, or ecological
view their activities as an integrated
whole and try to establish a sustainable way forward by conserving nonrenewable
resources and eliminating reliance on external inputs. Where
their growing depends directly, or indirectly (e.g. the use of straw or
farmyard manure), on the use of animals due consideration is given to
their welfare and at all times the impact of their activities on the wider
environment is given careful consideration.
The soil is managed with as little disturbance as possible to the
balance of organisms present. Organic growers maintain soil fertility
by the incorporation of animal manures, composted
material, green manure or grass–clover leys. The
intention is to ensure plants receive a steady, balanced release of
nutrients through their roots; 'feed the soil, not the plant'. Besides
the release of nutrients by decomposition, the stimulated
earthworm activity incorporates organic matter deep down the soil
profile, improving soil structure which can eliminate the need for
cultivation (see earthworms).
The main cause of species imbalance is considered to be the use of many pesticides
and quick-release fertilizers
. Control of pests and diseases
is primarily achieved by a combination of resistant cultivars
and 'safe' pesticides derived from plant extract, by careful
rotation of plant species and by the use of naturally occurring
predators and parasites. Weeds are controlled by using a range of
cultural methods including mechanical and heat-producing weed control
equipment. The balanced nutrition of the crop is thought to induce
greater resistance to pests and diseases. The European Union
Regulations (1991) on the 'organic production of agricultural products'
specify the substances that may be used as 'plant-protection products (see
Table 16.4), detergents, fertilizers, or soil conditioners' (see Table 21.3).
Those intending to sell produce with an organic label need to comply
with the standards originally set by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement (IFOAM). These standards set out
the principles and practices of organic systems that, within the economic
constraints and technology of a particular time, promote:
- the use of management practices which sustain soil health and
- the production of high levels of nutritious food;
- minimal dependence on non-renewable forms of energy and burning
of fossil food;
- the lowest practical levels of environmental pollution;
- enhancement of the landscape and wild life habitat;
- high standards of animal welfare and contentment.
Certification is organized nationally with a symbol available to those
who meet and continue to meet the requirements. In the UK, the Soil
Association is licensed for this purpose.