Principles of organic agriculture systems
Organic agriculture systems are based on three strongly interrelated principles under autonomous ecosystem management: mixed farming, crop rotation and organic cycle optimization. The common understanding of agriculture production in all types of organic agriculture is managing the production capacity of an agro-ecosystem. The process of extreme specialization propagated by the green revolution led to the destruction of mixed and diversified farming and ecological buffer systems. The function of this autonomous ecosystem management is to meet the need for food and fibres on the local ecological carrying capacity.
(a) Mixed farming: In organic agriculture system, one strives for appropriate diversification, which ideally means mixed farming, or the integration of crop and livestock production on the farm. In this way, cyclic processes and interactions in the agro-ecosystem can be optimised, like using crop residues in animal husbandry and manure for crop production. Diversification of species biotypes and land use as a means to optimize the stability of the agro-ecosystem is another way to indicate the mixed farming concept. The synergistic concept among plants, animals, soil and biosphere support this idea.
(b) Crop rotation: Within the mixed farm setting, crop rotation takes place as the second principle of organic agriculture. Besides, the classical rotation involving one crop per field per season, intercropping, mixed cropping and under sowing are other options to optimize interactions. In addition to plant functions, other important advantages such as weed suppression, reduction in soil-borne insect pests and diseases, complimentary in nutrient demand, nutrient catching and soil covering can be mentioned.
(c) Organic cycle optimisation: Each field, farm, or region contains a given quantity of nutrients. Management should be used in such a way that optimal use is made of this finite amount. This means that nutrients should be recycled and used a number of times in different forms. Second, care should be taken that only a minimum amount of nutrients actually leave the system so that ‘import’ nutrients can be restricted. Third, the quantity of nutrients available to plants and animals can be increased within the system by activating the edaphon, resulting in increased weathering of parent material.
Concept of organic farming
It envisages a comprehensive management approach to improve the health underlying productivity of the soil. Organic farming is a matter of giving back to nature what we take from it. It is cheap, inexpensive, profitable and sensible.
Components of organic farming
(i) organic manures,
(ii) non-chemical weed control measures, and
(iii) biological pest and disease management.
1. Organic manures: Organic materials such as farmyard manure, biogas, slurry, composts, straw or other crop residues, biofertilisers, green manures and cover crop can substitute for inorganic fertilisers to maintain the environmental quality. In addition, the organic farmers can also use seaweeds and fish manures and some permitted fertilisers like basic-slag and rock phosphate. The use of organic manures will increase the organic matter content and water holding capacity of the soil. Erosion is reduced by organic manures. Crop rotation with legumes adds to soil fertility. Green manure provides the nutrients and improves the soil.
2. Non-chemical weed control measures: Compared to conventional farmers, the organic farmers use more of mechanical cultivation of row crops to reduce the weed menace. No herbicides are applied as they lead to environmental pollution.
3. Biological pest management: The control of insect pests and pathogens is one of the most challenging jobs in tropical and sub-tropical agriculture. Here again non-chemical, biological pest management is encouraged. The conservation of natural enemies of pests is important for minimising the use of chemical pesticides and for avoiding multiplication of insecticides-resistant pests. Botanical pesticides such as those derived from neem could be used. Selective microbial pesticides offer particular promise, of which strains of Bacillis thuringiensis is an example.
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