What is organic farming?
Organic farming means raising of crops and rearing of livestock by using only natural resources. There is no use of fertilizers, growth hormones, pesticides, genetically modified organisms and antibiotics in organic farming. It is a system that sustains the health of soil and ecosystem. It is also named as low input farming.
Aims of organic farming:
- Encourage better utilization of organic pesticides.
- Maintain better soil structure as well as soil fertility.
- Proper tillage operations at the correct time.
- Limit weeds, pests and diseases.
- Enhance genetic heterogeneity.
- Reduce entire kinds of pollution which is due to agricultural practices.
- Provide food of top nutritional status in adequate amount.
- Provide all natural conditions to livestock.
- Restoration of the deteriorated soil.
- No use of inorganic chemicals.
Major principles of organic farming:
The following principles were formed by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
The Principle of Health:
Organic farming must maintain and upgrade the health of human, soil, plant and animal.
The Principle of Ecology:
The priority of this principle is to achieve ecological balance via organic farming. It aims on recycling.
The Principle of Fairness:
Organic agriculture is a potent defender of fairness. Fairness expresses honour, justice, protection and balance. This principle is applicable to all classes such as suppliers, farmers, distributors, processors and consumers. Each group must ensure that they will not hurt the soil, environment, animals, water and any other thing under this.
The Principle of Care:
In order to fulfill above goal, it is important to protect land and environment from damaging substances.
Classification of organic farming:
Pure organic farming:
In this type of organic farming, farmer uses organic pesticides and manures. There is no use of inorganic chemicals in pure organic farming.
Integrated organic farming:
In integrated organic farming, crops produce which have proper nutritive value and protected from pest’s damage by utilizing all the natural resources. It includes integrated pest management and integrated nutrient management.
Strategies of organic farming:
Incorporation of any crop or plant into the soil in green state to improve soil health. Mostly, leguminous crops are preferred because these crops fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil.
Means raising of incompatible crops, in sequence, on the same piece of land. It is done to maintain soil fertility and to control insects, weeds and diseases.
Biological pest control:
In this method, living organisms are utilized to check pests, with or without minimal utilization of inorganic chemicals.
Its means, growing of two or more crops together in the same field. It is done to limit pest population and to improve soil condition.
It is a decomposed organic matter. During decomposition carbon dioxide as well as water and heat are produced. The end product is rich in nutrient and also a source of food for microorganisms present in the soil.
Due to continuous cultivation, the soil becomes low in nutrients and decreases its quality. Incorporation of organic matter into the soil helps to conserve soil fertility as well as improves biological activity of soil.
It is a process of producing soil amendment (compost) by utilizing earthworms. Nutrients which are present lower in the soil and not available to plants, earthworms help to bring them to the upper layers. Small channels which are formed by the movement of earthworms help to improve the water holding capacity of a soil. Organic waste can be an issue in the agriculture sector if not supervised in a proper way. Vermicomposting is a potent and fast technique to manage organic waste. In vermicomposting, earthworms act on organic matter both biochemically and physically.
Constraints in organic farming in Pakistan:
- A dearth of social consciousness about organic products.
- Lack of government policies related to the price of an organic product.
- There is no effective connection between consumer and producer.
- Organic farming requires time and labour along with patience.
- Lack of easy availability of inputs.
- No availability of separate organic markets.
- Lack of organization that issue certificate to the organic product.
- No attention towards small farmers which are working hard day and night.
- No understanding of farmers about modern technologies involved in organic farming.
Wastage of organic matter in Pakistan:
Mostly, Pakistani farmers misplace the plant’s residues of the previous crop. Farmers use rice and wheat straw as animal feed. The nutritional value of rice and wheat straw decreases due to inappropriate storage. Mostly, farmers store it on a farm floor where it suffers to an unfavourable environment. Actually, farmers must incorporate crop residues into the soil. These residues will not only feed to the soil but also to the plant.
Let’s take an overview in the following pictures.
A huge amount of fruits and vegetable residues goes useless, daily. It is very precious for the soil to manage it from depleting soil organic matter. It is also used to make compost. In developed countries, a tree after cutting changes into tiny pieces through the specially designed machine. They even use sawdust as a source of organic matter which in Pakistan used as a fuel. They use lawn clippers as compost after composting.
Although Pakistani climate is not favourable to build organic matter in the soil, there are many defaults in Pakistani farming system which leads toward low yield.
Let’s take a view of mismanagement of organic manures in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, farmers know nothing about the value and storage of manures. They store the manures in an open environment which in turn become a source of mosquito in relation to other health problems. The nutrient status of manures decreases rapidly in an open environment. Keep in mind that all manures should store in a closed pit and the whole pit cover with plastic sheet, internally. The plastic sheet avoids from seepage losses. Use decomposed manures because it is safe for plant and soil.
Now, the human population is increasing and agricultural land is decreasing day by day. Our aim is to increase per capita yield, on a sustained basis, without compromising the health of human and environment. Organic farming is an option to get not only healthy food but also a healthy breath. Everyone, who learns, tries to educate the farmer and other stakeholders which are unconsciously playing with environment.
Muhammad Zahaib Ilyas*
Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan.