Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Organic Farming - Is It The Way Forward

"Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved...” This is the definition of organic farming officially accepted by the international Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) that was established in 1972 and acts as the international umbrella organization for all organic organizations around the world. Organic farming aims to rely on organically managed methods of farming such as crop rotation, compost, mechanical cultivation, biological pest control and green manuring to control pests and maintain soil productivity while strictly avoiding the use of synthetic materials such as pesticides, genetically modified organisms, synthetic fertilizers etc. Since the 1990s, the organic market has grown rapidly and now accounts for 32.2 million hectares of all farmland. Its products accounted for $46 billion in 2007.

According to the book ‘The Gift of Good Land’, an organic farm is one that “uses certain methods and substances and avoids others . . . in imitation of the structure of a natural system . . . “ Farmers usually have the challenge of ensuring that plants get enough nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. In organic farming, this is achieved through crop rotation and nitrogen-fixing plants like legumes that host the nitrogen-fixing bacteria rhizobia. Intercropping also helps in increasing soil nutrients. Potassium can be gotten by use of animal manure which must first be composted and various mineral powders like greensand and rock phosphate. Lime and sulfur is used to make the necessary PH amendments to the soil. Organic farming works best in mixed farms where there is livestock and crops in what are called ley farms. In this scenario, the manure is easily obtained to supply the needed mineral elements.

Weed control in organic farming is done through hand-weeding, garlic and clove oil, table salt and use of vinegar. In rice farming, ducks and fish are introduced into the paddy fields effectively eating both weeds and insects. Insect pests like nematodes and arthropods can be controlled removing dying materials like dry leaves, diseased plants and also use of cover plants. Beneficial organisms can also be introduced to control these insect pests. While marketing and the economies are scale are the greatest obstacles to organic farming, its benefits include reduced water contamination from pesticides, reduced soil erosion, reduced carbon emissions, reduced water use and increased biodiversity.