|Method - Farm, Food, Bio, Fertilizer, Organic and Natural Products|
|Methods - Farms, Foods, Fertilizers, Organic and Natural Products|
|Farm Methods : Organic vs Conventional -|
|Methods of organic farming vary. However, organic approaches share common goals and practices. In addition to the exclusion of synthetic agrichemicals, these include protection of the soil (from erosion, nutrient depletion, structural breakdown), promotion of biodiversity (e.g. growing a variety of crops rather than a single crop), and outdoor grazing for livestock and poultry. Within this framework, individual farmers develop their own organic production systems, determined by factors such as climate, market conditions, and local agricultural regulations. |
|Organic Farm Size is relatively a small-scale, independent operations e.g. the family farm.|
|Organic Methods in Farms: The method don't use of purchased fertilizers and other inputs; low mechanization of the growing and harvesting process|
|Organic Markets : often local, direct to consumer, through on-farm stands and farmers' markets (see also local food ), and through specialty wholesalers and retailers (eg: health food stores)|
|Conventional Farm : The size is a large-scale farm, often owned by or economically tied to major food corporations -|
|Conventional Methods in a Farm : intensive chemical programs and reliance on mechanized production, using specialized equipment and facilities|
|Conventional Markets : wholesale, with products distributed across large areas (average supermarket produce travels hundreds to thousands of miles) and sold through high-volume outlets
The contrast is as much economic as it is between methods of production. Until the last decade, organic farming has been typically small business, often based in local economies, whereas conventional farming is big business (often called agribusiness, or, negatively, corporate farming) that is closely integrated with all aspects of the global food industry. However, the situation is changing rapidly as consumer demand encourages large-scale organic production.
The development of modern organic farming techniques is also a function of economics. Most of the agricultural research over the last century has concentrated on chemical-based methods little funding and effort have been put into using current scientific tools to understand and advance organic agricultural approaches. |
Principles of plant cultivation, in many situations identical to those of organic farming, are appliedusually, though not necessarily, at a smaller scalein the practice of organic horticulture.
|Farming Methods - Organic farming methods|
|Organic farming involves fostering natural processes, often over extended periods of time, and a holistic approach. Chemical-based farming focuses on immediate, isolated effects and reductionist strategies, often based primarily on the desire for profits. In large commercial operations, technology is used to regulate local conditionshybrid seed, synthetic chemicals, high-volume irrigationwhile sophisticated machinery does most of the work, and operators' feet may seldom touch the ground. Beyond the strictly technical aspects, the philosophy, day-to-day activities and required skill sets are quite different. |
|Enhancing soil health is the cornerstone of organic farming. This is a biological process, driven by microorganisms, that allows the natural production of nutrients in the soil throughout the growing season, and has been referred to as feeding the soil to feed the plant. A variety of methods are employed, including crop rotation, green manure, cover cropping, application of compost, and mulching. Organic farmers also use processed natural fertilizers such as seed meal, and various mineral powders such as rock phosphate and greensand, a naturally occurring form of potash. |
|Differing approaches to pest control are equally notable. In chemical farming, a specific insecticide may be applied to quickly kill off a particular insect pest.|
|Chemical controls can dramatically reduce pest populations for the short term, yet by unavoidably killing (or starving) natural predator insects and animals, cause an ultimate increase in the pest population.|
|Repeated use of insecticides and herbicides and other pesticides also encourages natural selection of resistant insects, plants and other organisms, leading to increased use, or new, more powerful, controls.|
|Pest control targets animal pests (including insects), weeds and disease. Organic farming tends to tolerate some level of pest loss, rather than aiming for total eradication. Organic pest control involves the cumulative effect of many techniques, including, allowing for an acceptable level of pest damage, encouraging 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 controlsoil protection and improvement, fertilization, 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.|
|Crop diversity is also characteristic of organic farming. Planting a variety of vegetable crops supports a wider range of beneficial insects, soil microorganisms, and other factors that add up to overall farm health, but managing the balance requires expertise and close attention.|
|Organic farms that raise livestock and poultry, for meat, dairy and eggs, provide animals with "natural" living conditions and feed. Ample, free-range outdoor access, for grazing and exercise, is a distinctive feature, and crowding is avoided. Feed is also organically grown, and drugs, including antibiotics, are prohibited by organic standards. Animal health and food quality are thus pursued in a holistic "fresh air, exercise, and good food" approach. |
Horses and cattle used to provide labor, for hauling and plowing, fertility, through recycling of manure, and fuel, in the form of food for farmers and other animals. While today, small growing operations often do not include livestock, domesticated animals can enhance biodiversity and contribute to sustainability: the ability of a farm to function as a self-renewing unit.
|Organic farming systems - There are a number of formal organic farming systems that prescribe specific techniques. They tend to be more specific than, and fit within, general organic standards. Biodynamic farming is a comprehensive approach, with its own international governing body. Natural Farming is a no-till system for small-scale grain production. French intensive and biointensive methods that go beyond organic principles and approach sustainability. |
Large-scale agriculture and organic farming are not mutually exclusive. For example, Integrated Pest Management is a multifaceted strategy that can include synthetic pesticides as a last resortboth organic and conventional farms use IPM systems for pest control.
|Organic Standards and Organic certification - Increasingly, organic farming is defined by formal standards regulating production methods, and in some cases, final output. Two types of standard exist, voluntary and legislated. As early as the 1970s, private associations created standards, against which organic producers could voluntarily have themselves certified. In the 1980s, governments began to produce organic production guidelines. Beginning in the 1990s, a trend toward legislation of standards began, most notably with the European Union. |
|Farming - The main aspects of organic farming and organic food are under study.
