Organic farming is the form of agriculture that realize on techniques such as crop rotation, green manuring compost and biological pest control.
Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but exclude or strictly limit the use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives then genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) human sewage sludge and nano particles.
Organic agriculture methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations based on the standards set by IFOAM (Internationally Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement). It was established in 1972.
IFOAM defines the goals of organic farming as “Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soil, ecosystem, and people. It realizes on ecological processes biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.
Role of IFOAM in organic farming
Organic Agriculture combines with traditions, innovations and science to benefit the shared environment and promote and promote a fair relationship and good quality of life for all involved.
E.g. grains, meat, dairy, eggs, fiber such as cotton, flowers and preserved food products. Organic farming management relies on developing biological diversity in the field to disrupt the habitat for pest organisms and the purposeful maintenance and replenishment of soil fertility.
Organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. A detailed record keeping system that tracks all products from field to point of sales and maintenance of buffer zones to prevent inadvertent contamination from adjacent conventional fields.
This food is organically certified the agri-product that have been grown and processed according to uniform standards verified by independent state or private organizations approved by USDA (The certification authority). All products sold as organic must be certified.
Certification Includes annual submission of organic system plan and inspection of farm, field and processing facilities. Inspectors verified that organic products such as long-term soil management, buffering between organic farms and neighboring conventional farm and record keeping are being followed.
Processing inspection includes review of facilities cleaning pest control methods ingredient, transportation, storage, record keeping and audit.
Organic food is minimally processed to maintain the integrity of food without artificial ingredients or preservatives. Certified organic requires the rejection of agro-chemicals, irradiation and genetically engineered food or ingredients.
Is organic food more nutritious from conventional / inorganic?
The definite study has been done mainly because of multitude of variable involved in making a fare comparison between organically and conventionally grown food. These include:
- Crop Variety
- Post-Harvest Handling
- Soil Type
Which can have significant effect on nutrition quality. So, organic food is far less likely to contain pesticides residue than the conventional. Organic food is safe to consume as any other kind of food. Consumer should wash before consuming to ensure maximum cleanliness.
Organic food contains significantly lower level of pesticide residue than conventional produce. It is a common misconception that organic food is a greater risk of E. coli contamination because of raw manure application.
Although conventional farmer applies tons of raw manure as well as with no regulation. Organic farming set strict guidelines on manure use in organic farming. Either it must be 1st composted or it must be applied at least 90 days before harvesting which allow ample time for microbial breakdown of any pathogen.
The cost of organic food is higher than that of conventional food. These costs include cleanup of polluted water, remediation of pesticides contamination. Prices of organic food include cost of growing, harvesting, storage, transportation and storage. In case of processed food, processing and packaging cost also include.
Composting is the biological decomposition (Rotting and decay) of plant residue, farm and animal manure and kitchen scraps under controlled conditions. Once these manures are completely decayed the product is called compost. “Compost is a decayed organic matter that is earthy dark and crumbly.”
Types of Composting
- Pile or heap composting
What to prepare? A semi shaded area 3 X 3 ft. area.
- Composting Material
- Green Material that are rich in nitrogen (fresh cut grasses, twigs, branches and bark) that are cut into small pieces.
- Kitchen Scraps
- Farm Animal Manure
- Brown Material that is rich in carbon, dried leaves straws, corn stocks and other dried plant residue and cut old newspapers.
- Garden Soil
- Garden Fork or Shovel
That is the material which is required for pile or heap composting.
Step by step procedure:
- Spread a layer of several inches thick (about 6 inches) of the brown material on the surface soil. This is the first layer.
- Add the next layer that is green material about 6 inches thick.
- Top this with a thin layer of garden soil.
- Sprinkle enough water to make the layer moist; Not wet or soggy.
Repeat the step 1 to 4 until your piles reaches to the height of 3 ft. Turn the pile after two weeks to heat it up. Use a garden fork/shovel to turn the pile to mix, move the decomposing material at the middle toward outside and the outside material and then mix it every 5 to 7 days mix it.
Thereafter, if your compost has bad odor turn it more often (2-3 days) as your pile is tightly packed and is poorly aerated.
Ensure that pile is heating up. When you first turned the pile, you may see steam rising from it. This signal decomposition. You can cover the pile to keep the heat in.
Add nothing to the pile once composting process is has begun, the composting is finished. When pile is no longer heating up and the original material burn earthy or black, so this is the complete process of pile and heap.
- Pit Composting
What to Prepare?
1*1 m , (Length)- 1.5*1.5 m (Width) and depth is one meter.
- Composting Material
Same as for Pile composting mentioned above.
Step by Step Procedure
- Dig the compost pit in semi shaded non- water-logged area.
- Place dry plant material as the first layer. This should be 20-25 cm.
- Sprinkle enough water to make the compost material moist but not wet.
