Organic farming is getting more and more popular as a farm practice. Although most agricultural land is still processed through conventional farming, the demand for organic agriculture and organic crops is constantly increasing. The following article reveals the answers to some common questions regarding organic farming, including its general definition, background, principles, practices of organic producers, and pros and cons.
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Organic Farming: What Is It And Why It’s Important
There are many different definitions of organic farming. Most of them claim that organic farming excludes synthetically compounded fertilizers and pesticides. This is correct; however, organic farming is much more than that. 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 agroecosystem rather than relying on external farming inputs, such as pesticides, artificial fertilizers, additives, and genetically modified organisms.
In other words, 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 instead of synthetic fertilizers. Organic farmers are true lifesavers who work hard to grow healthy and nutritious crops. Additional responsibility for them is to maintain or enhance the most important natural resources while practicing sustainable agriculture for future generations.
When did the Organic Farming Movement Start?
As the global population began to grow rapidly, the need for more sustainability 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)
To accommodate global food demands, and mitigate the aforementioned problems, many countries and farmers have turned 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. The reason for so a small percentage of organic agricultural land lies in the fact that organic farmers usually grow their crops on smaller surfaces than conventional.
The Main Principles of Organic Farming
Organic farming is strictly regulated in each country. Still, there are some principles common to all organic farmers. These are as follows:
- 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 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.
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.
Different Practices in Organic Farming
Each country regulates the laws and regulations for organic farming separately. Based on that there are different types of practices included in various types of organic farming. However, there are some popular organic farm practices common to most organic farmers:
- Crop rotation used to maintain soil fertility and to improve crop protection from various pests
- Organic nutrient management, is based on the improvement of soil organic matter through manuring, composting or mulching
- Growing cover crops, is 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, the 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 crops
- Mechanical soil cultivation
- Recycling materials
- Relying on renewable resources
Organic Farming: Remaining Profitable While Protecting the Environment
One of the core debates in organic or conventional farming is the topic of profitability. While the practices of both can be debated, farmers are mostly concerned about the productivity and profitability of each. Farm productivity depends on many factors, including crop characteristics, soil type, weather conditions, and insect pests and diseases, among others.
Conventional farming is believed to be more productive than organic. However, higher input costs and lower market price does affect its profitability. If we take a closer look at the yields, organic farming is still less productive than conventional. One reason for this is the fact that organic farming boosts crop growth, while conventional farming eliminates potential crop damages.
There are some examples showing organic farming as holding great potential for adequate yields. Research conducted by the Rodale Institute proved that organically grown corn has a yield that is 31% higher than conventionally grown corn during years of drought. Finally, organic farming has shown to be an efficient practice in spite of typical lower yields. One reason for the efficiency of organic production is the higher market price that organically grown crops can demand. Certified organic products tend to be more expensive for public purchase than their conventional counterparts.
The main reason for this significant price difference is the limited supply of organic products available, leading to higher market demand. Because of lower production inputs, higher demand for organic products, and higher prices that can be charged; organic farmers may achieve a comparable amount of efficiency. This helps organic growers become a strong and capable market competitor as opposed to the conventional farmer.
Top Reasons to Farm Organic
Organic farming doesn’t just mean going ‘back’ to traditional methods. In fact, many farming methods used in the past are still being used today. Organic farming takes the best of older more traditional farming techniques and combines them with modern scientific knowledge. So, should farmers switch to organic farming or modernize through conventional farming techniques?
The answer really depends on several factors. These include the type of farm in question, the location, the crop in question, and the purpose of production. If you have accounted for all of these factors and you are still undecided check out our post on twelve reasons to farm organic.
Will Organic Farming Replace Conventional?
Consumer concern over organic food production and the effect of modern farming methods on the environment in particular animal welfare are increasing daily. More and more farmers are converting to organic farming. A good example of the shift to organic farming can be seen in Bhutan. With just 700,000 people, most of whom are farmers, Bhutan has become the first country in the world that has converted 100% to organic farming. But, since organic foods are produced without synthetic inputs it’s a question if organic will ever truly replace conventional farming methods.
How Can Farm Management Software Like AGRIVI Help the Organic Industry
Being an organic farmer is not an easy job. However, it brings some special values and opens new possibilities for achieving sustainable crop production. Luckily the development of Digital Agriculture and Farm Management Software such as AGRIVI supports organic farmers in their crop management.
AGRIVI enables complete production traceability and transparency, allowing organic farmers to showcase their products to customers and agribusiness companies with which they collaborate. Besides providing additional value on the market, with AGRIVI organic farmers can easily manage their reporting to the local authorities in just a few clicks.
AGRIVI provides support in risk management through accurate weather, satellite imagery as well as pest and weather alarms. Last, but not least, AGRIVI supports organic farmers in their mission to ensure sustainable production through the possibility of planning each activity based on real crop and field conditions and avoiding every unnecessary entry into the field.
FAQ About Organic Farming
Although the overall popularity of organic farming is increasing, there are still few frequently asked questions regarding this sustainable production type.
Are pesticides used in organic farming?
To protect their yield and improve their production, organic growers use some protection products and fertilizers. However, the big difference between organic and conventional farming practices is that in organic farming the chemicals are derived from natural sources instead of using synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. It’s also important to mention that each country has its own regulations regarding the protection products and fertilizers that are allowed in organic production.
Is organic farming better for the environment?
Organic farming is better for the environment than conventional because it benefits the overall ecosystem by minimizing the usage of chemicals and improving overall soil properties.
How do organic farm practices relate to soil health?
Organic practices improve overall soil conditions and prevent soil erosion. Organic farmers enrich the soil with organic matter which significantly improved soil fertility.
How do I get my farm certified organic?
Each country has its own regulations and procedures which are needed for organic certification. Usually, the corresponding institutions such as the USDA (Us Department of Agriculture) in each country publish the information on their webpage. Sometimes, there are also Advisory services that support farmers during the process of getting certificates.