How Organic and Conventional Farming Practices Impact Crop Nutrients

An overview of several recent studies on the impacts that organic and conventional production systems have on the nutritional quality of food crops was presented by a food scientist from the University of California, Davis, on Feb. 13, during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.

Alyson Mitchell, an associate professor of food science, delivered the talk, titled "Nutrient-Dense Foods: Phytochemicals and Health Benefits," as part of a session about Living Soil, Food Quality, and the Future of Food. Co-author on the paper presented was Eunmi Koh, a postdoctoral fellow in the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology.

Mitchell noted that scientists are interested in how different farming practices, particularly pest control and soil fertility management, can affect nutritionally important compounds that occur naturally in crop plants. Such “bioactive” compounds, including certain flavonoids, vitamins and plant pigments, are of particular interest because they are thought to help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and other age-related diseases.

Plant genetics and environmental factors strongly influence the levels of these compounds in crops; however there is evidence that different methods of growing, storing and processing these crops can also impact the nutritional content of the resulting food products. Foods that contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and bioactive plant compounds provide more nutrition than do foods that are less nutrient dense.

In this paper, Mitchell and Koh explored the findings of several different studies that examined flavonoid levels in tomatoes; compared vitamin C, flavonoid and nitrate levels in organic and conventionally grown spinach; and probed the influence of heat processing on nutritionally important compounds in tomatoes.

More information on Mitchell’s research is available at:

Media Resources

Pat Bailey, Research news (emphasis: agricultural and nutritional sciences, and veterinary medicine), 530-219-9640,

Alyson Mitchell, Food Science and Technology, (530) 752-7926,

Secondary Categories

Human & Animal Health Food & Agriculture