Beginner’s Guide to Organic and Sustainable Farming

Posted on Feb 24 2017 - 8:32pm by Jamie

Starting any type of business requires thorough research and preparation, so instead of just venturing into the unknown, you should take some time to gather as much information as possible regarding your future endeavour. The more prepared you are, the greater the chances of success you have. Therefore, if you’ve decided to take up organic and sustainable farming, there are several vital aspects of sustainable agriculture you should know.

What is Organic Farming?

Organic farming is a type of farming that involves environmentally friendly techniques and procedures for the purposes of producing food, fibre and other product. The main objective of organic farming, and sustainable agriculture in general, is meeting the textile and food needs of our society, while preserving our environment and not compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. This type of farming aims at reducing the use of non-renewable resources, minimising the negative impacts on public health and safety, wildlife and water quality, integrating natural biological cycles and controls and ensuring soil fertility. On the flip side, conventional farming entails using harsh chemicals, such as petroleum-based fertilisers, for soil treatment and fumigation.

Why Organic Farming?

With the increasing planet population, environmental pollution and the risk of losing the finite resources in mind, our society is turning to green practices to preserve our environment, while meeting the needs of its members. Organic farming is one of the solutions and necessary steps that provides our society with many benefits. Firstly, apart from having a natural and better taste, organic foods are much more nutritious, since they comprise high levels of minerals, enzymes and vitamins, while not being genetically modified. Secondly, organic farming ensures a sustainable future, since it conserves agricultural diversity of crops by using eco-friendly farming methods.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation represents one of the most commonly used techniques of organic farming due to its efficiency and effectiveness. This farming technique refers to growing different crops in the same field, thus successfully solving pest problems. Namely, many pests prefer specific crops, so when you continually grow the same crop in the same place, you provide pests with a steady food supply, enabling them to spread. However, if you grow different plant crops in rotation, the reproductive cycle of pests is broken, thus reducing pest pressure on the crops. In addition, this technique reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, since different crops often replenish plant nutrients. For example, if you plant corn in the field where you previously grew soybeans, you will require less nitrogen, while producing high yields.

Cover Crops

Another efficient technique used in organic farming is cover crops. It entails growing crops at all times, thus not leaving the soil bare. This way, organic farmers avoid unnecessary problems, such as soil erosion and weed occurrence, while ensuring and enhancing soil quality. Cover crops that are most commonly used are clover, oats and hairy vetch. Additionally, this is also a great way to minimise the use of fertilisers, herbicides and insecticides.

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has become one of the most powerful and promising technologies for pest control in organic farming. This is a biologically-based method that represents a combination of crop rotation, the use of natural, disease-fighting microbes and beneficial organisms that prey on pests. Instead of using chemical pesticides, which are applied as a last resort, IPM treats a pest problem by using biocontrol agents, typically sterile males, such as ladybugs.

High-Quality Soil

As the most important element and the backbone of organic and sustainable farming, soil should be well-managed, which entails regular monitoring, manuring, improving soil structure by building soil organic matter (SOM), etc. A proper soil management will help you achieve both short-term and long-term gains. High-quality soil will ensure high levels of nutrients necessary for crops and healthy root development, while minimising the risk of plant diseases and pests. As for the long-terms gains, by properly managing your soil, you will improve soil porosity that will enhance water infiltration, increase water-holding capacity, which is particularly important if your soil is sandy and improve resistance to erosion. Of course, proper soil management requires you to know your soil texture and climatic conditions, discover available water resources, as well as to be prepared for potential problems. The best practice is to consult professionals like geotechnical engineering consultants from Douglas Partners. The key to agricultural success lies in taking in mind geotechnical, environmental, and groundwater factors, and finding effective solutions for overcoming constrains.

Before entering the world of organic farming, take some time to prepare for the challenges it brings. The more prepared and informed you are, the greater chances you have to overcome the obstacles.

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