It is a farming system that focuses on production of plants/crops without using synthetic or artificial chemicals (including fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, plant growth regulators and genetically modified organisms). It works in harmony with nature rather than against it. Organic farming involves using techniques to produce good crop yields without harming the natural ecosystem or the people who live and work in it and completely relies on ecosystem management and attempts to reduce or eliminate synthetic agricultural inputs. Concept of organic farming is in process around the globe. During 2012-13, there is an increase of agriculture land regarding organic farming and total 69 million hectare area is organic in the world.
The population of the planet is skyrocketing and providing food for the world is becoming extremely difficult. The need of the hour is sustainable cultivation and production of food for all. With the advent of Green Revolution in the second half of 20th century, farmers began to use technological advances such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to boost yields. These synthetic chemicals help to enhance crop productivity, but they are harmful too. They are simply destroying our natural ecosystem in many ways; intensive farming leading towards soil degradation. Continuous farming promotes wind and soil erosion, loss of organic matter and biological life in soil. Chemical fertilizer use on crops has adverse effects on waterways caused by chemical runoff of excess fertilizer. The over-abundance of nutrients reduces the oxygen in water, which results in death of fishes. Over-use of synthetic fertilizers result in soil acidification, because of low amount organic matter in soil. Unabsorbed nitrogen goes into the air and contributes in green house gases and air pollution. Synthetic fertilizers kill a huge amount of soil microorganisms; these microorganisms usually break down organic matter into plant nutrients, and convert nitrogen from air into plant usable form.
Synthetic pesticides and herbicides inhibit the storage of Nitrogen and other essentials in the soil. They percolate into the soil by the action of rain water and get mixed with ground water. Spraying of herbicides makes them lighter and toxic compounds to be suspended into the air which in turn causes air borne diseases and nasal infections. Draining of these chemicals contaminate the water source and cause loss of living beings that feeds the water. These pesticides are also causal agents of various diseases; James Cleeton claims that “women with breast cancer are five to nine times more likely to have pesticide residues in their blood than those who do not. Hormone dependent cancers, such as prostrate and breast cancer may be via endocrine disrupting chemicals such as 2,4-D and Atrazine (Both are herbicides).
Major features of organic farming are:
- Development of sustainable agriculture production system that ensured adequate food production in future.
- Production of nutritious food, feed for animals and high quality crops to sell at good price
- Protection of soil quality by use of organic material and enhancing the biological activity in soil
- Nitrogen fixation in soils using legumes
- Provision of nutrients to crops by using soil microorganisms
- There should integrated disease, weeds and pest management through different methods such as crop rotation, natural predators, organic manures, biological diversity and suitable thermal, chemical and biological intervention
- Ensure that water stays clean and safe
- Conservation of soil, water and environment by practicing eco-friendly strategies.
- Development of self-sufficient agriculture process that mainly depends upon natural resources
- Use resources which the farmer already has, so the farmer needs less money to buy farm inputs
Cultural practices during organic farming are performed from seed sowing up to harvesting of crops. Soil is main asset in agriculture, in organic farming there is minimum disturbance of soil so, its management is basic principle. First select those crops which have deep root in this way, need for ploughing will be reduced then use mechanical method with low damage. In organic farming there is no pre sowing seed treatment against insect pests and diseases. To produce healthy crop an organic farmer needs to manage the soil well. Feeding the soil with organic manure or composts is beneficial and soil turns this material into food for plant growth. This also enhances organic matter in soil. Green manures are also very valuable source of nutrition. One thing should remember that using too much manure or using at wrong time could be as harmful as synthetic fertilizers. So, right source should apply at right time and right rate.
Each crop and crop variety has its own requirements, crops are affected by; type of soil, precipitation, altitude, temperature, requirement of water and nutrients. These factors affect crop growth and yield. Crops should select after keeping in view these factors. Crop rotations are important that growing of crops in such a sequence one after other that fertility status of soil may not affected. Best irrigation method function is to supply optimum water according to crop need. Organic matter contents can enhance the water holding capacity of soil. Mulches can also be used for this purpose. Mulching is a useful strategy as it prevents from soil erosion, reduce weeds growth and water loss and increase number of microorganisms in top soil. On an organic form weeds should controlled by hoeing, mulching and crop rotation. In organic farming first focused should be on selection of those crops which are resistant to pest.
There are some benefits of organic farming;
- Farmers have low production costs because they do not need to buy expensive chemicals and
- Better mineral content in foods, better nutrition, fewer residues in food and free of poison food
- Longer shelf–life of organic products
- Organically grown crops are naturally drought resistant.
- It slows down global warming
- Organic farms save energy and protect the environment.
Organic farming is not acclaimed in world because of low productivity as compared to conventional farming. But everyone admire that this farming is eco-friendly. Nobel Prize-winning plant breeder and father of Green Revolution Norman Borlaug supported organic farming in respect to environment friendly practice. Organic farming is preferred as it battles pests and weeds in a non-toxic manner, involves less input costs for cultivation and preserves the ecological balance while promoting biological diversity and protection of the environment
Usman Zulfiqar*, H. Aftab Ahmad and Muhammad Bilal and Muhammad Ahmad
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad