyzed onsite or in laboratory after analysis of samples. Analyses included: air and water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, total of dissolved solids, total solids, electric conductivity, turbidity, total chloride, nitrate, total phosphorus and potassium. Regarding the soil attributes our database revealed that (1) the soils from cultivated sites of both watersheds presented significant differences from their respective forested areas, (2) Soil attributes are of equal quality in both farm systems. Concerning water attributes: (1) almost all attributes presented values better than the limiting values stipulated by Brazilian legislation; (2) the watersheds did not present significant differences of most of the attributes; (3) in the criteria climatic season data showed some significant differences. The data showed that the soils from the areas used for agricultural ends present belief that significantly worse soil quality in comparison to soils from sites still covered with natural forest. Neither the land cover nor farming system are altering the superficial water quality of the studied watershed and this appears to be related to the extensive percentage of natural remaining vegetation that still exists in both watersheds. The seasonality is an important force that drives the quality characteristics of the water. We highlight that the principles of organic agriculture should be practiced more efficiently and influences such as deforestation should be rigorously avoided. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.