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Organic farming for a greener environment
The meaning of organic farming:
Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Organic farming continues to be developed by various organic agriculture organizations today.
It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. In general, organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances.
For instance, naturally occurring pesticides such as pyrethrin and rotenone are permitted, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are generally prohibited. Synthetic substances that are allowed include, for example, copper sulfate, elemental sulfur and Ivermectin. Genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, human sewage sludge, plant growth regulators, hormones, and antibiotic use in livestock husbandry are prohibited.
Reasons for advocation of organic farming include real or perceived advantages in sustainability, openness, self-sufficiency, autonomy/independence, health, food security, and food safety, although the match between perception and reality is continually challenged.
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.
The rationale behind organic farming:
By farming organically, the dependence on chemicals is removed. By eliminating chemicals used in regular farming, the vegetables and other products will be healthier because they will get the nutrients by natural means. Unlike traditional farming; organic farming will help to prevent potentially harmful toxins from entering human bodies. Lastly, it is much more environmentally friendly.
The biggest problems, with using modern farming products, are the man-made chemicals. The modern farming products such as fertilizers, pesticides, etc. contaminate the health of humans and the health of the environment. The reason behind this is because the chemicals do not just stay on the soil. These chemicals seep into the ground and poison water supplies, gardens, your home, and as mentioned, your health. The use of modern farming products containing man-made chemicals are responsible for the reduction of the Earth’s ozone layer; and they also have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer, in humans.
When one decide to farm/garden organically, one can eliminate the concern for destroying the environment, but more importantly, one can eliminate the concern for own health, family members health and general population health and well-being. When one use modern farming products; the toxic chemicals are transferred to ones’ body and clothing. Obviously, these toxic chemicals could then be transferred to your children or significant number of other people. Not to mention, if you plant vegetables non-organically, toxic chemicals will be absorbed by your vegetables; and in turn, will be ingested by you and your family. In fact, one common ailment which affects avid gardeners is dermatitis. By farming organically, you can eliminate getting dermatitis of the hands.
By deciding to garden organically, you’ll help prevent the poisoning of groundwater and prevent adding further toxins to the soil. When man-made chemicals are used for farming, it poisons other plants. Because these man-made chemicals poison the water and other plants, it can be dangerous, or even deadly, to little creatures that rely on the water to drink or plants to eat. Lastly, the chemicals used will evaporate into the atmosphere and return in the form of contaminated rain and/or snow.
The definition of organic farming:
Organic agriculture can be defined as:
“An integrated farming system that strives for sustainability, the enhancement of soil fertility and biological diversity whilst, with rare exceptions, prohibiting synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and growth hormones.”
Since 1990 the market for organic food and other products has grown rapidly, reaching $63 billion worldwide in 2012. This demand has driven a similar increase in organically managed farmland that grew from 2001 to 2011 at a compounding rate of 8.9% per annum.
As of 2011, approximately 37,000,000 hectares (91,000,000 acres) worldwide were farmed organically, representing approximately 0.9 percent of total world farmland.
The most simple expression of organic farming is: “No chemical pesticides plus No chemical fertilizers plus Certification equal soil improvement, product improvement, better soil water retention and higher prices”.
Organic Agriculture is a sustainable agricultural production system that builds on ecological processes without using synthetic chemical inputs, in order to obtain food (or other products) meeting certain quality specifications
In 1972 the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) was created as a forum for different actors engaged in organic farming.
The IFOAM Definition of Organic Agriculture:
“Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.”
Principles of Organic Agriculture
1. Principle of health: Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.
2. Principle of ecology: Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.
3. Principle of fairness: Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to common environment and life opportunities.
4. Principle of care: Organic Agriculture should be managed in precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.
The private sector’s guideline is the International Basic Standards for Organic Production and Processing, created by IFOAM. The IFOAM Basic Standards define how organic products are grown, produced, processed and handled. They reflect the current state of organic production and processing methods and include a list of substances permitted in the production. IFOAM Basic Standards – together with the IFOAM Accreditation Criteria – constitute the IFOAM Norms, which provide a framework for certification bodies and standard-setting organizations world-wide to develop their own certification standards.
