In contrast, several agro-ecologically based researchers stress more the fluid transition between conventional, integrated and organic farming, as an outcome of different assessments of economic, ecological and social goals. Consequently, technical strategies such as integrated pest management of balanced nutrient supply might improve conventional agriculture to such an extent that it may appear unnecessary to strictly ban pesticides and mineral fertilizers as required by organic standards.
However, there is scientific evidence that organic agriculture differs from conventional agriculture
not only gradually but fundamentally. Implementing organic methods consequently seems to
provide a new quality in how the agro-ecosystem works. This functioning cannot be explained by
summing up single ecological measures. Organic farming seems to improve soil fertility in a way
and to an extent, which cannot be achieved by conventional farming even if the later consistently
respects some ecologically principles.
Organic agriculture is one of several to sustainable agriculture and many of the techniques used (e.g., inter-cropping, rotation of crops, double-digging, mulching, integration of crops and livestock) are practiced under various agricultural systems. What makes organic agriculture unique, as regulated under various laws and certification programmes, is that: (1) almost all synthetic inputs are prohibited, and (2) soil building crop rotations are mandated.
The basic rules of organic production are that natural inputs are approved and synthetic inputs are prohibited, but there are exceptions in both cases. Certain natural inputs determined by the various certification programmes to be harmful to human health or the environment are prohibited (e.g. arsenic). As well, certain synthetic inputs determined to be essential and consistent with organic farming philosophy, are allowed (e.g. insect pheromones). Lists of specific approved synthetic inputs and prohibited natural inputs are maintained by all certification programmes and such a list is under negotiation in Codex. Many certification programmes require additional environmental protection measures in adoption to these two requirements. While many farmers in the developing world do not use synthetic inputs, this alone is not sufficient to classify their operations as organic.
History of Organic Farming
Organic Agriculture Systems are not a repudiation of the assets of modern agricultural technology, neither are they defined by the simple elimination of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Methods in organic agriculture are less intensive in terms of synthetic and other external inputs compared with conventional farming methods, but are much more intensive from a biological point of view.
The term organic fanning was first used by Lord Northbourne in the book, Look to the Land Lord Northbourne, who embraced the teaching of Rudolph Steiner and biodynamic farming, had a vision of the farm as a sustainable, ecologically stable, self-contained unit, biologically complete and balanced-a dynamic living organic whole. The term thus did not refer solely to the use of living materials (organic manures, etc) in agriculture although obviously it included them, but with its emphasis on wholeness is encompassed best by the definition' of, pertaining to, or characterized by systematic connection or coordination of part of the one whole.
As defined by a USDA Study Team on Organic Farming, Organic farming is a production system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives. To the maximum extent feasible, organic farming systems rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, off-farm organic wastes, mechanical cultivation, mineral-bearing rocks, and aspects of biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients, and to control insects, weeds and other pests.
According to the produced Codex definition (FAO), Organic agriculture is production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological and mechanical methods, as opposed -to using synthetic materials, to fulfill any specific function within the system.
Organic agriculture systems include approaches and methods like organic/UK), biodynamic/D Rusch-Muller/CH, Lemaire-Boucher/F, regenerative/USA, nature farming/JPN (Fukuoka 1985) and permaculture/AUS (Mollison 1990). These were all developed during this century, most of them the last 50 years.
In the Western world, organic agriculture is fairly well developed. There is a growing market for these products (including imports from developing countries) based on consumers' willingness to pay a substantial premium for reliably labeled, organically grown foods. Various types and methods of organic agriculture have been developed in the Northern Hemisphere, such as the biological-organic and biodynamic method
Needs of Organic Farming
Needs for Organic Inputs
Organic farming is the pathway that leads us to live in harmony with nature. Organic agriculture is the key to a sound development and a sustainable environment. It minimise environment environmental pollution and the use of non-renewable natural resources. It conserves soil fertility and soil erosion through implementation of appropriate conservation principles.
