Organic agriculture is a production system that tries to use soil resources to the maximum, while focusing on soil fertility and biological activity , and at the same time, minimizing the use of non-renewable resources and not using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to protect the environment and human health.
Organic agriculture is defined as a set of production systems committed to producing food free of synthetic chemical pollutants with high nutritional value. These systems contribute to protecting the environment, reducing production costs and allowing farmers to have a good income. For this reason, organic production systems do not use pesticides to eliminate pests, diseases, plants, weeds, or methods that degrade the soil and the environment in general.
The basic principles governing organic farming
Organic farming is governed by a set of basic principles that can be categorized as follows:
Soils are a lively and dynamic environment:
Organic farming considers soil an important and biologically active component. The soil contains a wide variety of animals and plants, which integrate with its mineral portion and depend on the transformation of organic matter and the nutrient cycle. Some authors suggest that soil can contain 600 million organisms per cubic centimeter.
Worms can be found. Worm droppings contain three to eleven times more absorbable amounts of phosphorous as well as exchangeable magnesium and potassium in the soil. It raises the availability of nitrates about five times and 30% of the calcium and reduces the acidity of the ground. Worms also favor the development of bacteria and other organisms including nitrogen fixers in the atmosphere and those that speed up the fermentation process of plant and animal residues, up to 60%, and contribute to nutrient recycling and plant nutrition.
Diverse production systems:
Flowers and animals enhanced by modern agricultural production systems have created increasing biological and environmental imbalances. Ecosystems that conflict with monocultures and call for diversification and integration of plant and animal activities, including forests.
Farm diversity contributes to the maintenance and restoration of organic matter and soil productivity, reduces the incidence of pests and diseases, as well as the presence of invasive plants that provide biological stability to agricultural systems. On the one hand, diversification reduces the economic risks of the producers and helps them balance expenditures and distribute work effort evenly throughout the year.
Protection of cultivated plants:
In organic farming, the key to plant protection is that they feed properly, which will allow them to develop a balanced and healthy metabolism. It is essential to maintain a balanced biologically active soil, as well as crop systems and to manage the natural vegetation cover that allows for the presence of diverse fauna where living organisms called biological controls abound.
Organic farming uses a series of practices, including:
- Biological control.
- Use natural materials from plants or minerals.
- The use of different resistant varieties and practices, to achieve environmental control of pests, diseases and episodes.
- Use plants that repel or attract insects or plants.
- The use of biological controls and physical control methods, which are the main techniques used in organic farming.
Preserving nature and restoring a natural balance is essential:
Organic farming is directed according to the phenomena that in nature govern different ecosystems . Organic farmers try to preserve elements of the natural environment and restore the biological balance in their fields of crops.
That is, ecological farms must be properly wooded, as well as maintaining the natural vegetation at the edges of the fields, especially with species that flourish for as long as possible, because they constitute shelter, fertile land and food for the beneficial animals, which will be those organisms under control that can turn into pests.
The current importance of organic farming
The development that ecological agriculture is witnessing today depends on several main aspects, namely:
- The necessity of not continuing the deterioration of the agricultural environment and recovering from the negative impacts on the environment produced by the intensive production methods.
- Food insecurity caused by intensive production systems, due to pollution of the environment and products and the spread of animal diseases that affect humans.
- The potential for production systems to allow middle producers and farmers to have an adequate income, and a value-added product to produce high-quality, highly secure food.
- Well-managed ecosystems also encourage income diversification and enhanced available resources and employment.
When did organic agriculture appear and how did it develop?
- It can be believed that recently developed organic production systems are traditional systems of farming practice.
- Organic farming is not just the use of traditional techniques in the field of the early last century, although it is based on traditional agricultural practices.
- Modern organic agriculture uses many technological innovations and rules of practice that it uses in its high knowledge about the environment, soil and nutrition in plants, management of pests and plants, genetic and biological potential, varieties and fauna as well as better management of agricultural and animal technologies.
- A thorough knowledge of biological and environmental interactions, nutrient cycles and management systems based on maximizing internal resources is always a prerequisite for success in the transition to a green production system.
Organic farming techniques and their various contributions
Organic agriculture uses a range of technologies to achieve its goals of producing high-quality food free of pollutants while preserving the natural environment. These techniques aim to control the factors on which crop growth and agricultural productivity depend, such as:
Harvesting, water conservation, plant nutrition, pest and disease control, and plant management that can at certain times limit crop growth. An important factor is the use of crop varieties that are adapted to local conditions. Spatial and temporal diversification, and with soil protection.
Biological organic farming:
The British Sir Albert Howard, a professor at Wye College of the University of London, published in 1940, included concern about the degradation of soil resources due to the intensification of agricultural production. This book brings together the results of forty years of research on converting organic waste into compost and using it to restore and conserve soil fertility.
