Difference Between Sustainable, Organic, Conservation & Conventional/Commercial/Industrial Farming

Difference Between Sustainable, Organic, Conservation & Conventional/Commercial/Industrial Farming

This is a short guide that outlines the different types of farming/the different approaches to farming.

We outline the main difference between sustainable, organic, conservation and conventional farming.


Sustainable Farming

A newer form of farming which is that balances short term profit/economic priorities, with long term environmental (conserving soil and water, and minimising pollution), and social priorities. 

Can incorporate organic and conservation farming practices amongst the whole sustainable farming approach.

It’s a holistic approach that aims to get the different farm ecosystems working together – soil, water, green compost and manure, agroforestry, crops etc.

Read more about the different sustainable farming practices in this guide, such as planting cover crops, rotating crops, reducing tillage, and more.


Organic Farming

A more specific form of sustainable farming that involves a number of sustainable farming practices, but in particular, places emphasis on the use of green manures and compost over synthetic fertilizers, and the use of biological pest management over synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Organic products can have their own guidelines and certifications that they have to meet in each country depending on regulations in that country.

There’s also global third party certifications for organic agricultural products.

Organically grown cotton is an example of an organic fibre crop. These crops also make use of rainfed water, and don’t use GMO seeds.


Conservation Farming

Specifically refers to farming that involves practices that conserve soil and protect it’s health i.e. conservation of the physical, chemical and biological soil properties.

In addition to soil fertility, soil health (preventing soil erosion, acidification etc.) and soil quality are considered.


Conventional/Commercial/Industrial Farming

Usually places profit and high yields as the main or sole short term priority, with much less of a focus on the impact of farming practices on the environment and society long term.

There’s smaller conventional/commercial farms, and then there’s the big industrial farms (sometimes referred to as intensive farming).

In developed countries, industrial farming uses big farm machinery, along with synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides and herbicides. Pollution from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are common side effects of industrial farming, along with soil erosion from practices such as intensive tilling and a lack of soil conservation.

Some commercial farms do incorporate sustainable practices with conventional practices to varying degrees.



1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_agriculture

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_farming#Methods

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/a-list-of-different-sustainable-farming-methods-practices/

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