• IFOAM Guarantee system: https://www.ifoam.bio/
The environmental benefits of organic farming:
1. Organic farming discourages environmental exposure to pesticides and chemicals
2. Organic farming builds healthy soil
3. Organic farming helps combat erosion
4. Organic farming fights the effects of global warming
5. Organic farming supports water conservation and water health
6. Organic farming discourages algae blooms
7. Organic farming supports animal health and welfare
8. Organic farming encourages biodiversity
Advantages of organic farming:
Some of the advantages of organic agriculture:
- contributes to mitigate climate change
- builds resilient farming systems
- reduces poverty
- improves food security
- aligns economic development with sustainability
- meets health considerations
- decreases pollution
See this video on organic farming:
Organic fertilizer must be free of chemical pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
Organic fertilizers are used to improve soil quality and tilth, and to provide nutrients for plant growth. They provide nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as other elements essential for plant development and overall good health.
Nitrogen (N) promotes growth in plant leaves and stems. Phosphorus (P) is vital for seed germination, strong root systems, disease resistance, flower formation and fruit formation. Potassium (K) helps plants form sugars, starches, carbohydrates and proteins. It also helps fortify plants’ immune systems, strengthen stems, protect against the cold, preserve water and encourages fruit ripening.
Top organic fertilizer sources of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium:
Nitrogen (N): bat guano, blood/blood meal, crab waste, feather meal, fish meal (dry), hair, hoof/horn meal, shrimp waste, manure and compost.
Phosphorus (P): bat guano, bone meal, crab waste, cucumber skins (burned), hair, mushroom compost, phosphate, shrimp waste, manure and compost.
Potassium (K): crab waste, cucumber skins (burned), granite (dust), greensand, kaolinite (clay), kelp, sulfate of potash magnesia, wood ashes, manure and compost.
Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming.
At the simplest level, the process of composting requires making a heap of wet organic matter known as green waste (leaves, food waste) and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months. Modern, methodical composting is a multi-step, closely monitored process with measured inputs of water, air, carbon and nitrogen-rich materials.
The decomposition process is aided by shredding the plant matter, adding water and ensuring proper aeration by regularly turning the mixture. Worms and fungi further break up the material. Bacteria requiring oxygen to function (aerobic bacteria) and fungi, manage the chemical process by converting the inputs into heat, carbon dioxide and ammonium. The ammonium (NH+4) is the form of nitrogen used by plants. When available ammonium is not used by plants, it is further converted by bacteria into nitrates (NO−3) through the process of nitrification.
Compost is rich in nutrients. It is used in gardens, landscaping, horticulture and agriculture. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids and as a natural pesticide for soil. In ecosystems, compost is useful for erosion control, land and stream reclamation, wetland construction and as landfill cover (see compost uses). Organic ingredients intended for composting can alternatively be used to generate biogas through anaerobic digestion.
A more complete list of organic composting material:
The carbon to nitrogen ratio is listed with each material type. The higher the carbon content, the longer for the fermenting process to complete.
Fresh chicken manure (laying) 6:1, Tomato processing waste 11:1, Vegetable waste 12:1, Alfalfa hay 13:1, Fresh chicken manure (broiler) 14:1, Sheep manure 16:1, Fresh turkey manure 16:1, Grass clippings 17:1, Seaweed 19:1, Fresh cattle manure 19:1, Rotted manure 20:1, Apple pomace 21:1, Fresh horse manure 22:1, Grape pomace 28:1, Legume shells 30:1, Cereal hay 32:1, Dry leaves 40–80:1, Corn stalks 50:1, Oat straw 74:1, Grain chaff and hulls (e.g., rice hulls) 80–120:1, Straw 80:1, Timothy hay 80:1, Paper 170:1, Newsprint, cardboard 400:1, Sawdust 400:1, Wood chips, shavings 500+:1.
The addition of micro-organism activators into the compost mixture of soil and compost material, is recommended to speed up the fermenting process and improve sustainable soil health.
See this video on how to make organic compost at home:
The role of earthworms in organic compost:
Earthworms can play a significant role in enhancing soil fertility and plant productivity in a number of direct and indirect ways.
Earthworms can convert compost material through their digestive systems to richer compost and soil to richer soil, while they are there.
Earthworm activity can enhance soil nutrient cycling, the activity of other beneficial soil organisms, and soil physical properties, such as soil structure and tilth.
Earthworms crawl through soil consuming organic matter and in the process break it down (decompose it) and produce worm castings (worm manure), which are rich in nutrients, humus and microorganisms. In this process, earthworms also mix and aerate the soil. Together all of these effects help improve numerous soil physical characteristics. Additionally, the earthworm activity helps make nutrients available to plants while moderating the soil pH.
Earthworms are beneficial to the soil for the following reasons:
1. Worm manure droppings have near neutral pH (pH 7).
2. Worm manure droppings are rich in plant accessible nutrients (e.g, high in N, P, K and Mg).
3. Worm manure droppings provide a home for beneficial microorganisms.
4. Worm manure droppings have a high percentage of organic matter. This allows the soil to absorb and hold more water.
5. Worm manure droppings include mucus produced by the earthworms, which contributes to improved soil structure.
The only danger from earthworms, is that they can over-populate a piece of soil and eat the good components in compost away too quickly. Try to maintain a healthy balance by harvesting some of them and sell it to anglers and other organic farmers.
“Suitable worm species:
One of the species most often used for composting is the red wiggler or tiger worm (Eisenia fetida or Eisenia andrei); Lumbricus rubellus (a.k.a. red earthworm or dilong (China)) is another breed of worm that can be used, but it does not adapt as well to the shallow compost bin as does Eisenia fetida. European nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) may also be used. Users refer to European nightcrawlers by a variety of other names, including dendrobaenas, dendras, and Belgian nightcrawlers. African Nightcrawlers (Eudrilus eugeniae) are another set of popular composters. Lumbricus terrestris (a.k.a. Canadian nightcrawlers (US) or common earthworm (UK)) are not recommended, as they burrow deeper than most compost bins can accommodate.
Blue worms (Perionyx excavatus) may be used in the tropics.
These species commonly are found in organic-rich soils throughout Europe and North America and live in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure piles. They may be an invasive species in some areas. As they are shallow-dwelling and feed on decomposing plant matter in the soil, they adapt easily to living on food or plant waste in the confines of a worm bin.
Composting worms are available to order online, from nursery mail-order suppliers or angling shops where they are sold as bait. They can also be collected from compost and manure piles. These species are not the same worms that are found in ordinary soil or on pavement when the soil is flooded by water.”
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Organic farming training manual of 105 pages:
Table of contents for”Organic farming training manual”:
List of figures
List of tables
1. Introduction to Organic Agriculture
2. Considerations for Conversion to Organic Agriculture
Analysis of the location
Farm-related challenges to conversion
1. Farms with high external input use
2. Farm with low external input use
3. Mixed farm
4. Degraded land
Climate related challenges to conversion
3. Step by Step Conversion to Organic Agriculture
Step 1: Good information first
Step 2: Getting familiar with organic practices
Step 3: Full conversion to organic farming
4. Mulching in Organic Agriculture
5. Water Management in Organic Agriculture
How to keep the water in the soil?
1. Increasing infiltration
2. Water storage
Drip irrigation systems
6. Crop Planning and Management in Organic Agriculture
Crop –Animal association
Designing cropping systems
7. Nutrient Management in Organic Agriculture
1. The heating phase:
2. The cooling phase:
3. The maturing phase:
4. Different systems and methods
1. Green manures have a number of benefits:
2. Factors to consider before growing green manures:
3. How to use green manures
8. Pest and Disease Management in Organic Agriculture
Prevention practices and monitoring
9. Weed Management in Organic Agriculture
Biological control of weeds
10. Soil Cultivation and Tillage in Organic Agriculture
Creating good growing conditions for plants
Types of soil cultivation
11. Plant Propagation in Organic Agriculture
Criteria for seed evaluation, characterization and multiplication
Importance of traditional varieties
12. Animal Husbandry in Organic Agriculture
Making a decision on animal husbandry
Teaching organic farming and gardening – a handbook for organic farming instructors of 704 pages:
Organic poultry production for meat and eggs:
Farmer’s Compost Handbook of 112 pages:
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