Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems

Research Article

Energy use and efficiency in two Canadian organic and conventional crop production systems

J.W. Hoeppnera1, M.H. Entza1 c1, B.G. McConkeya2, R.P. Zentnera2 and C.N. Nagya3

a1 Department of Plant Science, University of Manitoba, 222 Agriculture Building, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada.

a2 Semi-arid Prairie Agriculture Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Swift Current, SK S9H 3X2, Canada.

a3 Centre for Studies in Agriculture, Law and the Environment, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A8, Canada.


A goal in sustainable agriculture is to use fossil fuel energy more efficiently in crop production. This 12-year study investigated effects of two crop rotations and two crop production systems (organic versus conventional management) on energy use, energy output and energy-use efficiency. The grain-based rotation included wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)–pea (Pisum sativum L.)–wheat–flax (Linum usitatissimum L.), while the integrated rotation included wheat–alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)–alfalfa–flax. Energy use was 50% lower with organic than with conventional management, and approximately 40% lower with integrated than with the grain-based rotation. Energy use across all treatments averaged 3420 MJ ha−1 yr−1. Energy output (grain and alfalfa herbage only) across treatments averaged 49,947 MJ ha−1 yr−1 and was affected independently by production system and crop rotation. Energy output in the integrated rotation was three times that of the grain-based rotation; however, this difference was largely due to differences in crop type (whole plant alfalfa compared with grain seed). Energy output was 30% lower with organic than with conventional management. Energy efficiency (output energy/input energy) averaged to 17.4 and was highest in the organic and integrated rotations. A significant rotation by production system interaction (P<0.05) indicated that energy efficiency increases due to crop input reduction (i.e., shift from conventional to organic management) were greater in the integrated than in the grain-based rotation. Greater energy efficiency in the integrated rotation under organic management was attributed to the fact that the forage component was less sensitive to chemical input removal than grain crops.

(Accepted April 20 2005)

Key words

  • crop rotation;
  • organic;
  • energy;
  • legumes


c1 *Corresponding author: