Due to rising public pressure in recent decades, alternatives for large-scale and industrial farming are being sought. Environmental and sustainability issues and the rising awareness of the link between the overuse of pesticides/fertilizers and negative health effects have been key factors for creating the integrated production approach, which encompasses environmentally friendly technologies. Moreover, the demand for organically grown products is constantly growing. The organic production model is a step towards further restriction of synthetic chemical use in plant production. Limited use of pesticides may boost the plant’s investment into its own defense systems, which may result in a higher content of secondary compounds. Synthesis of secondary metabolites is a common plant response to any form of stress (biotic or abiotic), and their function is to help the plant overcome unfavorable conditions. Many compounds, especially phenolics, are also considered beneficial for human health; therefore, numerous studies comparing different production systems have been conducted in the past 20 years. Generally, organically produced food may contain greater amounts of health beneficial compounds and diminished levels of pesticide residues and nitrates. However, the results are not always clear, as other factors may influence the composition of natural products (e.g., environmental and varietal factors, sampling, and the design of experiments). Therefore, controlled field trials, in which most of the factors can be either controlled or at least recorded, should be encouraged. The present paper synthesizes the function of phenolics as a response to different forms of stress, which can occur during plant growth, with a special emphasis on different production systems. Examples of diverse horticultural crops are presented.
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