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Organic farming by Priyanka ,  Sep 7, 2013

Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control. Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured (synthetic) fertilizers, pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, genetically modified organisms,[1] human sewage sludge, and nanomaterials.[2]

Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1972

It is a method of farming system which primarily aimed at cultivating the land and raising crops in such a way, as to keep the soil alive and in good health by use of organic wastes (crop, animal and farm wastes, aquatic wastes) and other biological materials along with beneficial microbes (biofertilizers) to release nutrients to crops for increased sustainable production in an eco friendly pollution free environment.

As per the definition of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study team on organic farming “organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc) and to the maximum extent feasible rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection”.

FAO suggested that “Organic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs”.

Need of organic farming

With the increase in population our compulsion would be not only to stabilize agricultural production but to increase it further in sustainable manner. The scientists have realized that the ‘Green Revolution’ with high input use has reached a plateau and is now sustained with diminishing return of falling dividends. Thus, a natural balance needs to be maintained at all cost for existence of life and property. The obvious choice for that would be more relevant in the present era, when these agrochemicals which are produced from fossil fuel and are not renewable and are diminishing in availability. It may also cost heavily on our foreign exchange in future.

The key characteristics of organic farming include

1

Protecting the long term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels, encouraging soil biological activity, and careful mechanical intervention;

2

Providing crop nutrients indirectly using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plant by the action of soil micro-organisms;

3

Nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes and biological nitrogen fixation, as well as effective recycling of organic materials including crop residues and livestock manures;

4

Weed, disease and pest control relying primarily on crop rotations, natural predators, diversity, organic manuring, resistant varieties and limited (preferably minimal) thermal, biological and chemical intervention;

5

The extensive management of livestock, paying full regard to their evolutionary adaptations, behavioural needs and animal welfare issues with respect to nutrition, housing, health, breeding and rearing;

6

Careful attention to the impact of the farming system on the wider environment and the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats.

Conventional Vs Organic Farming

Organic and conventional agriculture belonged to two different paradigms. The fundamental difference between the two competing agricultural paradigms as follows

Conventional Farming

Organic Farming

Centralization

Decentralization

Dependence

Independence

Competition

Community

Domination of nature

Harmony with nature

Specialisation

Diversity

Exploitation

Restraint

In contrast, several agro-ecologically based researchers stress more the fluid transition between conventional, integrated and organic farming, as an outcome of different assessments of economic, ecological and social goals. Consequently, technique strategies such as integrated pest management of balanced nutrient supply might improve conventional agriculture to such as an extent that it may appear unnecessary to strictly ban pesticides and mineral fertilizers as required by organic standards.

However, there is scientific that organic agriculture differs from conventional agriculture not only gradually but fundamentally. Implementing organic methods consequently seems to provide a new quality in how the agro-ecosystem works. This functioning cannot be explained by summing up single ecological measures. Organic farming seems to improve soil fertility in a way and to an extent which cannot be achieved by conventional farming even if the later consistently respects some ecologically principles.

Organic agriculture is one of several to sustainable agriculture and many of the techniques used (e.g. inter-cropping, rotation of crops, double digging,, mulching, integration of crops and livestock) are practiced under various agricultural systems. What makes organic agriculture unique, as regulated under various laws and certification programmes, is that:

1) almost all synthetic inputs are prohibited and 2) Soil building crop rotations are mandated.

The basic rules of organic production are that natural inputs are approved and synthetic inputs are prohibited, but there are exceptions in both cases.

Certain natural inputs determined by the various certification programmes to be harmful to human health or the environment are prohibited (e.g. arsenic). As well, certain synthetic inputs determined to be essential and consistent with organic farming philosophy, are allowed (e.g. insect pheromones). Lists of specific approved synthetic inputs and prohibited natural inputs are maintained by all the certification programmes and such a list is under negotiation in codex. Many certification programmes require additional environmental protection measures in adoption to these two requirements. While many farmers in the developing world do not use synthetic inputs, this alone is not sufficient to classify their operations as organic.

Modern Farming

Today's chemical farms have little use for the skilled husbandry which was once the guiding principle of working the land. The emphasis today is solely on productivity - high input in exchange for high returns and productivity (mostly diminishing now however for farmers worldwide). Four important considerations - what happens to the land, the food it produces, the people who eat it and the communities which lose out - are overlooked.

Land exhaustion

The constant use of artificial fertilizer, together with a lack of crop rotation, reduces the soil's fertility year by year.  

Fertilizers

High yield levels are produced by applying large quantities of artificial fertilizers, instead of by maintaining the natural fertility of the soil.

Nitrate run-off

About half of the nitrate in the artificial fertilizer used on crops is dissolved by rain. The dissolved nitrate runs off the fields to contaminate water courses.

Soil erosion

Where repeated deep ploughing is used to turn over the ground, heavy rains can carry away the topsoil and leave the ground useless for cultivation.

Soil compaction

Damage to the structure of soil by compression is a serious problem in areas that are intensively farmed. Conventional tillage may involve a tractor passing over the land six or seven times, and the wheelings can cover up to 90 per cent of a field. Even a single tractor pass can compress the surface enough to reduce the porosity of the soil by 70 per cent, increasing surface run-off and, therefore, water erosion. In the worst cases, the surface run-off may approach 100 percent - none of the water penetrates the surface

Agricultural fuel

As crop yields grow, so does the amount of fuel needed to produce them. European farmers now use an average of 12 tons of fuel to farm a square kilometre of land; American farmers use about 5 tons (1987 figures).

Biocide sprays

The only controls used against weeds and pests are chemical ones. Most crops receive many doses of different chemicals before they are harvested.

Cruelty to animals

On most "modern" farms, all animals are crowded together indoors. Complex systems of machinery are needed to feed them, while constant medication is needed to prevent disease. The cruelty involved in managing, breeding, growing and slaughtering farm animals today is unimaginably repulsive and horrifying.

Animal slurry

With so many animals packed together in indoor pens, their manure accumulates at great speed. It is often poured into lagoons which leak into local watercourses, contaminating them with disease-causing organisms and contributing to algae-blooms.

Imported animal feed

Many farms are not self-sufficient in animal feed; instead they rely on feed brought into the farm. This often comes from countries which can ill afford to part with it. 

Stubble burning

In countries where stubble is burned, large amounts of potentially useful organic matter disappear into the sky in clouds of polluting smoke

Loss of cultivated biodiversity

Large and other chemical farms tend to be monocultures growing the same crop and crop variety

Threat to indigenous seeds and animal breeds and species

Native cultivars and animal breeds lose out to exotic species and hybrids. Many native animal breeds are today threatened with extinction. The same holds true for many indigenous plant varieties which have disappeared within the space of one generation.

Habitat destruction

Agribusiness farming demands that anything which stands in the way of crop production is uprooted and destroyed. The wild animals and plants which were once a common sight around farms are deprived of their natural habitat and die out.

Contaminated food

Food, both plant and animal products, leaves the farm contaminated with the chemicals that were used to produce it.

Destruction of traditional knowledge systems and traditions

Rural indigenous knowledge and traditions, both agricultural and non-agricultural, is invariably connected to agriculture and agricultural systems.

Control of agriculture inputs and food distribution channel

The supply and trading in agricultural inputs and produce is in the hands of a few large corporations. This threatens food security, reducing the leverage and importance of the first and the last part of the supply chain - the farmer and the consumer.

Threat to individual farmers

Chemical agriculture is a threat to their livelihoods and changes their lifestyles, unfortunately not for the better.

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