Many people wonder about the differences between organic onions vs. regular onions.
The key difference between organic onions and regular onions is the way they are grown. Organic onions are produced without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Organic onions are more costly than regular because the way they are grown. Organic onions were tested and found to have more nutrient content than regular onions.
Throughout this article, you’ll learn the following about this comparison:
- The differences between regular and organic onions
- Whether one is better than the other
The Differences Between Organic and Regular Onions
As a Certified Health Coach many people ask me about the differences between the two onions. Next, we’re going to be looking at some of the differences between organic and regular onions.
The Way They Are Grown
When it comes to organic vs. regular onions 1, the differences in how they are grown are often the first thing people think of. And with good cause, because it is probably the biggest difference, you’ll find between these two types of farming.
Fertilizers are natural and synthetic materials used in agriculture that are applied to the soil or plant tissues to provide one or more nutrients and aid the growth of crops.
Fertilizers used in conventional farming methods use fertilizers that contain man-made, inorganic compounds that are usually derived from by-products of the petroleum industry, such as ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, and potassium sulfate. 2.
Organic fertilizers are fertilizers derived from the residues and matter of plants and animals. Things like blood meal, crop residues, compost, guano, manure, seaweed, and vermicompost can all be used as organic fertilizers 3.
The plants can’t tell the difference between the two types of fertilizer, and the nutrients are processed in the same way. While organic and synthetic fertilizers provide the necessary nutrients to the crops, only organic fertilizers also add organic matter and living organisms into the soil 4.
Pesticides are substances meant to control pests, such as weeds, insects, rodents, bacteria, and fungi, among others. They are meant to deter, incapacitate, kill, or otherwise discourage pests. They are usually sprayed onto the plants using a crop duster.
Many people believe that organic farming methods don’t use any pesticides at all, but this isn’t true. They do use pesticides; only these pesticides are derived from natural origins as opposed to the chemical origins of conventional pesticides.
25 organic pesticides have been approved for use in organic farming, the most popular among these being copper, rotenone, and spinosad 5.
However, in conventional farming, there are around 900 chemical pesticides allowed to be used on the crops that are being grown.
Crop rotation is a practice used by organic farmers in which they grow a series of different types of crops in the same area across a sequence of growing seasons 6.
This ensures that the soil does not become reliant on certain nutrients and reduces pest and weed pressure.
Conventional agriculture uses monocultures, which means that the same crop is grown in the same place for a number of years 7. This depletes the soil of its natural nutrients, leaving it unbalanced and creates a highly competitive pest and weed community.
Crop Yield Size
One of the other differences between organic and conventional farming methods is the size of their crop yield. Crop yieldis the number of crops grown per unit area of land 8.
In a study published in the journal ‘Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science,’ it was found that organic farming methods produced 24.6-43.6% less yield consistently over six years than their conventional farming counterparts did 9.
As we have previously discussed, onions contain many beneficial vitamins, minerals, and other essential substances to our health.
Many people not only buy organic produce because they want to reduce their exposure to chemical pesticides, but also because they believe that organic produce is healthier for them than conventionally grown produce.
In a study published in the 2017 journal ‘Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science,’ an ongoing field experiment was done to compare organic and conventional farming of onions. 9.
During this experiment, it was found that the onions that were grown by organic methods had higher levels of gross phenol, gross flavonoid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and quercetin-3-glucoside overall than those grown using conventional methods.
This may indicate that organically grown onions contain higher levels of the vitamins and minerals that we ingest that are necessary for a healthy gut and, in turn, a healthy body. These higher levels of nutrients may also aid in preventing many diseases that we are prone to developing.
Impact on the Environment
There’s no denying that agriculture has significant impacts on the environment, some of which are good and some of which are bad, but is there really a difference between the impacts of conventional farming and organic farming?
Some of the environmental issues related to agriculture are climate change, deforestation, genetic modification, problems relating to irrigation, pollution, degradation of the soil, and agricultural waste.
A meta-analyses article published in the Journal of Environmental Management analyzed the results of several published studies done, comparing the impacts that both organic and conventional farming methods in Europe have on the environment 10.
The results showed that organic farming generally has a positive impact on the environment per unit of area. They found that organic farms are likely to have more organic content in their soil as well as lower levels of nutrient loss (such as nitrogen leaching, nitrous oxide emissions, and ammonia emissions)per unit area of the field.
However, nitrogen leaching, nitrous oxide emissions, and ammonia emissions were higher per unit of produce. Organic farms have required less energy but use more land, which could lead to more deforestation in the surrounding areas. They also showed a higher potential for eutrophication and acidification.
The organic farms also had a lower impact on the biodiversity of the soil and surrounding plant life in comparison with conventional farms. In another study, it was found that organically grown crops had significantly higher microbialpopulation values, fungal-to-bacterial ratio, and dehydrogenase activity than those grown using conventional methods. 9.
These findings were published in the Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science journal. That said, conventional farming methods definitely do have some very large negative impacts on the environment.
It has caused an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion from overuse, water pollution as a result of pesticide and fertilizers leaching into ground soil and rivers nearby, as well as threatening human health, mostly the people who spend extended periods of time exposed to the chemicals used in conventional farming.
Is One of Them Better Than the Other?
One of the biggest reasons people are drawn to organic produce is the belief that it is better than regular produce. Organic onions have largely proven that they provide more health benefits, contain more nutrients, make use of more natural methods of protection against things like pests and other environmental factors, and have less negative impacts on the environment.
In terms of the impact that the pesticides used on the onions will have on you, there isn’t a very big difference. Conventional onions are ranked number four on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Clean Fifteen list, meaning that there were very low levels of pesticide residue found on the onions once the outer layers of skin were removed 11.
The pesticides used on organic onions have been shown to produce fewer health complications with long term exposure than those used on conventional onions. Rotenone is the only pesticide to have been linked to a health complication, as it increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in people who are exposed to it because of their occupation 12.
The pesticides used on regular onions have been linked to respiratory issues, reproductive problems, disrupting the endocrine systems, neurological damage, and an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers 13.
Nevertheless, if you take into account that less than 10% of conventionally farmed onions that were analyzed by the EWG in 2018 were found to have pesticide residue on their skin, this doesn’t seem to be sufficient reasoning to switch to buying only organic onions 14.
However, there are also some downsides to both types of produce. Because organic produce is not as popular and due to their smaller crop yields, it means that the product is often more expensive and more difficult to find if you do not live in a large city or a farming community.
On the other hand, the downside to buying conventional produce is that conventional farming methods are often not as transparent as organic methods. So it can be difficult to know what is being done to your food before it reaches the supermarket that you buy it from.
Knowing that there isn’t really a clear winner for whether either organic or regular onions are better, it may just be best to try to grow as much of your own produce as you can; this way, you’ll know, exactly, what you are eating and you’ll be saving some money in the process too.
If you have any questions about this article don’t hesitate to comment below or email us. You can find an email on our contact page.
Read Next – More Food vs Food!
- Wikipedia: Onions
- Wikipedia: Inorganic compound
- Oregon State University: Here’s the scoop on chemical and organic fertilizers
- Cornell University Cooperative Extension: Soil Organic Matter
- Organic Trade Association: National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
- USDA: Tipsheet: Crop Rotation in Organic Farming Systems
- Wikipedia: Monoculture
- Genetic Literacy Project: USDA data confirms organic yields significantly lower than with conventional farming
- Taylor & Francis Online: Comparison of organic and conventional farming for onion yield, biochemical quality, soil organic, and microbial population
- ScienceDirect: Does organic farming reduce environmental impacts? – A meta-analysis of European research
- EWG: Clean Fifteen: EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Pesticide/environmental exposures and Parkinson’s disease in East Texas
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept in Agriculture
- USDA: Pesticide Data Program