The study of ecological farms has a number of challenges. Some of these issues include the methodology used and the lack of data collection at the start of the study. The methodology needs to be improved, and data collection methods must be based on easily-measurable indicators. In addition, the study should be carried out by a single organisation rather than two, as two different organisations may end up producing results that are not compatible.
The transition phase is a critical bottleneck in the process of changing a farm to an ecological system. It can take several years to make the transition from conventional farming to ecological farming. Perennials, for example, are an important part of the new system. Ultimately, it is important to continue paying attention to ecological farms throughout the transition.
Plant diversity is another key characteristic of ecological farms. Many ecological farms practice mixed/intercropping and agroforestry. In addition, they often utilize hedges/shelterbelts and tree nurseries. This diversity of vegetation and other land cover helps protect soil. Further, ecological farms tend to be less reliant on external nutrient sources.
In addition, the variable costs of running an ecological farm are higher than those of a conventional farm. These include higher costs for labour and seeds, and higher costs for hired mechanical labour. Nevertheless, these higher variable costs are compensated by the lower costs of fertiliser and pesticides. Consequently, the gross margin per hectare on an ecological farm is significantly higher than on a conventional farm. While the labour input on an ecological farm is higher than that on a conventional farm, the net farm income per labour day is similar.