Nutritional Quality of Organic and Conventional Produce

Abstract: One distinguishing conclusion found in most reviews of research studies comparing organically and conventionally grown produce is that variables shared alike by organic and conventional produce during production, harvest, and postharvest handling and storage were not applied. As a result, accurate and meaningful conclusions comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional produce are difficult to ascertain. Pairing common production variables such as the physical, biological, and chemical/nutritional attributes of soils, the irrigation sources and amounts, crop varieties, crop maturities and harvest dates, pre- and postharvest processing, handling, and/or storage methods, individually and collectively, provide greater clarity as to how inputs unique to organic and conventional systems affect produce quality. Variables to be paired during production, harvest, and postharvest handling and storage studies comparing organic and conventional produce are discussed along with findings indicating that organic crops often have higher dry matter, ascorbic acid, phenolic, and sugar and lower moisture, nitrate, and protein contents and yields than conventionally grown crops. Recent studies of nutritional quality in organic versus conventional produce also indicate that soil nitrogen delivery rates strongly affect nutritional quality. Nitrogen profiling is a promising new approach to improving the nutritional quality of both organic and conventional produce.

Reference: Lester, G.E. and Saftner, R.A. (2011). Organically verses conventionally grown produce: Common production inputs, nutritional quality and nitrogen delivery between the two systems. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 59(19): 10401-10406. Available online at: