Organic farming is the buzzword in the world of agriculture. People usually believe this is a new way of farming; but it is not. Organic farming has been practiced since ancient times. In fact, earlier, there were no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. People were more connected to nature and used natural products.
Definition of organic farming
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines organic farming as:
“Organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives, etc.) and to the maximum extent feasible rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection”.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):
“Organic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs”.
Principles of organic farming
- No use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), highly hazardous pesticides or HHPs, and synthetic fertilizers.
- Practice of crop rotation to replenish soil nutrients.
- Recycle of all organic waste.
- Control of pests, diseases, and weeds through biological methods.
- Extensive breeding using organic food.
- Use alternative medicines and preventative measures.
- Develop and maintain biodiversity, such as planting hedges, cultivating different species, and others.
- Respect the environment and endeavor towards conservation of natural resources.
- Perform animal welfare practices, including outdoor natural grazing. Respect livestock and care for their behavioral issues, nutrition, health, housing, breeding, and overall rearing.
- Protect soil fertility in the long run by maintaining proper levels of organic matter, promoting soil microbial activity, and using machines carefully. Protecting soil erosion is also an important step.
- Make soil self-sufficient in nitrogen through recycling of organic matter like livestock manures and crop residues. Also practice biological nitrogen fixation and using legumes.
- Consider the impact of farming on environment in general and perform measures to conserve natural habitat and wildlife.
Big benefit of organic farming for consumers
One of the biggest benefits of organic farming is that consumers get quality produce, which is devoid of toxic residues of pesticides and fertilizers.
One pitfall of organic produce is that it is costlier than conventionally cultivated produce. There are reasons for the high price.
First, organic farming gives lower yield than traditional farming. This leads to higher production costs, which, in turn, leads to higher selling prices.
That’s why organic food is costly.
Cost can be challenge for people with low purchasing power. They may miss the benefits of organic food.
However, with advancement in organic farming practices, we can expect better yield and affordable pricing of organic food in the future.
Converting a traditional farm into an organic farm
If you have been doing traditional farming till now, you cannot suddenly jump to doing organic farming. The soil needs a transition period. The duration depends on the type of cultivation. Generally, it takes around 3 years for a traditional farm to convert fully into a certified organic farm.