Organic farming is a practice that involves growing plants and raising animals in a natural way. This procedure entails the use of natural materials to keep away from synthetic elements to sustain soil fertility and ecological balance, thus decreasing pollution and waste.
Organic crop farming or livestock farming is a method of agriculture that involves the growing or rearing and care of crops and animals without using inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, and feeds. Genetically modified organisms are also not allowed. Organic farming is based on ecologically balanced agricultural principles such as green manure, crop rotation, biological pest control, organic waste, mineral, and rock additives.
Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides that are deemed natural and don’t use some petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The Key Characteristics of Organic Farming
- Caring for the long-term fertility of the soil by conserving organic matter content, promoting the biological activity of the earth, and careful mechanical interventions.
- Indirectly providing plant nutrients through insoluble nutrient sources that are provided to the plant as a result of soil micro-organism actions.
- Ensures self-sufficiency of nitrogen by using biological nitrogen fixation and legumes, plus effective reprocessing of organic resources, including livestock dung and crop residues.
- Control of weeds, diseases, and pests, which is mainly due to crop rotation, organic fertilizer, diversity, natural predators, resistant varieties, and reduced (preferably minimal) thermal, biological, and chemical involvement.
- The extensive management of farm animals, taking full account of their evolutionary adaptations, behavioral requirements, and animal welfare issues in terms of housing, nutrition, health, rearing, and breeding.
- Paying close attention to the influence of the agricultural system on the ecosystem and the preservation of wildlife and natural habitats
Merits of Organic Farming
1. Better Nutrition
Compared to food grown conventionally over a long time, organic food is considerably richer in nutrients. The mineral and vitamin content of a food substance indicate its nutritional value. Organic farming improves soil nutrients, which are circulated to the plants and animals.
2. Helps to Stay Healthy
Organic crops don’t contain chemicals because organic farmers don’t make use of chemicals in any stage of the food production process, like their commercial colleagues.
Organic farmers employ natural cultivation procedures that cause no harm to people or the environment. These foods keep dangerous diseases like cancer and diabetes in check.
3. Poison Free
No toxic chemicals, pesticides or weedicides are used in organic farming. Studies show a considerable portion of the population that feeds on toxic substances applied to conventional agriculture has fallen victim to diseases such as cancer. Since organic farming steers clear of these toxins, it reduces the diseases and suffering caused by them.
4. Organic Food is Highly Authenticated
For a product to be classified as organic food, it has to be subjected to quality controls, and careful examination of the production process. This is a big win for consumers as they’re getting real organic food. Through these quality controls and examinations, quacks who want to gain from the organic food label by supplying commercially grown foods instead are weeded out.
5. Improved Taste
The taste of food can also determine its quality. Organic crops tend to have better tastes than other food. The sugar content of organically cultivated fruits and vegetables gives them a different taste.
6. Organic Farming Methods are Environmental-Friendly
On commercial farms, chemicals are used to penetrate the soil, which heavily contaminates it and nearby water sources. Plant, animals, and humans are all affected by this occurrence. In organic farming, these aggressive chemicals are not used in this way; the environment remains protected.
7. Longer Shelf Life
Conventional crops don’t have much metabolic and structural integrity in their cellular structure like organic plants. This enables the storage of organic crops over a longer time.
Demerits of Organic Farming
1. It Takes More Work To Produce Ready-To-Sell Goods
Organic farming can still permit some “organic” fungicides or pesticides that can decrease the workload for some. However, for the average farmer, there is a more significant physical burden that goes into producing crops for the market. Weeding and other cultivation procedures have to be used frequently.
2. Organic Farmers Must Have Some Knowledge About Localized Farming Systems
The skills, knowledge, and wisdom of the individual farmer, determines the quality of a crop that can be produced with organic farming. In organic farming, the farmer has to monitor the growth patterns of the crops in each critical growth phase. If a farmer is not able to identify a potential problem, the value of the crop can decrease.
