Nowadays, buying vegetables straight from the market seems impossible. The news about adulterant and coloring agents in farm produce is disturbing. What looks lush and green can be a product of an unknown amount of chemicals. In the end, we might be consuming only chemicals and nothing of the nutrients.
And even more alarming is the amount of pesticides used to keep the plants pest-free. Adding pesticides is a necessity for farmers to safeguard their hard work from getting spoilt. A farmer toils their land day and night. And pests damage the crops to their best ability. The only possible solution is to use a large number of pesticides. The farmer might protect his financial situation but ends up with chemical-filled farm produce. In such a situation, organic farm products are gaining momentum. They are a bit expensive from regular vegetables and fruits but more nutritious. Organic farming practices are more complex than common farm practices and hence the high cost. Read below to know what is organic farming.
What is Organic Farming?
According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization in United Nations), “Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system that promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfill any specific function within the system.”
Quite heavy terms, right?
In layman language, organic farming is a practice to preserve the soil quality and produce better farm products. In a way, it is a win-win situation for ecology and the economy. By employing this farming practice, you protect the soil, ecology, and do the minimum damage possible, and gain high-quality farm yields. You do not use any harmful pesticides, fertilizers, or any such chemicals. Coloring agents, growth-boosting agents included.
Read Also: What is Crop Rotation
Organic Farm Practices
Organic farming uses plenty of farm practices to reduce the damage to the ecology and improve food yields. Some of them are –
Improve Soil Health
Traditional farming practices like monoculture are destructive to the soil. Over time, the soil gets drained of all the minerals. Also, soil erosion (from leaving the field barren) leads to losing the top fertile soil. It also contributes to losing algae, fungi, and other microbes beneficial to maintaining soil health and crop quality.
How does organic farm practice relate to soil health? Organic farming takes measures to ensure soil quality. With good soil quality, the yields will be of high quality, faring well in droughts too. In organic farming, the farmer checks the quality of the soil, checks for minerals present, and then plants the crop that can grow well in that soil type and weather condition.
Cover crops are grown in between the growing season to cover the fields and prevent soil from eroding. It helps in conserving the quality of the soil. It acts like mulch. In organic farming, this method is used to smother weeds, controls pests, plant diseases, conserve water availability, and maintain the biodiversity of the field. By growing cover crops, the farmers don’t have to buy synthetic pesticides or weedicides.
Crop rotation is another farming practice where the soil quality is conserved. In this method, the farmer plants different crops in a single field over different seasons. Different crop types cycle the minerals in the soils.
There are many crop rotation methods where two or more crops are planted in the same field in different seasons.
Using compost as fertilizer has been a widely used method in traditional farming. It improves the quality of soil and plants by reducing the dependency on synthetic fertilizers. In organic farming, using compost improves the soil quality with no harmful fertilizers that can disturb the balance of minerals in the soil.
The method of tillage is a widespread farming practice. By tilling the soil before planting, the soil is loosened along with removing unwanted weeds. Weeds compete with main crops for nutrients and affect growth. While tillage helps in removing weeds, it also exposes the field to possible soil erosion. The land loses the top fertile soil with rain and wind.
By not tilling the land before growing the cash crop, soil erosion can be avoided. In this method, farmers remove cover crops or weeds growing in the soil by using tools like hoes, rakes, or special tractors like roller-crimper. The farmers plant the cash crops without removing the cut cover crops and weeds. These then act as mulch and protect the soil from erosion.
Using pesticides kills the majority of the pests in the field including beneficial insects like ladybugs. The food crops also get contaminated with harmful pesticides. The food crops grown in this manner have a lot of pesticide content in them and even affect the health of people consuming the end products.
In organic farming, pest management is done by using pheromones to disturb pest mating cycles or mechanical controls like trapping. If all these methods do not work, then organic pesticides are used to kill the pests.
Organic farming also includes livestock management. Growing livestock in cramped areas can lead to low-quality farm products. By raising livestock on a hygienic and well-maintained farm, feeding organic feed to the animals, not inducing growth hormones can ensure better health and better yield.
Containing and moving animals through pastures to improve soil, plant, and animal health is called rotational grazing. This will ensure farmers with better livestock and farm yields.
Why organic farming is better? It is better than other farm practices because it provides sustainability to the ecology and the economy. This kind of farming requires a lot of expertise. And half-baked knowledge can only expose a farmer to a financial burden. But by proper implementation, organic farming can improve the quality of farm yields and give monetary benefits along the way.
How to Start Organic Farming in Your Garden?
If you want to eat fresh and nutritious veggies, one way is to grow them yourself. Growing vegetables in your garden are hard. But not an impossible task. It needs a lot of patience. So, how to start organic farming? Go through the basics of organic farming. It includes knowledge of how to prepare the land.
Choose What to Plant
Choose the site where you are planning to grow vegetables. Check the quality of the soil. You can even send the soil sample to an agricultural institution to get it checked. You can check the quality of the soil from the color, whether it is red, yellow, or black. Knowing the type of soil will help you in choosing the plants you will be growing. You can also get this information from nearby farms. Check what kind of plants are grown in your vicinity.
Prepare the Soil
After choosing the plant and checking the soil composition, prepare the soil bed. Start by loosening up the soil and adding compost to it. Composts are decomposed waste food materials and other biodegradable wastes. You can buy manure from nearby farms and add it to your soil bed.
Plant the Plant
After preparing the soil, you can go with planting the crops or vegetables. Keep note that different plants have different methods of planting. Some plants can grow by planting the shoot or a branch. Others grow from seeds. Some need less water. While some need a lot of water to grow. Before planting the crops, research the method thoroughly.
Take care of the Plant
Farming work needs a lot of patience. And organic farming more so.
You cannot use synthetic fertilizers or weedicides. You will have to apply organic methods to get rid of pests and weeds. You have to protect the plants from birds and pests and deploy methods to keep these unwanted pests away. Also, some insects and worms are beneficial to your plant’s growth. Check for these and let them grow. Don’t kill them as they look ugly as other pests.
Monitor the growth of the plant. Plants can get diseases too. Look for symptoms of mineral deficiency. Take appropriate measures to ensure the survival of the plant. Taking care of plants is like taking care of patients.
If you lack patience, you better grow cactus and get fresh veggies from organic product sellers. It’s easy and convenient.
Organic farming was introduced as a response to the intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides leading to environmental degradation. Owing to this constant exposure of the farm produce to pesticides, the quality and taste were compromised. Encouraged by an instinct to ensure the wellbeing of every single being on the planet, we begin GFO.