Over the last few years, consciousness towards environment among people has been steadily on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic has further fueled this trend with an increasing number of people becoming aware of rising pollution levels, waste disposal and its harmful effects on the environment so much so that people are skimming through the food they consume and measuring its impact on the environment. You might be wondering how food or the agricultural produce can impact the environment. It traces back to the farmland where the produce is grown.
For the last 50 odd years farmers have depended on synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to maximize the crop output. While on the one hand these harmful chemicals and fertilizers makes the produce toxic, it also causes significant damage to the soil, environment and the overall eco system. It is here, organic farming has time and again demonstrated its effect on people’s health, wellness and the environment in sustainable way.
At the base, organic farming in principle discourages the usage of harmful chemicals and pesticides which in turn contributes towards the preservation of the natural environment. Research and studies have indicated that organic farming can eliminate about 500 million pounds of chemicals and pesticides from entering the environment. The lack of pesticides and chemicals enhances biodiversity resulting in better quality of soil and reduced pollution from pesticides and fertilizers.
Organic agriculture takes into account medium and long-term effect of agricultural interventions on the eco system. Organic agriculture takes a proactive approach as opposed to treating problems after they emerge. Some of the environmental areas which gets impacted by the usage of chemicals and fertilizers are:
High and prolonged usage of synthetic fertilizers on soil results in soil infertility. The soil’s ability to retain nutrients is also reduced. Soil building practices like crop rotation, inter cropping, etc, improves soil formation and aids in soil erosion control. Non-usage of synthetic fertilizers results in better soil flora and fauna in turn increasing nutrient and energy cycling enhancing the retentive abilities of the soil for nutrients and water absorption. This is very important in a country like India which is plagued by severe water contamination and rivers and lakes are getting polluted. Studies indicate that just a teaspoon of organic soil rich in compost can host upto 1 billion helpful bacteria from 15,000 species.
Usage of synthetic pesticides & fertilizers also has a significant impact on pollution of groundwater. Organic farming uses organic fertilizers like compost, animal manure and green manure and through the usage of greater biodiversity soil structure and water infiltration is significantly enhanced. Well managed organic systems with better nutrient retentive abilities significantly reduce the risk of groundwater contamination. In countries like India where pollution is a major problem, converting to organic farming is highly encouraged as a restorative measure.
Air and climate change
Usage of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers results in higher energy consumption. On the contrary, organic farming do away with the usage of agrochemicals as these require high quantities of fossil fuels to be produced. Organic farming relies on returning crop residues to soil, crop rotation enhances the return of carbon to the soil. More retention of organic carbon in the soil, means the better the mitigation potential of agriculture against climate change.
Nitrogen is a key ingredient in fertilizers used in traditional farming. It is estimated that more than 2/3rd of Nitrogen lands up in rivers and lakes resulting in water pollution and in turn impacting the entire ecosystem. Non- usage of pesticides attracts newer species of flora and fauna and organisms beneficial to the organic system such as pollinators and pest predators. Organic farming provides a safe haven to wildlife. Local ecosystems too improve. In essence, Organic farming aims to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the overall environment.
Long term sustainability
Organic farming’s basic philosophy is to take preventive and proactive approach rather than deal with problems after they occur. Various studies have established the fact that organic farming is a long-term sustainable approach for production of food.