Under extreme situations, some farmers may even experience crop loss. However, at the same time, farmers also have to know about local soil systems, ecology, meteorology, and other factors that can influence the growth of certain crops.
3. There Are Unique Challenges In The Marketing Of Organic Products.
Organic foods are costly than staple foods or commercially produced crops. The marketplace for organic foods is also not as defined as for other crops. This can make it challenging for specialized farmers to compete with their own produce. To counteract this problem, many communities are developing food cooperatives with local farmers and markets.
Four Principles of Organic Farming
Principle of Health
Organic farming must contribute to the health and well-being of soil, plants, animals, people, and the earth. It is the preservation of mental, ecological, physical, and social well-being. For example, it offers environmentally friendly and chemical-free, nutritious food for people.
Principle of Fairness
Fairness is manifested in the maintenance of equality and justice on the shared planet among both humans and other living beings. Organic farming offers a good quality of life and contributes to poverty reduction. Natural resources must be used sensibly and sustained for future generations.
Principle of Ecological Balance
Organic farming must be based on living ecological systems. Organic farming techniques have to correspond to the ecological balances and cycles in nature.
Principle of Care
Organic agriculture must be conducted carefully and sensibly to aid the current and future generations and the ecosystem.
Principles of Organic Livestock Production
- Organic livestock production is a land-based activity. To prevent environmental pollution, especially from natural sources like soil and water, organic livestock production must, in principle, foresee a close relationship between this production and the land.
- Apart from certain exceptions, the animals must have access to open-air areas or pasture areas.
- Biodiversity should be promoted, and breeds adaptable to local conditions should be given preference. Genetically modified organisms and products obtained from them are not compatible with organic farming.
- Organic livestock should be fed with grass, forage, and other feed from organic farming, except for some stipulations (in the case of ruminants, 10% of the dry matter, DM, of restricted components can come from conventional sources).
- Management of animal health should be based mainly on prevention (suitable breeds, balanced, high-quality diet, and a favorable environment in terms of stocking density and husbandry practices). The preventive use of chemical-synthetic medicines is not allowed, but injured and sick animals must be treated immediately as the animal’s well-being is more important.
- The accommodation should meet the needs of concerned animals. Enough light, ventilation, space, and comfort should be provided to animals to allow sufficient freedom of movement to develop their natural social behavior.
Advantages of Organic Livestock Farming
Although livestock farming is usually the last part of the farm to be certified as organic, it often plays a central role in the farm and can contribute to its success.
Farm animals play a more important role on organic farms than on conventional farms. They play a crucial role in:
- Nutrient cycle — a process by which nutrients are returned to the soil via manure and compost. Soils improvement through animal manures can intensify microbial biomass, enzymatic activity, and change the structure of the microbial population.
- The incorporation of forage plants such as alfalfa or grasses in crop rotations contributes to the build of organic matter in the soil.
- Expansion of the cultivation possibilities, increasing the diversity of the agro-ecosystem.
- Weed control — forage crops can be used to control and suppress weeds, and animals can be used to graze weeds on crops or pastures.
- Preparation of the soil for cultivation; livestock like pigs can ‘plough’ coarse or new land before sowing vegetables or crops, reducing the cost of tillage and weed control.
- Interruption of insect and disease cycles, through taking land from single cropping.
- Upgrading grasslands and promoting the use of green manures
Organic farming is preferred because it controls pests and weeds in a non-toxic way, generates fewer input costs for cultivation and maintains the ecological balance, while at the same time promoting biological diversity and environmental protection.
In contrast to modern and conventional agricultural procedures, organic farming doesn’t rely on artificial chemicals. It uses natural, biological methods to boost soil fertility, such as microbial activity, which promotes plant nutrition.
Secondly, the practice of multiple cultivations in organic farming enhances biodiversity, which increases productivity and resilience and adds to a healthy agricultural system. Conventional farming systems use monocultures that damage soil fertility.