- Next layer will be the green material either fresh or wilted, grasses or weeds; twigs and branches also be added unless they are chopped into smaller pieces, this layer should also be 20-25 cm thick.
- Top with a mixture of animal manure, soil and ash. This layer should be 10-15 cm thick.
- Repeat the above-mentioned procedure until the pile reaches a height of one meter.
You can make the pile thicker in middle to create a dome shaped pile, this make turning of pile easier.
- Place the sticks vertically into the pile to allow the air to circulate into the various layers.
- Cover the pile with broad leaves plant like banana etc.
- Turn the pile after 2 weeks, the compost will be ready in 3-4 months.
Tips for better composting:
- Keep the pile well aerated
- Keep the pile moist
- Maintain balance of brown and green material. Too much of one thing, slow down decomposition. The best ratio is 1 pot green and 1 pot brown.
- Shredding and chopping of these materials into smaller pieces will help to speed up the composting material.
- Do not add diseased plants, human waste, cats and dog’s feces, as the harmful pathogen found in these waste products may not be killed in process of decomposition.
- Do not add mature weeds as their seed may not be killed in process of decomposition and may germinate once you use compost in your field.
Uses of Compost:
- An excellent source of organic matter, that has a plenty of beneficial organisms.
- It adds nutrients necessary for plant growth.
- It improves plant growth.
- Control plant disease pathogen.
- Control soil borne pathogens.
- Improves the soil composition and texture. It breaks up the clay soil, help the sandy soil to retain moisture and relieves compaction.
- Improves soil drainage
- Reduces soil erosion.
- It rehabilitates the infertile soil.
- Makes the soil easy to cultivate.
Green manuring is the ploughing under incorporation of any green manure crop while they are green or soon after they flower. Green manure or forage or leguminous crop that are grown for their leafy material. Needed for soil conservation.
Criteria for Green Manuring
- Fast growing
- Produced abundant and succulent tops.
- Well adapted to local conditions.
- Fix nitrogen into the soil.
- It improves the soil fertility.
- Add nutrients and organic matter.
- Improve soil structure.
- Improve soil aeration.
- Helps to control insects, mites, pest nematodes and diseases.
- Helps to control weeds.
- Promote habitat for natural enemy.
- Increases soil biodiversity by stimulating the growth of beneficial microbe and other soil organisms.
Criteria for Selection of Green Manure Crops
- Seed must be easily available and must be cheap.
- Tillage, fertilizer and irrigation requirement must be minimum.
- Fast growing
- Produced abundant and Succulent tops
- Well adapted to local conditions
- Can fix nitrogen in the soil
- Broadcast and sow seeds after harvest.
- Cut the greens after flowering and plough them under.
Sow or transplant the next crop 1-2 week after incorporation of Green Manure.
Sustainable Organic Farming
The farming based on sustainable ways and on an understanding of ecosystem services. Sustainable agriculture is a system of crop cultivation which doesn’t impair the manure or humus content of the soil and water.
- Controlling soil –water regimes
- Rain harvesting & irrational methods
- Soil Fertility management
- Organic residue management
The phrase ‘sustainable agriculture’ was reportedly coined by the Australian agricultural scientist Gordon Myclymont & Wes Jackson are credited with the first publication of the expression in his 1980 book New Roots for Agriculture. The term became popular in the late 1980.
- Crop rotation
Rotation breaks the reproduction cycles of pests. During rotation, farmers can plant certain crops, which replenish plant nutrients. These crops reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Cover crops
By planting cover crops, such as clover or oats, the farmer can achieve his goals of preventing soil erosion, suppressing the growth of weeds, and enhancing the quality of the soil. The use of cover crops also reduces the need for chemicals such as fertilizers.
- Soil Enrichment
By process of crop rotation and cover crops
Integrated pest management (IPM)
This is an approach, which really relies on biological as opposed to chemical methods. IMP also emphasizes the importance of crop rotation to combat pest management.
Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
- Environmental Conservation
Sustainable agriculture helps to replenish the land as well as other natural resources such as water and air. This replenishment ensures that these natural resources will be able for future generations to sustain life.
- Public Health Safety
Sustainable agriculture avoids hazardous pesticides and fertilizers. As a result, farmers can produce fruits, vegetables and other crops that are safer for consumers, workers, and surrounding communities.
- Prevents Pollution
Sustainable agriculture means that any waste a farm produces remains inside the farms ecosystem. In this way the waste cannot cause pollution.
- Reduce cost
The use of sustainable agriculture reduces the need of fertilizers, resulting in significant cost savings in terms of purchasing as well as transporting them. This in turn lessens the overall costs involved in farming.
Authors: Muhammad Fraz Ali*, Usman Ghani*, Huma Zafar+, Muhammad Jazib Khan+
*= Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad
+= Department of Agronomy, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi