Organic and sustainable farming

Revision as of 08:40, 2 August 2012 by (talk) (→‎Organic fertilizers: making new article and moving info there)

Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on crop rotation, compost, biological pest control, mechanical cultivation, and other techniques using natural processes, to maintain soil productivity and control pests. The term 'organic farming' was coined in 1940 by Lord Northbourne and first appeared in his book 'Look to the Land'.[1] Organic farming excludes or strictly limits the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and livestock feed additives. Genetically modified organisms are excluded[2], and organic standards in Britain and Australia exclude engineered nanoparticles[3].

"Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved..." -- International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements[4]

Organic agricultural systems

Organic standards

  • The land must be free of prohibited substances for 3 years prior to organic farming
  • Seeds should be organic but right now the use of some non-organic seeds is permitted
  • The use of genetic engineering, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation is prohibited
  • Weeds are controlled with management practices and lots of work
  • Garden pests are handled with integrated pest management practices which include biological, physical, and mechanical controls.
  • Some organic pesticides are permitted
  • To maintain soil fertility organic farmers use methods such as: crop rotations, cover crops, animal manures, compost, and diversity in crops.
  • Some organic fertilizers are permitted


Although less external inputs are used, green manure provides nitrogen and other nutrients, and a healthy soil provides more nutrients through the breakdown of components in the soil.

Some recent studies have suggested that organic farming can potentially produce more than conventional farming methods on the same area of land.[5] Labor costs are higher, but costs of inputs are often lower, as there are no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides to be purchased. This is an advantage in development contexts - see Permaculture and development.

Alternatives to chemical methods

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management

  • is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management
  • uses plant positive approaches instead of pest negative ones
  • uses natural forms of pest control, such as lady bugs

Soil fertility

A number of things that can be done to maintain soil fertility without the use of chemical fertilizers are:

  • crop rotation
  • composting
  • fallow periods
  • cover crops

Weed control

Hand pull
This is the physical removal of weeds pulled out by hand.
Scratching the surface to kill weeds with tools, hoes cut off roots at surface. Hoe weeds when young!
Weed till
Clear a field, water it and let the weeds sprout. Hoe them away and repeat.
Organic Mulch
Lay down at least 5” thick of mulch that does not have weed seeds in it such as straw. Mulch can be put around transplants or over plants like garlic, onions, and potatoes.
Plastic mulch
Lay down plastic and plant in poked holes. Some problems are that plastic breaks down quickly, makes a lot of trash, and blocks water.
Plant a cover crop
Plant a cover crop that out grows the weeds, such as summer buck wheat and vetch or winter oats, bell beans, and vetch.
Flame weeding
Uses a propane torch to cook the weeds.
Drip irrigation
For areas with long dry seasons bury your drip tape and irrigate only where needed.
Do not let weeds go to seed
1 year seeds = 7 years weeds
Use animals
Geese are grass specialists.
Sheep will eat everything they can reach.
Goats will eat everything they can reach including Poison oak.

Organic pesticides

See organic pesticides

Organic fertilizers

See organic fertilizers

Other descriptions of organic farming

  • Organic farming can be described (at least in laymen terms) as growing food the way nature intended.[verification needed]
  • Free of artificial hormones, GMO's, and pesticides.

Famous organic farmers include Senator Jon Tester, Farmer John- of Angelic Organics, skateboarder Bob Burnquist, Eliot Coleman, C.G. Kains, and Rodale.


  1. Paull, John, 2006 The Farm as Organism: The Foundational Idea of Organic Agriculture Journal of Bio-Dynamics Tasmania, (80) 14-18.
  2. Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission What is organic farming
  3. Paull, J., 2010, Nanotechnology: No Free Lunch!, Platter 1(1):8-17
  4. Definition of Organic Agriculture
  5. E.g. Organic farming can feed the world, University of Michigan study shows, July 10, 2007

See also

External links