Biodynamic agriculture is based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, and it is a series of specific agricultural practices to be implemented on the farm, which suit the peculiarity of the worldview, so that there is no action that conflicts with the whole (the universe), and the main goal is to avoid food deterioration, which is defined as loss Nutrition, and in the ground. The concept of “living organism farm” is of great importance in biodynamic agriculture. Possesses the features of any living being: the ability to self-regulate, grow, develop and reproduce.
This style of organic farming was created and published by the Japanese Fukuoka, Mars Fukuoka and has five basic management principles: no tillage, no fertilizer, no pesticides, no weeding (chemically, mechanically, or manually) and no pruning, i.e. the so-called no-no method. do something.
This management allows the soil not to be disturbed, in order to maintain its full productive success. With his method of doing nothing, he was able to grow grains at yields comparable to intensive crops, but Fukuoka believes they are also economically superior to the modern method.
Permaculture or permaculture:
This style arose from organic farming, and permaculture was a response to two phenomena of industrialized urban societies. On the one hand, the food dependence of cities in relation to the rural environment and the high energy consumption of non-renewable sources on the other hand.
As sustainable agriculture aims to design integrated agricultural production systems in both cities and marginal areas, where these groups settle to live in the community that intend to devote themselves to agriculture in a timely manner with the goal of self-sufficiency, although the principles of sustainable agriculture can be applied to any region.
Perhaps as a synthesis of the knowledge accumulated during the current century on the functioning of agricultural ecosystems, and the consequences of the application of so-called intensive agriculture, with the high use of chemical pesticides and fossil energy, on the environment, human health and society. And the experiences accumulated by farmers who developed agricultural systems that are compatible with the environment.
Agroecology is an environmentally sensitive and socially sensitive approach to agriculture, that focuses not only on production, but also on the environmental sustainability of the production system and which involves a number of characteristics about society and production that go beyond the scope of the farm.
Plant nutrition in organic farming
The main strategy for plant nutrition in organic agriculture is to maintain soil fertility, which depends on the contribution and content of organic matter in it.
Organic matter and soil fertility:
Soil organic matter allows the development of chains of organisms in the soil from which they decompose, not only ensuring the supply of plant nutrients, but also creating the physical conditions in the soil for their growth. The physical conditions are summarized in a better soil structure, which facilitates the penetration of water, air and roots into it, and a greater capacity of the soil to retain nutrients and water and the balance of the same chemical and physical conditions.
Properties of organic matter and long-term fertility:
Long-term fertility requires the regular contribution of organic matter from slow decomposition and also, a portion of it must be fermented in the soil, since microbial cellulose fermentation produces substances largely responsible for forming a desirable lumpy structure of soil.
The main pillars of organic farming
Among the main pillars we mention:
- Maximize nitrogen fixation with the use of legumes through crop rotation.
- Reducing nutrient loss by increasing soil organic matter and life.
- Leave crop residues in the ground.
- Use crop cycles.
- Vegetation and weeds be productive of organic matter, identifying and mobilizing nutrients to avoid soil loss.
- Active soil life helps nourish the plant, providing substrates with high fertility (earthworms), increasing the ability to explore the soil by roots.
Quality organic products
The nutritional quality of organic products is higher than that of conventional ones, since after 12 years research has shown that organic products outperform conventional products in protein content (18%), vitamins (28%), total sugars (19%) and minerals such as iron (17%). , Potassium (18%), calcium (10%) and phosphorous (13%), while undesirable components such as nitrates were much less (-93%).
In a study conducted by Rutgers University (Heaton, 2002) in the United States, it verified the superiority of organic vegetables in mineral content, which was between 10 and 50 times higher than the traditional content. And these studies have shown that when you consume conventionally grown vegetables, you get only 13% of the minerals that were present in the soil. On the other hand, it should be noted that chemical fertilizing with nitrogen reduces the quality of foods, especially their vitamin C content.
What are the main requirements for organic farming?
There are specific requirements for certification of organic production of most crops and animals, fish farming, beekeeping, forestry activities, and harvesting of wild products. The organic production rules contain requirements related to the transitional period of the farm (the period during which the farm must use organic production methods before it is approved, which is generally 2-3 years).
The requirements include:
- Selection of seeds and plant material.
- Plant improvement methods.
- Preserve the fertility of the used soil and recycle the organic matter.
- Water conservation.
- Pest, disease and weed control.
In addition, standards have been established for the use of organic fertilizers and pesticides to control pests and diseases. With regard to animal production, there are usually requirements related to animal health, nutrition, reproduction, living conditions, transportation and slaughter procedures.
How to get certified organic farming standards?
Organic farming standards are created by private certification agencies, but many countries have also set national standards. In Central America, the Costa Rican government has set its own rules and other countries are creating and implementing their own laws, in order to support the organic farming sector. Europe, the United States and Japan have national standards, and if producers want to export their products to these markets, they must adhere to the organic labeling requirements of importing countries.