Many years ago, the introduction of chemicals in the form of fertilizers in farming got many delighted at the sight of huge yields. In the beginning, the soil was healthy. So any damage brought about by chemical fertilizers was barely noticeable. Additionally, the pests had not developed resistance to the chemicals. The technology spread across the world as it was considered an agricultural revolution. In such a scenario the only solution is organic farming.
But now, there is growing awareness of many problems linked with conventional farming methods. These problems include health-related diseases like cancer, pollution and soil degradation. Water degradation and the adverse impact on domestic animals are extra issues. Organic farming started gaining momentum with an increase in awareness.
Here we try to understand what organic farming is all about. We also discuss how it can overcome the challenges posed by the current prevalent methods.
What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming is a method that involves the cultivation of plants and the rearing of animals in natural ways. This process includes the usage of biological materials and avoiding all kinds of synthetic substances. This helps to maintain the soil fertility and ecological balance.
At the end, it also minimizes pollution and wastage. It involves growing crops without the use of chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally, no genetically modified organisms are permitted.
It is based on principles of ecological balance like crop rotation and green manure. Other principles include organic waste, biological pest control, mineral and rock additives.
Organic agriculture combines science, innovation and tradition, to benefit the whole environment. Thereby, promoting fair relationships and good quality of life for all. It also preserves the health of soil, people and whole ecosystems.
In addition, organic farming helps to maintain biological diversity. It also helps to preserve natural resources that are beneficial to both animals and plants. Organic farming not only fulfills consumer’s growing demand for natural products but at the same time preserves the environment.
Differences Between Organic and Conventional Farming
The farmer treats or fumigates his farm with harsh chemicals in traditional farming methods before sowing the seeds. This removes any naturally existing fungicides. The petroleum-based fertilizers enrich the soil. Whereas, in organic farms, the farmer enriches the agricultural land by sprinkling natural fertilizers. These natural fertilizers are manure, shellfish or bone meal fertilizer.
In traditional farming, the farmer will soak the seeds in solutions of pesticides and fungicides. This would protect them from insects and pests. Chemicals will be added to the water meant for irrigation to prevent insects.
On the other hand, in organic farming, the farmer will not use any chemical solution to soak the seeds. Neither will he irrigate the newly planted seeds using water with added chemicals. He will not even irrigate with chlorinated water supplied by the water system. He will depend either on natural rain or stored rainwater during the dry months.
In conventional farming, the farmer will use weedicide to eradicate weeds. Whereas, the farmer doing organic farming generally does not use such chemicals to get rid of the weeds. He will try weeding out the farm in a very labor-intensive manner. He can use a flame weeder to destroy weeds or use animals for grazing the weeds.
If you consume non-organic products, your body will absorb the pesticide and the chemical will be harmful for your body. As a result you could have dangerous diseases such as cancer in the long run. People today have started to understand the relationship of organic food and health. So they prefer going organic in record numbers today.
Why opt for Organic Farming ?
Do you know that the population of our planet is growing exponential? Hence feeding such a huge population is a challenging job.
1 Natural and Better Taste
If you have tasted organically farmed foods you would surely confirm that they have a better and natural taste. The superior and natural taste comes from the well balanced and nourished soil. This is because organic farmers will always prioritize quality over quantity.
2 Organic Food Contain more Nutrients
Foods from organic farms are rich in nutrients such as vitamins, and other micronutrients as compared to traditional farms.
Research studies have shown that organic foods generally contain higher levels of antioxidants and certain micronutrients like vitamin C, zinc and iron. In fact, the antioxidant levels in these foods can be up to 69% higher as compared to non-organic foods.
Organic plants do not generally rely on chemical pesticide sprays to protect themselves. Instead these plants produce their own protective compounds – namely antioxidants. Hence these plants have a higher level of antioxidants in them.
3 To Prevent Hormones, Drugs and Antibiotics in Animal Products
Meat and dairy are highly prone to contamination. Many pesticides consumed by the population originate from poultry, eggs, fish, meat, and dairy products. This is because the animals and birds producing these products are on top of the food chain.
