Organic farming is a form of agriculture which relies on techniques to achieve good crop yield without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it. A 10-year long study showed that fruits and vegetables from organic farming contained upto 180 times less pesticide residues than conventional product (Wikipedia.org, 2016).
United State Department of Agriculture (USDA)defined “Organic farming as production system, which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulator and livestock additives. To the maximum extent feasible, organic farming system relies on crop rotation, crop residues, animal’s manure, off farm organic wastes, mechanical cultivation, mineral bearing rocks and aspects of biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients and, to control insects, weeds and other pests.”
Fig 1:No use of synthetic chemical
Organic farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it. Organic farming encourages and makes the use of natural biological processes particularly microbial activity to boost soil fertility and thus plant nutrition. It is indeed “feeding the soil to feed the plant.” The methods and materials organic farmers uses are summarized below:-
To keep and build good soil structure and fertility
- Recycled and composted crop wastes and animal manures
- The right soil cultivation at the right time
- Crop rotation
- Green manures and legumes
- Mulching on the soil surface
To control pests, diseases and weeds:
- Careful planning and crop choice
- The use of resistant crops
- Good cultivation practice
- Encouraging useful predators that eat pests
- Increasing genetic diversity
- Using natural pesticides
- Increase long-term soil fertility.
- Control pests and diseases without harming the environment
- Ensure that water stays safe and clean
- Use resources which the farmer already has, so the farmer needs less money to buy farm inputs.
- Produce nutritious foods, feed for animals and high quality crops to sell at a good price
Organic farming can be explained as an agricultural method wherein following techniques are used.
Green manures, often known as cover crops, are plants which are grown to improve the structure, organic matter content and nutrient content of the soil. They are a cheap alternative to artificial fertilizers and can be used to complement animal manures.
Growing a green manure is not the same as simply growing a legume. Green manures are dug in the soil before they are mature or even before they flower. They are grown primarily for their green leaves which are high in nutrient content. Centrosema pubuscens is one of the plants used for green manure.
In organic farming, the aim is not to eliminate all weed but to control them in an effective manner without affecting the crop yield. It is simply the unwanted plant that grows in agricultural fields. Organic farming includes many procedures for successful weed control some of them are:- mulching, tillage, crop rotation, hoeing, mulches, hand weeding, planting crops close to each other, using green manures or cover crops alongside and animals as weeders to graze on the weeds.
Weeds also do have some useful purposes such as the provide food for animals and they are an excellent habitat for the useful insects and pests.
Growing same type of crop for a long period of time can cause many problems including decrease in soil fertility, pests, diseases etc. So crops should be moved to different area of land and a different crop should be used in the land which was previously used for production. It is technique to grow various kinds of crops in same area, according to different seasons, in a sequential manner. Similarly, legumes can also be grown together with other crops. This method of growing a legume along with other crops is called intercropping.
A typical crop rotation includes the following elements:-
Fig 3: Legume based cropping system
Compost refers to organic matters that have been rotted down by bacteria or other organisms over a period of time. Material such as leaves, vegetable wastes can be used to make compost manure. Compost manures are cheap and easy to make. They are effective in increasing the fertility of the soil. Since compost feeds soil life and so the advantageous effects of compost manure are long lasting. Compost manures increase the WHC and organic content in soil as well as improves aeration so it is much beneficial to use compost manure insteadof chemical fertilizers. A typical layer of compost is shown in the figure below:-
Mulching refers to covering the top layer of soil with organic matter. This improves the organic content in the upper layer of soil and also feeds the soil life. The mulches prevent the soil from loosing water so using mulches keeps the soil moist and helps in getting good crop yield. Mulches are also used to prevent the growing of weeds. Mulches often include straw, dry grass, residue, compost, organic matter etc. Green leaves are often not used for mulching because they can help in pest buildup as they take long time to decompose.
A proper care should be taken while using mulching technique because it can be harmful if not used in efficient manner. If mulches were applied when the soil is dry, it will keep the soil dry for a long time. Similarly, if mulches are thick, it will block the passage of air which in turn will reduce soil aeration and increase pest buildup.
Pests and diseases are a part of nature. In the ideal system, there is a balance between pests and predators. If the balance is disturbed, the population of one of them increases drastically which affects the natural balance. The main objective is not to eliminate all the pests and diseases but to keep them low at an acceptable level.
Chemical method is very much popular nowadays for the control of pests and diseases. But excessive use of pesticides not only hampers the crops but also disturbs natural balance. Continuous use of such pesticides causes the pests and diseases to become more resistant to those chemicals so each time more amount of them should be used. Chemical pesticides also leave residue on the crops which hampers human health when in taken.
Natural pest control is comparatively much advantageous compared to chemical pest control. It is done by:
- Encouraging ladybugs, minute pirates bugs and other such predatory beneficial insects.
- Using herbicides and pesticides that are natural or contains fewer chemicals.
- Proper sanitation of entire farm in order to keep it free from form pests.
Differences between organic and conventional farming:
|Organic farming||Conventional farming|
|Harmony with nature||Dominance of nature|
ADVANTAGES OF ORGANIC FARMING:
- Organic farming ensures long term soil fertility, soil biological activity and reduces soil erosion.
- It helps to control pest and diseases without harming the environment.
- It does not pollute water resources.
- It makes the use of the resources already available with farmers rather than buying each individual resource so, comparatively it is a cheaper technique.
- It produces only pure crops without any toxic material which are harmful to our health.
- Organically grown food is dramatically superior in mineral content and sugar content.
DISADVANTAGES OF ORGANIC FARMING
- Organic farming is labor intensive.
- Marketing organic produce may be difficult may be difficult for small farmer.
- Production can be low during transition period.
- May be expensive if farmer has to carry out transition, modify soil structure drastically, or get a certification.