Posted August 21, 2011 by atanas in Tips & Advice

Controlling Other Organisms in Organic Farming

Organic farmers intervene in the biodiversity of farmlands only when excessive levels of non-beneficial organisms are reached. For example, when excess levels of weeds that compete with actual crops for soil nutrients, water, space, and other resources are reached, organic farmers start utilizing ecologically sound techniques to reduce weed population to more manageable levels. The same is true when herbivorous insects, slugs, and other agricultural pests have spread to the point where the harvest yields are significantly threatened. For both cases, however, the prohibition set by organic farming standards against the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides still apply because these methods have been proven to harm the soil, the water supply, and wildlife.

When it comes to managing pests, there are organic pesticides that are available which organic farmers can purchase or prepare themselves. There have been impressions before that the organic gardens and farms do not use pesticides, but this impression is totally inaccurate. Organic gardens and farms do use pesticides but only those that safely control pests using natural substances that do not pose long term damage to the environment or to people’s health. In fact, even certification agencies around the world allow and even prescribe their use.

For organic farmers, maintaining biodiversity in their farms or gardens is extremely important. Organisms such as spiders, earthworms, bacteria, and even non-crop plants all aid in balancing the garden or farm ecosystem by accomplishing their respective roles in the food chain. If a key species in the ecosystem is absent or are present only in negligible numbers, the entire ecosystem suffers. For organic farmers, it is well to remember that majority of organisms—around 80 to 90 percent or so—in any given farm does not harm the crop. On the contrary, many of these organisms directly or indirectly benefit farm crops by keeping populations of harmful organisms in check. If conventional farming methods—such as the extensive use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides—are utilized, then the effect is almost always indiscriminate and pests, weeds, as well as beneficial organisms will be eradicated.

Fortunately, organic farming has been around for hundreds of years, and quite a number of techniques that sustainably control unwanted farm organisms have been developed. These include concoctions that use naturally occurring pest repellants that help reduce pest population without harming the environment. Among the most useful of these repellants are garlic, anise, catnip, and hot peppers. Garlic is an all-purpose pesticide that repels most insect so restraint in its use is generally advised. Planting anise repels aphids and fleas. Meantime, catnip helps control potato beetles, ants, and weevils. Like garlic, hot peppers are also repulsive to most insects and mixing it with water to create a liquid mixture that can be sprayed creates a very effective but environmentally friendly pesticide.

Like most pests, weeds are also natural inhabitants of a farm ecosystem. Organic farmers do not aim to totally eradicate them but to control their population at a manageable level. To do this, organic farmers utilize sustainable, ecologically sound techniques depending on the type of weed and farm ecosystem. Common weed control techniques include crop rotation, manual hoeing, green manure, and mulching.

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