Organic Farming Techniques
Most modern organic farming techniques take their roots from old agricultural practices that promote ecological sustainability and conserve natural resources such as soil and water. These farming techniques are used by organic farmers to complement the processes and elements of nature that are already present in their farmlands. That is, farmers use organic farming techniques in order to cultivate good healthy crops and harvest good yields without harming the ecosystem. To do so, modern organic farmers combine old traditional practices with scientific knowledge to maintain a healthy balance that permeates across the soil, the water system, the air, and the various organisms that make up the local ecosystem.
Expert organic farmers combine several farming techniques to achieve the most beneficial effect not only to the farm and its produce but also to its immediate environs. In addition, true organic farmers are ecologically intuitive and consider ‘pests’ and ‘weeds’ as natural inhabitants of any organic farm and seek only to manage their population instead of eradicating them completely. Basically, organic farming techniques address four fundamental challenges in agriculture: 1) how to maintain soil structure and fertility in order to produce healthy crops; 2) how to control pests, diseases, and weeds; 3) how to conserve farm resources such as water; and, 4) how to implement good, ecologically sound husbandry if the farm also outputs animal products. Some of the common organic farming techniques include composting, green manure, crop rotation, mulching, biological management of pests and weeds, and the use of organic pesticides and fertilizers.
The cultivation of the same crop year after year has been found to significantly reduce soil fertility and may cause a rise in the population of pests and weeds. Organic farmers “rotate” the planting of crops from one plot of farmland to another wherein the crop is prevented from being planted to the original site until after three to four years. Crop rotation allows the build-up of nutrients by one type of crop for the later consumption of the said nutrients by another crop type. Crop rotation also allows natural predators to thrive in the organic farm.
Organic fertilizers are soil-enriching materials that naturally occur in nature or are produced through a completely natural process without the aid of synthetic elements or additives. The main ingredients of organic fertilizers are animal or plant matter, or a combination of the two. Organic fertilizers include manure, compost, peat, slurry, worm castings, seaweed, and guano. Basically, any material that occurs naturally and has undergone the process of decomposition may be considered as an organic fertilizer.
Green manure are also called cover crops and are used to improve soil structure and fertility. They simulate the beneficial effects of synthetic fertilizers but are cheaper and free from chemicals that degrade the environment. Green manure also increases the water holding capacity of soils and prevents erosion and weed growth.
Composting is a process which includes natural decomposition of plant and animal matter so that it is eventually used as a soil additive. Made up of leaves, fruit skins, or animal manure, compost is easy to prepare and may be used to improve soil quality or prevent the build up of pests and diseases.
Organic Weed Control
For organic farmers, weeds are natural inhabitants of the farm ecosystem and should be managed as such. This means that the objective is not to completely eradicate them by potent herbicides but to curb their spread through various ecologically sound methods. Crop rotation, manual hoeing, application of mulches, green manure, and introduction of natural weed consumers are some of the methods organic farmers use to manage weeds.