It was a technological breakthrough when chemical fertilizers and pesticides first made a scene in agriculture. The fields boomed. There seemed to be no noticeable effects on the soil, and the insects had no resistance against the chemicals. It was great! Farmers worldwide resorted to farming chemicals to increase their crops. They also used chemicals to take everything they could out of the lands. But they were unaware of the dark consequences to come. The agriculture sector quickly became consumption-driven. Also, it was highly dependant on non-renewable and finite resources – like fossil fuels. This dependence created a volatile and unsustainable industry. An industry that we now know today as the conventional farming way. Human greed took over the industry and turned it into a market. An industry run by massive business cartels and a handful of shareholders looking to invest in new business. All of this for fast money-making companies. But now, if you take a trip to the supermarket, you will find the term ‘organic’ quite a lot. Organic farming techniques came as saviors to the environment and our health. With organic agriculture comes a happier conscience, a healthier mind, and a body. You will also have a safer, more sustainable environment. But, what’s the big deal about organic farming techniques anyway? What makes it so different than conventional farming? The main aim of traditional agriculture is to produce and sell as much as possible. It also uses up the land for all that it has. In comparison, organic farming techniques aim to create a closed-nutrient cycle. This cycle produces clean, ethical, and wholesome food. A closed-nutrient cycle means that all we take away from a farm should return to the farm. We have to give back to nature.
Farming Through the Times
The agriculture industry is the largest industry that supplies human demands. It is also one of the oldest industries – it goes way back! Ancient agriculture dates back to about 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. With time, farming developed to grow different varieties of crops. Farmers used underground channels as irrigation systems. After that, they resorted to canals, drawing water from the Nile River.
During the Bronze Age, metalworking advanced. This brought better working tools required for agriculture. This development made farming a lot easier and faster. They had new tools like bronze plows and axes. Also, they could work with more massive lands. Furthermore, with time, we found ways to create better irrigation systems and more evolved machinery – tractors that use gasoline, dams, and whatnot.
Fast forward to the 20th century, the industry witnessed rapid development in agriculture technology. This was one of the fastest developments in history. Heavy machinery got a huge upgrade. They became more powerful and efficient. Even the distribution of seeds, pesticides, and herbicides became a worldwide trade.
Now, agriculture is going through another momentum change: sustainability. Concerns about sustainable and clean resources birthed organic farming. The latest food trends promote organic and chemical-free products. Products that are barely processed – they promote healthy living. Even our irrigation systems evolved. They used much less water. Farmers used drip irrigation, to make sure no water is wasted. Especially in the lights of water shortage worldwide.
What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming involves growing plants and raising animals completely naturally – as God intended it to be! Just how our great ancestors did, without the addition of any type of synthetic or chemical substances. Organic agriculture uses clean, biological, and natural material that maintains soil fertility and environmental balance – thus reducing pollution and waste production. Everything that goes into organic farming techniques is chemical-free and comes wholly from nature – both fertilizers and pesticides. It depends entirely on ecologically balance agricultural methods and techniques. With organic food, farmers are not allowed to use harmful substances to human beings or the environment. Therefore, organic farming relies on creating biodiverse fields, organically-fed animals, and full respect for the environment. Different practices go into organic farming techniques: cleaning, pest control, transportation, and storage – all have to include natural processes. The reason people resort to organic farming techniques is to reduce potential health risks that come with the long term ingestion of harmful chemicals. Other reasons to go organic include: being environmentally-friendly, ecologically aware, and ethically responsible for farm animals’ humane breeding.
Organic Farming Techniques
Organic agriculture is much broader. It is not just pure breeding of animals. It is not just naturally fertilizing plants. There are scientific techniques that have come with the development of technology and agriculture. Organic farming techniques focus on closed-nutrient cycles. These cycles increase sustainable production with the highest nutritional value. Organic farming’s beauty is its ability to apply it in many techniques. All these techniques lead to value-packed organic food. We chose five exciting methods that you may, or may not, have heard about when it comes to organic farming.
Aquaponics Is the Future of Agriculture
Aquaponics might be one of the fascinating organic farming techniques to date. Aquaponics is a form of organic farming techniques that do not include soil – at all! Organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs grow in a system that contains no ground whatsoever. Aquaponics is not even a modern technique, in reality. It dates back to the Aztecs in the 1300s, where they grew their agriculture in fish laden lakes and ponds. This technique helped their produce flourish because of the nutrients that came from the fish. Even nowadays, Asians use this method to cultivate rice in paddies and add fish to improve the growth and harvest.
