Organic farming has been a healthy topic of debate lately, powered by two schools of thought. One that propagates this is a healthy, safe and improved farming method and the other that argues there’s more bad than good in it. So, who do we count on? While it is still the subject of an in depth research, let’s have a look at the different aspects of organic farming (positive and negative sides) to understand why it has been making headlines these days.
Organic farming has been defined in different ways by food suppliers, intellectuals, environmentalist and critics. So, the topic has a wider perspective. In general, it means using the alternative farming methods in growing food crops. The methods may include crop rotation, compost, biological pest control, mechanical cultivation etc. It discourages the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, engineered farming application, livestock feed additives etc. The farming method has earned success world over and the sales of organically produced foods have rocketed over the last ten years. The fact that around 37,000,000 hectares of land worldwide practice organic farming method is the testimony of its growing popularity.
Organic Farming Methods synthesize the strengths of modern technology and traditional farming together with the science of ecology to create effective agricultural techniques that produce high yields of healthy crops without causing harm to the environment. It aims to maintain the natural ecological balance during the entire farming process. It removes all synthetic substances from the equation to arrive at organic foods which are free of any chemical residues that may be hazardous to the health of consumers. Genetically modified organisms are also not entertained. Every decision is made carefully from the location of the farm to the type of seed that is to be planted.
Crop diversity is the most popular among all Organic Farming Methods. It is also referred to as polyculture in which different species of crops are grown in succession on the same piece of land. Different kinds of plants absorb and release different nutrients from and to the soil. Planting a variety of crops therefore retains the fertility of the soil. Planting different plants also provide support for a wider variety beneficial insects, wild plants, and microorganisms that lead to increased biodiversity. Conventional farms in contrast plant only one species of plant on the soil so that they will need to use only the same type of fertilizer and the same type of machinery which all lead to reduced production costs.
Farm size is also one of the popular Organic Farming Methods. Organic farms utilize small sized farm lots because they are relatively easy to maintain even without the help of machines. Smaller yards also allow a wider variety of crops to be grown on the farm at the same time. This makes crop rotation more effective and further increases biodiversity. Having a too big farm size may cause the need for machines which organic farmers want to avoid as much as possible because machines require fuel, and fuel causes pollution whenever combusted. This is the reason why organic farms are often kept on a small scale.
Soil fertility is a very important consideration for Organic Farming Methods. Organic farms revolve around maintenance of the natural nutrient cycle in the soil. Organic farmers allow organic matter to return to the earth naturally and become fertilizer for plants. Soil fertility is important for sustainability because it ensures that the farm can continue to effectively function as a farm even after decades. Conventional farms on the other hand greatly hurt the sustainability of the soil. The different synthetic substances conventional farmers apply on their crops continuously degrade the nutrition of the soil. After a few years the soil becomes void of nutrients and turns desolate and no longer capable of supporting farm crops.
Transition from conventional farming to organic farming is not a time taking, difficult, tiresome process. A farmer can practice it without any difficulties.
The farming method can help farmers realize a great deal of savings because they are not required to invest additional money in purchasing industrial fertilizers.
Using compost, biological pest control, crop rotation etc improves the fertility of the soil whereas using pesticides and synthetic attributes only harms its quality.
Organic foods are enriched in mineral content so they promise improved nutritional value
As opposed to harmful chemicals, organic food is poison-free ensuring safe quality foods
The foods taste better because of improved techniques adopted in growing the plants
The organic foods are less likely to mold or rot quickly. They stay fresh for they are nourished naturally
By practicing this, a farmer can bring food self sufficiency. However, this is a detailed process which requires a systematic understanding of the resources and applying the right management approaches.
Foods cultivated in this method are expensive because lot of manual work is required in it than conventional farming. Also, getting the organic certification tends to be expensive.
It is labor intensive and a farmer can produce more crops relying on industrial methods than organic ones.
A great deal of skill is required to practice this. A farmer should spend time and apply thoughtful observation to alter the existing farming system and addressing the problems.