Organic Farming: What, Why and How?

Bharath Varma Avs
Mar 28, 2018 · 4 min read

Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production without the use of pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones.

Organic production is a holistic system designed to optimize the productivity of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people.

The principal goal of organic production is to develop enterprises that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment.

Organic Farming — FarmGuide
  • To protect the environment, decrease pollution, minimize soil degradation and erosion, optimize biological productivity and promote a good state of health
  • To maintain long-term soil fertility by improving conditions for biological activity within the soil
  • To maintain biological diversity
  • To recycle materials and resources to the greatest extent possible
  • To provide attentive care that promotes the health and meets behavioral needs of livestock
  • To prepare organic products, emphasizing careful processing, and handling methods in order to maintain the organic integrity and vital qualities of the products at all stages of production
  • To rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems

Organic farming promotes the use of crop rotations and cover crops, and encourages balanced host/predator relationships. The organic residues and nutrients produced in the farm are recycled back to the soil. Cover crops and composted manure are used to maintain soil organic matter and fertility. Preventative insect and disease control methods are practiced, including crop rotation, improved genetics and resistant varieties. Integrated pest and weed management, and soil conservation systems are valuable tools of an Organic farm.

The main reason farmers state to farm organically is their concern about working with agricultural chemicals in conventional farming systems.

As many farm chemicals require energy intensive manufacturing processes that rely heavily on fossil fuels, there is an issue with the amount of energy used in agriculture. Organic farmers find their method of farming to be profitable and personally rewarding.

FarmGuide Explains Organic Farming (IS — Flickr)
  • Disease and Pest Resistance
  • Weed Competitiveness
  • Lower Input Costs
  • Drought Resistance
  • Added Value

“Certified organic” is a term given to products produced according to organic standards as certified by one of the certifying bodies. There are several certification bodies operating in India. A grower wishing to be certified organic must apply to a certification body requesting an independent inspection of their farm to verify that the farm meets the organic standards. Farmers, processors and traders are each required to maintain the organic integrity of the product and to maintain a document trail for audit purposes. Products from certified organic farms are labelled and promoted as “certified organic.”

Food products labelled as organic must contain at least 95% organic ingredients (not including water and salt). Multi-ingredient products with 70% to 95% organic product content may be labelled with the declaration: “% organic ingredients”. Multi-ingredient products with less than 70% organic content may identify the organic components in the ingredient list.

In organic production, farmers choose not to use convenient chemical tools available to other farmers. Design and management of the production system are critical to the success of the farm. Enterprises that complement each other are selected and crop rotation and tillage practices to avoid or reduce crop problems are chosen.

Yields of each organic crop vary depending on the success of the manager. During the transition from conventional to organic, production yields are lower than conventional levels, but after a three to five year transition period the organic yields typically increase.

Cereal and forage crops can be grown organically relatively easily to due to relatively low pest pressures and nutrient requirements. Soybeans also perform well but weeds can be a challenge. Corn is being grown more frequently on organic farms but careful management of weed control and fertility is needed. Meeting nitrogen requirements is particularly challenging. Corn can be successfully grown after forage legumes or if manure has been applied.

Vegetables cultivated by organic farming (IS — Google)

The adoption of genetically engineered (GMO) corn and canola varieties on conventional farms has created the issue of buffer zones or isolation distance for organic corn and canola crops. Farmers producing corn and canola organically are required to manage the risks of GMO contamination in order to produce a “GMO-free” product.

Livestock products can also be produced organically. In recent years, organic dairy products have become popular. There is an expanding market for organic meat products.

Organic produce can usually qualify for higher prices than non-organic products. These premiums vary with the crop and may depend on whether you are dealing with a processor, wholesaler, retailer or directly with the consumer. Prices and premiums are negotiated between buyer and seller and will fluctuate with local and global supply and demand.

Organic farming can be a viable alternative production method for farmers, but there are many challenges. One key to success is being open to alternative organic approaches to solving production problems. Determine the cause of the problem, and assess strategies to avoid or reduce the long term problem rather than a short term fix for it.

Source of information — Introduction to Organic Farming, Govt. of Canada

Originally published at by Bharath Varma AVS on March 28, 2018.

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