Organic material is derived from living organisms and is made up of carbon-based compounds. In chemistry, the term Organic refers to the study of carbon compounds and their reactions.
Today the term Organic has come to signify methods of cultivation, production and processing which are in harmony with nature. In other words, this term refers to all practices that do not make use of chemicals and synthetics that may harm air, water, soil and our bodies. The National Organic Standards Board passed a definition of the term Organic Agriculture in 1995.
"Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”
The term Organic is also used to label products that have been produced using materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems, and which all the different parts of the farming system to cohere into an ecological whole".
Organic Methods of Cultivation
Organic farming involves using techniques to get good crop yields without any resulting harm to the environment or the consumers of farm products.
There are many Organic techniques farmers use to maintain and enhance soil composition and fertility. They use organic fertilizers in the form of composted crop wastes and manure. They also employ the principles of Multiple cropping (planting two or more species in the same field in the same year) and Crop Rotation (growing diggerent crops is the same land at different times to avoid the build up of pests and ensure soil balance). Organic farmers use Leaf Compost to maintain soil texture. They plant leguminous plants to naturally maintain Nitrogen levels in the soil.
The biggest challenge Organic farmers face is to control pests, diseases and weeds. Crop rotation helps to avoid pest buildup. Many Organic Fertilizers such as Guano have natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Organic farmers also encourage useful predators that live on crop pests. Another interesting Organic pest control strategy is to plant Companion Plants (plants other than the crop which pests prefer, which reduce the pest’s dependence on the crop for sustenance). For example, organic gardeners plant nasturtium near lettuce and cabbage patchs, as caterpillars which destroy these vegetables seem to prefer nasturtium. Improving the genetic diversity with a crop makes the crop more resistant to pests.
In many ways, Organic farming is not necessarily most efficient. For instance, Organic cotton production is far slower, more expensive and complex than conventional cotton farming. However this is offset by the fact that it is much less harmful to the environment, its farmers and to its consumers.
For reports on Organic farming in many European countries, go to http://www.organic-europe.net/country_reports/default.asp
Reasons to Go Organic
Organic produce promotes a less toxic environment for all living things.
It helps to reduce the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that are now being help responsible for everything from dead ocean zones to ground water pollution. In contrast, Organic farming helps maintain clean and safe waterways.
Organic Produce will enable us to protect our future generations from the ill-effects of chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers. Studies have conclusively linked pesticided consumed in food to increased risk of cancer, decreased fertility and neurological changes.
Organic cultivation practices allow the long term build up of healthy soil. Fertilizing soil with organic fertilizers instead of synthetic ones has been shown to increase nutrient and Antioxidant levels in crops.
Organic produce tastes better. Washington State University researchers found in lab trials that organic strawberries consistently judged sweeter than berries raised by conventional methods.
Organic cultivation promotes Bio diversity. Chemical pesticides don’t just kill pests, they drive away other native animals, insects and birds. Switching to Organic methods brings these creatures back to their natural habitat and also allows for the proliferation of species beneficial to crops. Organic cultivation preserves older seeds, which in turn preserves bio diversity.
- Wear it well
- What is organic?
- What is Organic Farming?
- The Organic Center
- For links to Organic associations, products and growers, go to AllOrganicLink
- To buy Organic products, go to Navdanya's Organic Products