They are fed with chemicals and toxins loaded foods. Drugs, antibiotics, and growth hormones are injected into these animals. These get directly transferred to dairy products and meat. Hormone supplements to the animals contribute heavily to the ingestion of chemicals. These chemicals contribute many complications like genetic problems, cancer risks, tumor growth.
Environmental Benefits of Organic Agriculture
Despite our diet choices, organic food is the best choice you’ll ever make. This means that we need to embrace organic farming in a big way.
Here are some of the reasons why we should opt for organic farming.
1 Organic Farming Encourages Biodiversity
The stability of the farm is directly related to the biodiversity in the farm. Organic farming encourages healthy biodiversity. Healthy biodiversity plays a critical role in deciding the adaptability of a farm to issues like bad weather, disease, and pests. Reduced biodiversity is directly linked with a rise in infectious diseases.
2 Fighting the Effects of Global Warming
Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial, considered the USA’s longest-running research running since 1981, compares organic and conventional farming. This research has shown that a healthy organic agriculture system can reduce carbon dioxide and help slow climate change.
3 Erosion Combatting
Organic farming builds healthy soil and helps combat severe soil and land issues, such as erosion. Research studies comparing adjoining organic and chemically treated wheat fields showed that the organic area featured eight more inches of topsoil than the chemically treated field.
Additionally, the organic farm had only one-third of the soil erosion loss. Soil erosion issues affect the land, food supply, and humans. Organic farming practices help in preventing soil erosion.
Organic Farming And The Environment
This farming technique has a number of benefits for the environment. This farming technique reduces the number of pesticides used. Organic farming strictly reduces its use. Thus, we see that organic farming reduces the potentially harmful effects of pesticides on the ecosystem.
However, organic farming has several issues related to this farming technique. As the yield is less it automatically leads to higher operation cost. In short, organic farming takes more effort and human labor to produce the same amount of food as in conventional agriculture.
This low yield also raises a number of ecological questions. In theory, this means more organic crops have to be grown to meet the human pressure. This in turn would create a pressure on the ecosystems. In fact, a study conducted on organic farming has proved that it would take about 30% more cultivated land to feed the planet if only organic agriculture was to be done.
Organic Farming Key Features
- Use of organic material to increase the quality soil and encourage biological activity.
- Weed control based on methods like natural predators, and crop rotation. Pest control methods like organic manures.
- Usage of legumes for Nitrogen fixation in soils.
- Livestock rearing by taking care of health, nutrition, housing, and breeding
- Conservation of natural habitats and wildlife
- Care for the larger environment.
Four Primary Principles of Organic Farming
1 Health: Organic farming contributes to the well being of humans, soil, animals, and the earth. It is a win-win situation for all.
2 Fairness: We must share the natural resources available on our planet amongst all its inhabitants. We share this planet with other living beings. Fairness is achieved when we share the resources equally with other living beings. Judicious use of natural resources will preserve the resources for future generations. It helps in reducing poverty and provides good quality of life.
3 Ecological Balance: Organic farming must be modelled on living ecological systems. Its methods must fit the environmental balances and cycles in nature.
4 Care: Organic farming needs to be done in a careful and responsible manner. This will benefit the future and present generations and the environment. It does not depend on synthetic chemicals. It utilizes natural, biological techniques to build up soil fertility. One such method is microbial activity for boosting plant nutrition. The practice of multiple cropping in organic farming boosts biodiversity. It enhances resilience and productivity, thereby contributing to a healthy agricultural system. Traditional farming systems use mono-cropping that reduces soil fertility over some time.
Conventional Farming will not work in the long run?
- There is a loss of soil fertility due to a lack of crop rotation and excessive use of chemical fertilizers.
- Contamination of water resources occurs during the rains due to Nitrate runoff.
- Heavy rains and deep ploughing causes soil erosion.
- Cultivation requires more fuel.
- Use of poisonous pesticide and fungicide sprays to curb pests and weeds.
- Native animals and plants lose space to exotic species and hybrids.