The agriculture industry had to change to respect the environment and the ecosystem. The evolution of food technology and agriculture opened up paths. These paths developed new agricultural systems that are more sustainable. Organic farming systems are more eco-friendly and humane. Organic farming techniques, use up much less water and ground space. But they produce the same amount of products. This way, organic farmers can use aquaponics to increase population demand. But, with less detrimental effects on the environment.
Aquaponics requires about 90% less land and water than conventional farming, but it can produce about three to four times more fruits and vegetables. So, more food with less guilt about the environment!
Crop Rotation & Diversity
A long time ago, farmers had ways to maintain land integrity, shoo away pests, and prevent weeds. All without chemicals. They used crop rotation and diversity. Crop rotation refers to a system designed to cycle a piece of land with different crops. Crop rotation makes us less dependent on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides altogether. Organic farmers use crop rotation to grow various plants on the same piece of land with time. This method ensures the soil maintains its level of nutrients, controls pests, and suppresses weeds – but the earth remains healthy! The process relies on judgment. What a specific crop takes away from the soil and what the other gives back. Some crops deplete nitrogen, while others fix nitrogen into the ground. So, if the first cycle includes nitrogen-depleting crops, the next rotation should consist of nitrogen-fixing crops. This rotation serves the purpose of the durability of the soil’s health – no more need for fertilizers. The earth can provide yields with all the necessary nutrients they need.
The crops’ diversity helps improve the soil’s chemical and physical condition, control diseases that stem through row crops, and actually increase the yield.
Biological Pest Control
Biological pest control is the key to organic farming. It uses no chemical pesticides, hence the name ‘biological pest control.’. It ensures there are no chemicals in the process of agriculture. Biological pest control also helps maintain the integrity of the soil. If done correctly, natural pest control could keep a healthy crop for generations to come. So, how does it work?
This type of pest control relies on the concept of ‘survival of the jungle,’ but on a smaller scale. This method uses biological control agents – predators, parasitoids, and pathogens – that eat or kill other organisms. Insect parasitoids have a specific choice of host and almost always kill their host. This reason makes it easier to specify and utilize parasitoids in biological pest control. Organic farmers use insects to kill other insects—kind of brilliant and creepy at the same time. The same thing goes for pathogens; they fight against other plant diseases.
In organic farming techniques, biological pest control happens in stages:
Importation – Find out your pest’s natural enemy, and utilize its colonizing abilities to build a population. You want an army of biological control agents to eradicate your pests.
Augmentation – Release your army! At this point, you can release a small number of your control agents to get to work. If you have a more extensive infestation of pests, go ahead and release a more considerable amount.
Conservation – This is where you make sure your control agents are happy! Provide them with shelterbelts work well in providing suitable habitat – hedgerows and beetle banks too! You have to find a place they can live, reproduce, and survive!
Organic Weed Management
Weeds are nature’s way of retaliation. You just can’t avoid weeds. But, organic farmers found a way around using chemical herbicides. They have to ensure that weeds don’t threaten the quality and health of their fields. There are a lot of factors that go into organic weed management. You have to consider your soil conditions, the weather, and crop rotation and diversity schedules. You have to know your enemy and what you’re dealing with – all their strength and weaknesses. A weed has different stages of life, and at each stage, it has various qualities. It could depend on the time of year or the type of crop – weeds react differently with these factors. If you go for the wrong weed management technique, you could potentially make it worse.
For this reason, you have to identify the species of weed infestation you got going in your field. Identifying the type of weed is a critical step towards successful organic weed management. There are tons of books related to the most common and most dangerous weeds to look out for – use these books to reference your weed type.
Here are some of the most effective organic weed management methods available:
Crop Competition – Highly competitive crops are the best way to go to control weed infestations. Weeds are, in essence, plants that achieve dominance over other plants and ultimately kill them. So, if your crops happen to be the Alpha, no weed can stop them! Therefore, make sure you create the proper conditions for your crops to thrive – show them who’s boss.
Soil Quality – Organic farming techniques rely mostly on biological activities, crop rotation, and diversity for optimum soil fertility. Biodiverse crops are rich in microbial populations, which lead to healthy produce. If you make sure the integrity of your soil’s fertility is uncompromised, then this can highly reduce weed issues. Organic farmers resort to compost or natural manure to preserve the balance in the soil composition. The chemical composition of the soil alters its physical properties. This fact plays a massive role in weed growth – it’s all about the earth! A well-sustained rotation cycle also breaks weed cycles; this is why we recommend using long-term biodiverse crops in your organic farming techniques.
What About Conventional Farming?
