Tuesday, November 3, 2009



Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on crop rotation, green manure, compost, biological pest control, and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and control pests, excluding or strictly limiting the use of synthetic fertilisers and synthetic pesticides, plant growth regulators, livestock feed additives, and genetically modified organisms. Since 1990s the market for organic products has been growing at a rapid pace. This demand has driven a similar increase in organically managed farmland. Approximately 306,000 square kilometres (30.6 million hectares) worldwide are now farmed organically, representing approximately 2 per cent of total world farmland,The term holistic is often used to describe organic farming. Enhancing soil health is the cornerstone of organic farming. A variety of methods are employed, including crop rotation, green manure, cover cropping, application of compost, and mulching. Organic farmers also use certain processed fertilisers such as seed meal, and various mineral powders such as rock phos­phate and greensand, a naturally occurring form of potash. These methods help to control erosion, promote biodiversity, and enhance the health of the soil.

Pest control targets animal pests (including insects), fungi, weeds and disease. Organic pest control involves the cumu­lative effect of many techniques, including, allowing for an acceptable level of pest damage, encouraging or even intro­ducing beneficial organisms, careful crop selection and crop rotation, and mechanical controls such as row covers and traps. These techniques generally provide benefits in addition to pest control-soil protection and improvement, fertilisation, pollination, water conservation, season extension, etc.,-and these benefits are both complementary and cumulative in overall effect on farm health. Effective organic pest control requires a thorough understanding of pest life cycles and interactions. Weeds are controlled mechanically, thermically and through the use of covercrops and mulches.

Prospects and Limitations Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, an international umbrella organisation for organic organisations established in 1972.

In recent times, organic farming has come under attack from many quarters, even as awareness spreads that it is a more sustainable and healthier way' to live.

Critics question its capacity to feed the world while bogies are being raised about people having to return to the 'dark ages' of food shortage and starvation unless recourse is taken forthwith to intensive chemical farming.
It is believed that organic farming can feed the world and still have enough food left over. An extensive' study carried out in nearly 50 countries, both developed and developing, by a group of eight eminent scientists from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University concluded that the available food production was more than sufficient for humankind.

They estimated the calorific value of all food supply to be 2,786 kCals per capita per day, for the total volume of food supply available in 2001. They also went on to prove that, had the same land been farmed organically, the calorific value available in 2001 would have, in fact, been much higher, i.e., 4,380 kCals per capita per day.

Organic farming yields more and uses less land for the same output level. For example, the study showed that organic farms yield 1.312 times more grain products than non-organic farms.
It is also significant that yields from organic farms in developing countries are higher compared to non-organic farms.

In developing countries, many of which are land-starved, the fact that organic farms have higher yields signals that they should forthwith switch to organic farming.
A project was started in 1996 under the supervision of the Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BoANR) of Tigray, in Ethiopia, in partnership with the Mekele University, the local communities and their local administration. Project Tigray, demonstrated that the introduction of ecologically sound organic principles had very quick positive impacts on the productivity and well-being of farmers with small land holdin.gs.

The project also demonstrated that, for farmers, particularly those in marginal areas, who were not able to afford external inputs, "an organic production management system offered a real and affordable means to break out of poverty and obtain food security."
And the oft-cited argument that organic farming requires more land holds good only for cash crops.

This is the conclusion reached by the FAO at a conference in 2007, where it observed that higher yields through 0.00.­organic farming were seen mainly in cash crops grown in ideal conditions.

Organic farming generally uses natural or naturally avail­able means for farming.
The farm is tilled by oxen, legumes are grown for nitrogen­fixing, and inter-cropping, crop rotation, composting, vermiculture, and so on, are practised to help retain moisture, fertilise the soil and protect the crop against pests. Energy use is minimal with organic farming.

Effective watershed management techniques practised on organic farms have been shown to reduce water use and raise the water table, all without poisoning the soil with chemical residues.
If organic farming were to be practised exclusively, some of the land being used for agriculture can actually be set aside for other uses, without any material impact on food supply.

Organic methods often require more labour, providing rural jobs but increasing costs to urban consumers. Most organic farm products use reduced pesticide claim but very few manage to eliminate the use of pesticide entirely.

While organic farming can, with extra cost, easily substitute chemical fertiliser with organic one, finding an alternative method for eliminating weeds as well as insects which feast on crops is difficult. Pest resistant GM crops are an alternative to pesticide use, but one which is unacceptable to many in the organic farming movement.

For weed elimination, the traditional method is to remove weeds by hand, which is still practiced in developing countries by small scale farmers. However, this has proven too costly in developed countries where labour is more expensive. One recent innovation in rice farming is to introduce ducks and fish to wet paddy fields, which eat both weeds and insects.
The main limiting macronutrient for agricultural production is biologically available nitrogen (N) in most areas.

The earlier mentioned Michigan University study showed that 140 million tonnes of additional nitrogen could have been fixed by the additional use of leguminous crops-58 million tonnes more than the amount of synthetic nitrogen in use.

Food production and distribution today are heavily subsidised, as is well known. Organic food, since it does not receive any of these subsidies, in comparison, comes across as being expensive. Such produce can be cost-competitive if it receives the same subsidies given to non-organically grown foods, and is perhaps likely to be cheaper in view of its inherently superior yield.

Thus, organic agriculture is a holistic production manage­ment system that promotes the health of the agro-ecosystem related to biodiversity, nutrient biological cycles, soil microbial and biochemical activity. The widespread adoption of organic farming in India is unlikely to materially impact the availability of food.

Given India's relative scarcity of land, large farmer popu­lation and fragmented land-holdings, the benefits of organic farming appear uniquely suited to Indian conditions.

In Madhya Pradesh, organic farming is being implemented under the guidance of a team of experts comprising scientists, environmentalists and food management personnel in 1565 villages.



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