What is Organic Farming?
The simple definition of organic farming is a practice that relies on natural inputs in agricultural production. It eliminates synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and preservatives in farm production.
The Department of Agriculture controls the standards of organic agriculture in the United States. Even though it is far more expensive to farm and buy organic, it has morphed into a global phenomenon. Recent years have also seen a rise in groups advocating for organic practices. We have also seen more heated debates between supporters and opponents of organic farming, but the jury is still gathering the scientific evidence. This article tries to explore both sides of the argument.
Why Choose Organic Agriculture
The main reason is that consumers are now increasingly conscious of the safety of the food that they consume.
Considerations for Practicing Organic Farming
Organic farming is a game of balance. A good farmer should balance proper soil management practices, water utilization, maintaining biodiversity, and energy efficiency. In taking such a proactive approach, the organic farmer factors the following when planning their operations.
- Soil management: Placing a high emphasis on soil building is a central principle in organic farming. Practices that encourage soil structure maintenance and formation create a more enabling environment for better crop growth. They include aspects such as minimal tilling, crop rotation, and intercropping. Sometimes it becomes necessary to supplement the nutrients in the soil, which the farmer achieves by using organic manure.
- Water: Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers pose a greater risk of polluting groundwater. The chemicals may find their way into the rivers through surface runoff or sink deep into the soil to the underground water table. Switching to organic fertilizers helps to reduce the pollution risks. Compost and manure have also proven better at enhancing soil structure and improving water filtration.
- Biodiversity and conservation: Organic farming promotes the use of climate-adapted seeds and seedlings. The resulting crops or even animals are resilient and resistant to diseases. Ecologically, avoiding chemical use maintains a suitable habitat for wildlife. Lack of pesticide use promotes a symbiotic environment between the crops and soil microorganisms.
- Carbon emissions: Continued tillage releases carbon from the soil and into the atmosphere. Minimum tillage helps to reduce the greenhouse effect by sequestering the carbon in the soil. Using plant-based manure also returns carbon to the soil, helping to mitigate against climate change.
What Makes Organic Farming Attractive
Widely considered as a far more sustainable form of food production, organic proponents argue that it results in better soil quality in the long run. In avoiding synthetic pesticides and herbicides, organic farmers help to build natural resistance in their crops. They emphasize growing crops that are naturally resistant to pests and diseases. Continued antibiotic use in lives increases their drug resistance.
Organic farmers can save money on farming inputs when they choose to produce their fertilizers. They achieve this by using compost, green manure, and organic worms. The practice also insists on crop rotation, giving the soil ample time to replenish lost nutrients naturally.
Anyone can practice organic farming, as it requires fewer inputs. It eliminates the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. With no-till farming, the farmer won’t incur any costs to plow the land. There’s the extra incentive of protecting the environment from harmful fumes emitted by commercial plows.
In 2011, Gerold Rahmann published a paper showing how organic farming aided biodiversity. Later studies have also proven how some toxic pesticides and fertilizers interfere with soil microorganisms. Vital to balancing the nutrient composition, the loss of these organisms creates further reliance on chemical fertilizers.
Organic farms encourage the efficient utilization of resources. Any waste produced from plants and animals goes into compost pits and will serve as manure. Some studies have shown that food grown organically is richer in nutrients. Other reports have linked some of the chemicals used in conventional farming to cancer risks for farmers and consumers.
The Case Against Organic Farming
Lately, some experts have shifted their focus to studying the harmful effects of organic farming on the environment. Some critics have fallen short of calling out the practice for being wasteful. In their opinion, you need more land to produce organically than you would with conventional farming.
Without fertilizers, crop yields will dwindle over time despite your best rotation efforts. After all, conventional farming also utilizes rotation on top fertilizers that boost specific nutrients lost from the soil.
Organic farming is more labor-intensive. The average organic farmer has a higher workload since they have to do many things by hand. For example, they will have to pull out weeds by hand when herbicides can serve the purpose. When you need more hands to help on the field, it translates to higher labor costs.
Successful organic farming requires a higher level of specialized knowledge. You need to have a good understanding of soil composition, weather patterns, and crop biology. Failure to master these principles can make a farmer compensate with conventional practices like synthetic fertilizer use. A few experts argue that manure may contribute more to the carbon footprint as opposed to fertilizer.
There is no single definition of organic. It opens the market to scrupulous farmers who may label their produce as organic and charge a premium for it. To prevent such, the USDA accredits organic certifying agents, who verify the farming methods before allowing the organic label on produce.
There are different levels of organic (4 in the United States), which adds to the confusion. For instance, 30% organic means that 70% of the ingredients used can be non-organic. It also means that a farmer can use a synthetic pesticide, label their product as 30% Organic and get away with it.
Fresh Products Faster
Organic farming demands that the produce is not only grown in pristine condition, there ought to be high standard handling. The packaging, storage, and distribution need to match industry standards. With over 100 years of distributing fresh produce in the United States, Castellini has the right expertise and experience to bring you your favorite organic produce fresh and faster. For customized fresh produce logistics, contact us today.
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