Environmentalists, food safety advocates, various consumer protection, social justice and labor groups, small independent farmers, and a growing number of food consumers are ranged against agribusiness and current government agricultural policies. |
The controversy centers on the overall value and safety of chemical agriculture, with organic farming popularly regarded as the "opposite" of modern, large-scale, chemical-based, vertically integrated, corporate food production. As public awareness increases, there are a number of obstacles to an easy grasp of the overall situation.
In recent decades, food production has moved out of the public eye. In developed nations, where most of the world's wealth, consumption, and agricultural policy-making are centered, many are unaware of how their food is produced, or even that food, like energy, is not unlimited. If the methods used to produce food are rapidly destroying the capacity for continued production, then sustainable, organic farming is as crucial a topic as renewable energy and pollution control. This proposition is at the center of most organic farming issues.
It is useful to make a distinction between organic farming and organic food. Whether organic food is tastier, safer or more nutritious has little to do with the effects of chemical agriculture on the environment. In any case, most food dollars are spent on processed food products, the manufacture of which is beyond the scope of farming. There are separate food and farming issues and lumping the two together only confuses the discussion.
The distinction between organic farming and organic certification is also important. Defining organic farming with checklists of acceptable and prohibited inputs and practices elicits similar criticisms as those leveled at chemical farming. With rules come exceptions, whether well-intentioned or purely profit-oriented, and critics hold that this can only undermine organic principles. What is "more-or-less organic"? Certification also allows agribusiness to lobby for favorable definitionsanything that can be approved becomes "organic".
Of course, the issues, particularly the social ones, will shift if agribusiness fully adapts to and dominates organic farming, and (in early 2005) this is the current trend. Then, large-scale, certified organic farms would probably operate much more like conventional farms do today. Environmental benefits may accrue from a change in types of pesticides and fertilizer used, more crop diversity, and the like, but if the overall agribusiness philosophy remains essentially unchanged, "organic farming" could become the norm, without any great environmental or social improvements.
The following topics may be argued from both sides.
|On Conventional vs Organic Farming|
|Large scale organic farms|
|Many advocates of organic farming view large scale, corporate owned "organic farms" as being against the spirit of organic farming, since they tend to use unsustainable practices similar to conventional farms.|
|Efficiency - Studies have show organic farms to be more energy efficient than their conventional counterparts. One of these studies as done with apple farms in the state of Washington. In that study, the organic farms were found to be at least 7% more energy efficient.
- And although some critics of organic farms cite evidence that organic farms produce less yield than conventional farms, they also found a much more substantial decrease in resources used. Critics of organic farms cite evidence that organic farms produce less yield than conventional farms; one prominent 21-year Swiss study found an average 20% lower organic yields over conventional methods. However, that came with consumption of 50% less fertilizer, and 97% less pesticide. -
Another study that supports the claim that organic farms are more energy efficient was done with apple farms in the state of Washington.
In that study, the organic farms were found to be at least 7% more energy efficient. |
In comparing yields, a US survey published in 2001 analyzed 150 growing seasons of data on various crops and concluded that organic yields were 95-100% of conventional yields - Because organic farms don't use toxic pesticides and herbicides, there is more biodiversity in the soil. Besides higher soil quality - more life in the soil allows for higher water retention. This helps increase yields for organic farms in drought years where there is less rain. During drought years, organic farms have been found to have yields 20-40% higher than conventional farms. -
|Summary - Without exception, the fundamental claims of benefit are contentious and well-contended by various supporters of conventional agriculture, regardless of the fact that the food industry establishment also has a significant stake in organic food. The hot button issue seems to be the effect of pesticides on people, animals, and the environment. This is still being debated by experts in toxicology. There are research reports, expert opinions, and anecdotal evidence both supporting and rebutting them. The same holds true for the other claimed advantages.|
|Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California , University of California Press. Guthman, Julie (2004). ISBN 0520240952.|
|The performance of organic and conventional cropping systems in an extreme climate year. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture - Lotter, D. W., Seidel, R. and Liebhardt W. (2003).|
|ACS Resource-Conserving Agriculture Increases Yields in Developing Countries . Environmental Science and Technology - Pretty, J. N., et. al. (2006).|
|Reganold et.al (April 2001). Sustainability of three apple production systems. Nature -|
|Stokstad, Erik (May 2002). Organic Farms Reap Many Benefits. Science|
|Sustainability of three apple production systems. Nature - Reganold et.al (April 2001).|
|The performance of organic and conventional cropping systems in an extreme climate year. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 18 - Lotter, D. W., Seidel, R. and Liebhardt W. (2003).|
|Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming. Science 296 : 16941697. Maeder et.al. (May 2002).|
|Farm Methods Organic and Conventional|