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  Section: Medicinal Plants / Cultivation
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Organic Agriculture System

⇒ Eco-Friendly Farming
  ⇒ Evolution of Sustainable Agriculture
⇒ Organic Farming
⇒ Biological Farming
⇒ Nature Farming
⇒ Regenerative Agriculture
⇒ Permaculture
⇒ Alternate Agriculture
⇒ Ecological Agriculture
⇒ Ecological Farming Systems
  ⇒ Objectives of Ecological Farming
  ⇒ Prospects
  ⇒ Integrated Intensive Farming System (IIFS)
  ⇒ Low External Input Supply Agriculture (LEISA)
    ⇒ Low-Input Agriculture
    ⇒ Criteria for LEISA
    ⇒ Ecological Criteria
    ⇒ Economic Criteria
    ⇒ Social Criteria
⇒ Biodynamic Agriculture
  ⇒ Organic Farming vs. Biodynamic Farming
  ⇒ Principles of Biodynamic Farming
  ⇒ Rules for Using Biodynamic Agriculture
⇒ Organic Agriculture System
  ⇒ The Major Aims of Organic Farming
  ⇒ Concept of Organic Farming
  ⇒ Difference Between Organic and Conventional Farming
  ⇒ History of Organic Farming
  ⇒ Needs of Organic Farming
    ⇒ Needs for Organic Inputs
  ⇒ In Partnership With Nature
⇒ Basic Standards and General Principles for Organic Agriculture
  ⇒ Crop and Soil Management
  ⇒ Choice of Crops and Varieties
  ⇒ Crop Rotations
  ⇒ Nutrient Management
  ⇒ Management of Pests, Diseases and Weeds
  ⇒ Wild Products
  ⇒ Pollution Control
  ⇒ Soil and Water Conservation
    ⇒ Landscape
⇒ Principle Requirements and Pre-Conditions
⇒ Conversion From Conventional to Organic Farming
  ⇒ Farms With Plant Production and Livestock
  ⇒ Initiating Organic Farming
    ⇒ Medicinal Plants-The First Crops for Organic Farming
⇒ Important Tips for Cultivation of Medicinal Plants
⇒ Multi Tier Agriculture System for Cultivation of Medicinal Plants
    ⇒ Benefits of Multi-Tier Agriculture System (MTAS)
    ⇒ Selection of Shade Crops
    ⇒ Irrigation
    ⇒ Disease and Protection
    ⇒ Benefits for Farmers and the World
⇒ Indigenous Agricultural Practices for Cultivation of Medicinal Plants
  ⇒ Rationality of Indigenous Agricultural Knowledge/ Practices

Organic Agriculture System
Practicing organic agriculture is managing the agro-ecosystem as an autonomous system, based on the primary production capacity of the soil under the local conditions. Although there are some differences between these approaches, the common understanding is that practicing organic agriculture is,managing the agro-ecosystem as an autonomous system, based on the primary production capacity of the soil under local climatic conditions. Agro-ecosystem management implies treating the system, on any scale, as a living organism supporting its own vital potential for biomass and animal production, along with biological mechanisms for mineral balancing, soil improvement, and pest control. Instead of the tendency towards mechanical thinking characteristic of industrial agriculture, agro-ecosystem management requires a nursing, cultivating attitude, a professional feeiing for the organism Farmers, their families, and rural communities, are an integral part of this agro-ecosystem. Both sexes are involved on equal terms.

We thought it an advantage to present a drastic alternative to modern high-tech farming, one totally without synthetic chemicals and fertilizers (nitrogen!!). In this way the reader must think in a different way, and not just adapt to a trend of using a little bit less, which is what many so-called sustainable agriculture systems are based on. We advocate the development of consistent sustainable agriculture systems by starting from perhaps a drastic alternative, determine its impossibilities, and develop feasible systems from there.

A hypothetical High External Input Fanner (HEIF), who wants (has) to become more environmentally friendly will reduce inputs. This is what many would call integrated agriculture. There are different grades, usually starting with Integrated Pest Management (IPM), adding Integrated Nutrient Management (INM), and making a real change when the farm becomes an Integrated Farm System (IFS). Continuing the quest to become more environmentally friendly and more sustainable, the farmer will move forward to LEISA when optimizing the IFS. The farmer will end up with an Organic Agriculture System.

The Major Aims of Organic Farming
Many outsiders perceive organic agriculture as a craze, not a method, in which all agrochemicals are dogmatically banned because of private and environmental health concerns. Others believe that yields are much lower in organic agriculture, or that the cost of labor is much higher. In short, it is not an option to solve the world's agricultural problems.

In reality, organic agriculture is a consistent systems approach based on the perception that tomorrow's ecology is more important then today's economy. Its aim is to stop degradation and reestablish natural balances. The economy must readjust to the primary production factors, and not the other way around. Without ecology, there is no economy. If conventional agriculture had been made to pay for the degradation and environmental damage it is causing, the move towards organic farming system would have been made long ago.

Besides this other possible aims of organic agriculture are:
  1. To work as much as possible within a closed system and draw upon local resources
  2. To maintain the long term fertility of the soil
  3. To avoid all forms of pollution caused by agricultural techniques
  4. To provide a foodstuff of high nutritional quality in sufficient quantity
  5. To reduce the use of fossil energy in agricultural practices to the minimum tending of zero
  6. To give to all livestock the conditions of life that conform to their physiological needs
  7. To make it possible for agricultural families to earn a living through their work and develop their potentialities as human beings
  8. To maintain the rural environment and also preserve non agricultural ecological habitats

Organic agriculture recognizes that everything effects everything else, and that one component cannot be taken out of the system, without positively or negatively affecting other things.

Concept of Organic Farming
Organic refers to the agricultural systems used to produce food and fiber. Organic farming systems do not use toxic chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Instead, they are based on the development of biological diversity and the maintenance and replenishment of soil fertility. Organic foods are minimally processed to maintain the integrity of the food without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation. Organic farming describes two major aspects of alternative agriculture:
  1. The substitution of manures and other organic matter for inorganic fertilizers.
  2. The use of biological pest control instead of chemical pest control.
  3. Approaching organic agriculture from the vantage point of a scientist trained in conventional farming techniques, Harwood (1984) outlines the following assumptions:
  4. Organic agriculture is a reversion to the agriculture of the 1940's.
  5. Organic agriculture is merely conventional agriculture without the use of chemicals. This assumption often leads to the use of a no-treatment check plot in a conventional experiment as an organic treatment.
  6. Organic agriculture is relevant only to backyard gardens.

Organic agriculture is based on the assumption of a difference between chemicals produced by biological organisms and the same chemicals, which have been synthesized in an industrial process.

Difference Between Organic and Conventional Farming
Organic and conventional agriculture belonged to two different paradigms. The fundamental difference between the two competing agricultural paradigms as follows:
Conventional Organic
Centralization Decentralization
Dependence Independence
Competition Community
Domination of nature Harmony with nature
Specialization Diversity
Exploitation Restraint

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:
  1. Protecting the long-term fertility of soil by maintaining organic matter levels, fostering soil biological activity and careful mechanical intervention.
  2. Providing crop nutrients indirectly by using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plants by the action of soil microorganisms.
  3. 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.
  4. Weed, disease and pest control relying primarily on crop rotations, natural predators, diversity, organic maturing resistant varieties and limited thermal, biological and chemical intervention.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 exploited.

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:
  1. Development of standards
  2. Inspection and verification
  3. Certification
  4. Accreditation
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.


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