Several reasons have been emphasized for the need of organic agriculture, like limited land holdings, poor socio-economic conditions of farmers, rise in input cost etc. The broadest view shows two major reasons viz., population and environment, emphasized the ultimate need for eco-friendly technologies. FAO estimates that by the year 2000 the global population will be 25% higher than in the mid 1980s and that 90% of this population increase will be in the developing countries like India. It will be necessary to increase the supply of food and other agricultural products to meet their needs. At the moment, many of the methods being used to increase production are damaging to natural resources and the environment and farmers are supposed to invest heavily into inputs to improve yields and productivity. Further, the produce from organic farming has become inevitable. The food containing pesticides and other chemicals are increasingly made obvious by many research studies revealing the presence of pesticide residues in eatables. About one million people suffered from pesticides poisoning and 20,000 die every year due to the toxic effects of these chemicals worldwide but the crop loss d|ue to pest is still 15,000 crores, apart from killing a portion of the human population by the same pesticide use. This perspective is also one of the needs for organic approach to farming. In order to avoid the deleterious effects of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, organic agriculture is needed as an alternative to provide ecologically safe methods of farming.
Although the concept of organic agriculture has received much elaboration at different levels, the description offered by has been found to be the most comprehensive covering all essential factors.
Organic agriculture is a production system, which avoids or largely excludes the use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed-additives. To the maximum extent feasible, organic farming system rely on crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, off farm organic wastes and aspects of biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients and to control insects, weeds and other pests.
Sustainable agriculture, by definition, is that form of farming which produces sufficient food to
meet the needs of present generation without eroding ecological assets and productivity of life
supporting system of the future generation. The key characterization of organic farming in relation
to sustainable soil fertility and organic farming include:
- Protecting the long-term fertility of soil by maintaining organic matter levels, fostering soil
biological activity and careful mechanical intervention.
- Providing crop nutrients indirectly by using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are
made available to the plants by the action of soil microorganisms.
- Nitrogen self-sufficiency through use of legumes and biological nitrogen fixation as well as
effective recycling of organic materials, including crop residues and livestock wastes.
- Weed, disease and pest control relying primarily on crop rotations, natural predators,
diversity, organic maturing resistant varieties and limited thermal, biological and chemical
- The extensive management of livestock, paying full regard to their evolutionary adaptations,
behavioural needs and animal welfare issues with respect to nutrition, housing health,
breeding and rearing.
- Careful attention to the impact of farming system on the wider environment and the
conservation of wild life and natural habitats.
Organic agriculture is viable alternative to conventional agriculture. It protects the soil from
erosion, strengthens natural resources base and sustains biological production at levels
commensurate with the carrying capacity of managed agro-ecosystem because of reduced
dependence of fertilizers and plant protection chemicals; problems of environmental pollution are
greatly reduced if not totally avoided. The practice leads to regeneration of ecosystem. There is
now a demand worldwide for organically grown foods, which command a premium in export
markets. The demand for such safe foods is increasing annually and this opportunity needs to be
Organic agriculture is often associated with low yields. The demands for products of organic agriculture are growing in India. The European Unon (EU) and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) have defined rules for organic agriculture producers. India too needs to establish its own certification scheme to facilitate exports of organic agriculture products and an accreditation agency to certify the produce of the farm. The essential elements of an organic quality assurance scheme are as follows:
- Development of standards
- Inspection and verification
As low yields are expected, the market's ability to pay a price premium is a key determinant of sustainable growth of organic agriculture. The European Union is currently world's leading market for organic products with various countries within the EU having deficits of fresh organic products. The legislation on organic agriculture varies across countries. At present certification is compulsory for (he organic foods exported from India. To encourage mass production and consumption o( organic products, there should be clear-cut policies and incentives to promote organic agriculture and necessary infrastructure and market.
National level efforts are needed to facilitate the successful adoption of organic agricultural by the farmers. The approach shall be farmer centered and programmes developed shall create conditions for the conservation and efficient use of locally available resources as inputs in agriculture. Research has also to play to the extent of developing appropriate agro-techniques in conformity with the basic principles of organic agriculture.
In Partnership with Nature
In Organic Agriculture Systems, the interactions described here can be used to develop and manage a holistic farming system which is an autonomous organic agro-ecosystem based on a partnership with nature. Such a system is not static; it should be adapted continuously to changing conditions using practical experience and new knowledge. There is no quick and easy recipe. Redirecting agriculture away from the unsustainable situation of the present requires more than just another set of technologies. It requires an attitude, which emphasizes human and ecosystem capacities, and cultivates them in a structurally sustainable way.
Mobilizing indigenous knowledge and inspiring farmers to grow their crops autonomously in the
local agro-ecosystem places the farmers in the center of farming activities. This is a prerequisite
for human resource development of farmers.
The principles mentioned above provide a basis for the development of agricultural methods
which fit well in the concept of SARD.