Still, the benefits of organic production can vary a lot, and sometimes it can be worse than conventional. Weil points to Maryland as an example. Most conventional farmers there use no-till systems, in which they rarely if ever plow the soil, saving themselves the associated fuel and labor costs. It’s benefitted Chesapeake Bay, which is vulnerable to algal blooms and fish die-offs created by nutrients leaching from farms. If the soil is left unturned, there’s less runoff and nutrients entering waterways.. But Maryland organic farmers continue to till the soil, because without herbicide use there are few options to control weeds. “If Maryland went 100 percent organic, there would be a lot more tillage,” says Weil. And, “One of the worst things you can do to a soil is plow it up.” In addition to causing sediments to erode and increasing nutrient runoff, tillage has a climate impact: it boosts the activity of microbes, which decompose organic matter and release stored carbon as carbon dioxide.