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Organic Farming

Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on ecosystem management and attempts to reduce or eliminate external agricultural inputs, especially synthetic ones. It is a holistic production management system that promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity.

Organic farming 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.

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 control soil 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"

The environment

The environmental argument, from the pro-organic view, holds that conventional agriculture is rapidly depleting natural resources, particularly fossil fuels and fresh water, and seriously polluting soil, water and air. Cited are the large quantities of agricultural chemicals in use (synthetic pesticides and fertilizers), water wastage through high-volume irrigation, heavy use of petrochemicals for farm machinery and long-distance transport, high densities of various waste products from concentrated operations, and the list goes on. While there is no argument that conventional agriculture relies on an abundance of these resources and creates a high volume of waste, agribusiness supporters (which naturally includes the majority of conventional farmers) argue that the negative claims are exaggerated or inaccurate.

On the flip side, large-scale organic operations that don't follow sustainable practices would require many of the same resources as conventional operations. For example, an organic farm that made heavy use of farm machinery and indoor production facilities (requiring artificial heat and light), and shipped to far-off markets, would still be a major consumer of energy resources. Also, it is debated whether an organic farm using natural compost and manure on a large scale would cause any less damage to ground water and soil than manufactured fertilizers.

Interestingly, many organic farms rely on inorganic manure to continue fertilization due to the large requirement for manure and relative unavailability of organic manure. This technically does not violate the traditional definitions of organic produce because there are no inorganic components added to the manure, although they may be present in its composition. Studies of the effects of chemicals within manure on organic produce is limited, although studies have shown that many carcinogens are present in variable amounts in even organic foodstuffs.The local infrastructure to support small farmers is all but non-existent in most developed nations - the current food distribution system favors high-volume production, and large farming operations. What is commonly known as "organic farming" may change quite dramatically in the coming few years.

Organic farming is now gaining popularity and is being accepted by people all over the world. A growing consumer market is naturally one of the main factors encouraging farmers to convert to organic agricultural production. Increased consumer awareness of food safety issues and environmental concerns has contributed to the growth in organic farming over the last few years.


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