As the global population began to grow rapidly, the need for a more sustainable approach in food production became more obvious. Unsustainable farm practices, geared only towards higher yields, put additional pressure on global issues such as:
- Climate changes
- Loss of biodiversity
- Soil erosion
- Pollution of the most important natural resources (soil and water)
In an attempt to accommodate global food demands, and in efforts to mitigate the aforementioned problems, many countries and farmers have begun turning to organic farm practices. Today, there are 2.3 million certified organic farmers in 172 countries. More importantly, the agricultural land under organic farming is constantly increasing. Still, organic farming occupies only 1% of the total agricultural land.
Why is Organic Farming So Special?
As a completely natural and sustainable farm management practice, organic farming is based on unique values. In other words, organic farming is not only a farm practice but also a philosophy of working together with nature.
As a holistic farm management approach, organic farming aims to create a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable food production system.
More precisely, organic farming is based on managing the agro-ecosystem rather than relying on external farming inputs, such as pesticides, artificial fertilizers, additives, and genetically modified organisms.
Organic farming involves the use of traditional farm practices in combination with advanced scientific research and modern farm innovations. For example, using manuring and biological soil disinfestation.
The Main Principles of Organic Farming
Organic farming is strictly regulated in each country, with a few common principles being known:
- The principle of health claims that organic farming is intended to protect and enhance the health of all organisms (this includes soil microorganisms, as well as humans)
- The principle of ecology, which is based on the fact that organic farming should protect and benefit the environment (landscape, climate, natural habitats, biodiversity, air, water, and soil)
- The principle of fairness aims to provide socially and ecologically appropriate management over environmental resources, as well as provide a sufficient supply of quality food and other products.
- The principle of care stresses precaution and responsibility as the key concerns in organic farm management.
Powerful and Completely Natural Farm Practices
Organic farmers are true life-savers who work hard to grow healthy and nutritious crops. An additional responsibility for them is to maintain or enhance the most important of natural resources while protecting the environment for the future generations. Therefore, it's frequently wondered how organic farmers manage their crop production. The answer will usually depend on the laws and regulations of each country. However, some of the most popular organic farm management practices are:
- Crop rotation, used to maintain soil fertility and to improve crop protection from various pests
- Organic nutrient management, based on improvement of soil organic matter through manuring, composting, or mulching
- Growing cover crops, a beneficial practice for controlling insect pests and weeds, preventing soil erosion, as well as improving the nutrient content in the soil
- Preventive crop protection measures, such as choosing resistant varieties, adaptation of planting or sowing, and harvesting time
- Relying on natural predators as a biological pest protection measure
- Weeding as a non-chemical weed management practice
- Anaerobic soil disinfestation that eliminates or reduces soil-borne pests
- Proper space between the crops
- Mechanical soil cultivation
- Recycling materials
- Relying on renewable resources.
To Farm Organically or Not?
There are many public and scientific discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of organic farming. Most of them are related to the productivity and profitability of organic crop production.
When considering the yields, organic farming is still lagging behind the conventional. However, there have been some cases in which organic farming achieved higher yields than conventional.
On the other hand, certified organic products usually have higher market prices than their conventional counterparts. This is mainly because of the limited supply of organic products on the market. This further results in higher demand for organically produced crops.
Another important aspect to consider is that organic farming is a labor-intensive farm practice that demands a lot of work. More importantly, in order to best utilize the environment and practice organic farming, a farmer must deal with and adhere to complicated and strict regulations.
After all, being an organic farmer is not an easy job. However, it brings some special values and opens new possibilities in achieving sustainable crop production.
So, open your mind to nature and give organic farm management a chance!
Image sources: Organic-World.net