Organic farming refers to an agricultural production system used to produce food and fibre which relies on techniques to develop biological diversity such as crop rotation, green manure, biological pest control and compost. Farmers only use fertilisers and pesticides if they are considered natural i.e. bone meal from animals or pyrethrin from flowers. No forms of synthetic pesticides or fertilisers are allowed.
Conventional farming practices utilise synthetic pesticides, fertilisers, genetically-engineered organisms and growth enhancers for the purpose of stimulating soil and crops to increase short-term yields. In the long run, the health of the soil suffers and lack nutrients. Crops are also grown using genetically-modified seeds and farmers use manure without restriction or records.
Organic farmers manage their crops using consistently pro-active practices to prevent problems by implementing an organic system plan.
1. Maintain and replenish fertility of the soil.
2. Ensure no toxic chemical pesticides and fertilisers are used
3. Maintain and improve the ecological system.
4. Support and build agricultural biological diversity.
5. In order to be certified organic, organic farmers need to keep records to verify the products and practices used in the process.
6. Organic farmers select the most environmentally-friendly solutions to control pests and diseases which may affect their crops.
Rather than growing the same crops each year (mono-cropping) crops are alternated as different plants contribute different nutrients to the soil; the soil is naturally replenished.
Using natural predators to control pests eliminates the necessity for chemical insecticides which permeate and remain in the soil for years.
Cover crops, also referred to as â€˜Green Manure Cropsâ€™, add nutrients, protect the soil, aerate soil with deep root systems, prevent weed growth, and fertilise the soil by building organic matter when ploughed. Cover crops also conserve moisture in the soil and feed the soilâ€™s fauna and microflora.
Plant Waste and Manure
Compost use is regulated and a continuous cycle of naturally occurring compost helps the soil retain moisture and nutrients. It also kills pathogens and weeds from growing, producing a fertiliser that encourages healthy soil and crops.
List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
There is a list regulated by local authorities which contains allowed synthetic substances that are allowed in organic farming and production as well as a list of natural substances that are also prohibited. The list is reviewed constantly and substances are added or removed based on evaluation of long-term effects on the environment and human health and not just on whether these substances are synthetic or natural. The decisions are based on the following:
1. Effect on human health.
2. Effect on the farm eco-system.
3. Toxicity and mode of action.
4. Availability of gentler alternatives.
5. Probability of environmental contamination during manufacture, use and disposal.
6. Potential for interactions with other materials used.
7. Overall compatibility with a system of sustainable agriculture.