Conventional or traditional farming is the business part of the agriculture industry. It is a sector that bleeds the lands dry. Conventional agriculture heavily relies on unsustainable products like petrochemicals, synthetics, and other manufactured products. Farmers use chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers to grow their crops – regardless of the chemical residue left in your food. Most problems faced on conventional farms use chemicals for a quick and easy fix. It throws caution to the wind when it comes to health and the environment. But, traditional agriculture happens to be the dominant sector of the agriculture industry. This is because farmers rely on their products’ mass production to provide for the increasing population demand. The primary purpose of conventional is to bring out and maximize the potential yield of the crop available – through chemicals, synthetics, and genetically modified organisms. So, traditional farming harms soil health, biodiversity, and the environment. The only benefits that come from conventional agriculture are those that go to big chains and businesses.
Conventional Farming Techniques
At some point in our lives, we didn’t give conventional farming much thought. We bought the fruits and vegetables and didn’t think twice about the process behind it. Agricultural products go through a very long process before they reach the market shelves. But, you have to know precisely what you’re putting into your body. So, you have to see the process behind conventional farming – know why the little ‘organic’ label makes a difference. Certain practices go into conventional agriculture – just as they do with organic farming techniques. Some of the most famous traditional technique of agriculture include:
Organic farming techniques promote conservation and sustenance that includes water use. We can’t say the same about conventional agriculture. Organic soil retains more water than the soil in traditional farming; this means that organic farming uses much less water than traditional agriculture. Also, since most of these farms are usually substantially huge, water use is just as extensive. Most of these farms use center-pivot irrigation systems that rely on a series of water sprinklers. Ultimately this method uses a large amount of water – most of which is not absorbed by the crops. Chemical compounds are often added to the irrigation water to stop the seeds from being stolen by insects.
Monocropping is the exact opposite of crop diversity; it is growing a single type of crop every year on the same piece of land – no rotation, no variety. This method allows conventional farmers to grow steady crops throughout the generations. Farmers choose one plant, seed, methodology, pest and weed control strategies, and one land. They argue that it costs less money than crop rotation but often forget how harmful monocropping is to the environment. When there isn’t a rotating cycle of plants, the soil structure breaks down completely. The weak soil becomes a horrible medium for proper crop growth, forcing the farmers to resort to chemical fertilizers. Also, poor soil structure often leads to pest and weed problems, which farmers treat with chemicals. With time, the land becomes so dependant on pesticides and herbicides to survive; it will not put up much of a fight.
Chemical Pest & Weed Control
Conventional farming uses pest management strategies that rely on chemical pest and weed control – pesticides and herbicides. Chemical pesticides are compounds that kill insects, rodents, and sometimes even weeds. It is a very well known fact that pesticides are toxic and dangerous when ingested in specific amounts. But even traces of these chemicals could potentially harm your body and probably will in the long-run. Chemical pesticides linger in the air, the earth, and water even after the actual spraying. You can’t spot-target the application of these pesticides; in other words, you can’t control where the chemicals end up.
Chemical herbicides do the same thing with unwanted weeds infesting your crops. They’re more comfortable and faster than organic weed management, but they have adverse effects on human health and environmental pollution. The chemicals substances deplete the soil’s nutritional characteristics and, thus, the crop’s quality.
Organic Farming Techniques Vs. Conventional: What’s the Big Deal?
So, what’s the actual big difference? Conventional farms are treated with chemicals, right at the bat! Before they sow the seeds, farmers chemically treat their farms to eliminate any fungus or pathogens. After that, traditional farmers often fertilize the field with petroleum-based fertilizers while their seeds soak in chemical pesticides.
On the other hand, our organic farmer treats his field with organic compost or manure and does not add any other chemical solution to the process. Most of the time, organic farmers also depend on harvested rainwater for irrigation to avoid chlorinated council water.
So, all in all, organic farming techniques are much better than conventional farming – no matter how you look at it. Studies show that organic farms are more resilient and adaptive to climate and weather change.
Organic farming techniques focus on soil quality, encourages biological activities, and cares for the environment. The conservation of the ecosystem and human health is the number one priority of organic farming. Organic agriculture contributes to human beings’ well-being, soil, fruits, vegetables, and animals – ultimate respect towards all living beings is one of the main principles of organic farming techniques.
Why Choose Organic Farming Techniques?
There must always be a balance and justice in nature – more humanity. This is why organic farming is the best place to start. Organic agriculture ensures a good quality of life and reduces health risks and pollution. There is no use in depleting our natural resources and relying on finite elements such as petrochemicals in agriculture. The whole point behind organic agriculture is to maintain an ecological balance in nature.
Organic farming techniques also lead to the growth of fruits and vegetables packed with vitamins, minerals, micro-nutrients, and essential amino acids – minus the toxic chemicals that come with pesticides and herbicides used in conventional farming. There are tons of genetically modified foods (GMOs) that are hiding in the supermarket aisles without us even noticing. This is another reason why organic food is a better choice. Organic food is labeled, so you can know exactly what you’re paying for.