People are adopting new techniques and technologies with the advent of modern science. Farming sector is also benefited with efficient uses of different synthetic chemicals and sophisticated farming tools. The use of tons of fertilizers and pesticides in conventional farming surely increases the production of crops but has a gravely negative impact on the environment and wildlife. On the contrary, organic farming comes without the dangers of synthetic chemicals and pesticides and doesn’t harm soil and underground water. It conserves biodiversity and produces crops with increased nutrition values and enhanced tastes. There are both pros and cons of organic farming. Read more to understand the basics of organic farming, its benefits, and demerits.
What is organic farming?
One must know the definition of organic farming to make an educated comment on organic farming benefits. The idea is simple. Stop using any type of chemicals that can’t be produced naturally. But, it’s really difficult to implement. We are so dependent on synthetic chemicals that organic farming seems quite inconvenient.
Organic farming refers to the use of green manure, natural fertilizers, biological pest control, crop rotation to produce crops and raise livestock and poultries. It promotes biodiversity and ecological balance using natural products and eco-friendly farming techniques. Its an ecology management strategy that enhances the fertility of the soil and prevents it from erosion. It also protects the humans and other animals from the side effects of synthetic chemicals and pesticides used in conventional farming.
How did organic farming enter the world of agriculture and farming?
J.I Rodale is widely known as the father of the modern organic movement. He founded Rodale Research Institute and started publishing Organic Farming and Gardening magazine. Rodale introduced the idea of non-chemical farming at the beginning of the 1940s. This theory led to the development of the organic farming movement to a whole new level that people were heavily influenced by the idea. Rodale used some of the ideas of Sir Albert Howard who was a British scientist and spent many years in India to observe traditional farming there.
People started to understand environmental issues deeply related to organic farming. And, by the start of the 1970s, this environmental awareness boosted the growth of the organic farming movement. But there was no universal definition and standard to determine the nature of organic farming. There arose a need to define organic agriculture in terms of philosophical approach and regulations. In response to this movement to develop a national organic standard, the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990 was approved by Congress. After observing and experimenting with the ideas and outcomes, final rules regarding organic food and fiber production were written and put into action in 2002. All these rules are regulated by the National Organic Program under the supervision of USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.
Pros and cons of organic farming
Organic farming can cause great upliftment to the environment, human life, economy, society, and community. It ensures safe and healthy crops with the association of a well-protected ecology and biodiversity. As all good things in this universe come with a few demerits too, organic farming is no exception. Let’s know the advantages of organic farming first, we will discuss the negative sides later.
Pros of organic farming : A note on its impact on the environment
There are many remarkable benefits of organic farming on the environment. It helps reduce the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides, form healthy soil with other natural factors, prevent soil erosion, conserve water, improve water health, reduce carbon dioxide emission, and many more. Keep reading to get a complete overview of each benefit.
Reduced use of chemicals and pesticides
Using organic farming technique reduces the amount of persistent and harmful elements in the environment. Pesticides and synthetic chemicals have severe bad effects on the environment. Application of pesticides allows the plants and weed to build up disease resistance inhibiting the natural defense mechanisms. Besides, these chemicals are directly sprayed on the plants and soils which contaminates water, soil, and air. Organic farming protects the environment from being contaminated with such harmful chemicals.
Formation of healthy soil
There is no alternative to healthy and fertile soil to grow crops. Harmful synthetic chemicals hamper the health of soil to a great extent. Using compost, green manure promotes the fertility of soil, water holding capacity and formation of healthy soil. The use of an organic compound is good for microbial activities of soil. The soil contains millions of helpful bacteria if treated with organic compounds.
Prevention of erosion
Organic farming helps the soil withstand erosion. According to a major study, a chemically treated wheat field is more prone to erosion than an organically treated wheat field. The study shows that the organic filed had eight more inches of topsoil than that of the chemical field.
Reduced effects of global warming
The more natural a product is the less it emits carbon dioxide. Organic agriculture helps the soil store the carbon into it instead of releasing carbon dioxide in the air. This reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and slow down climate change as well as reduce the effects of global warming in the long run.
Facilitation of water conservation
The importance of proper water supply can be realized if we have to spend a single day without water. Without ample water, we will end up being at risk of extinction. Organic farming doesn’t involve any harmful chemical in the cultivation process thus keep the water from the polluted runoff. The farming techniques are also effective to hold underground water. That’s how organic farming facilitates water conservation.
Improvement of water health
One of the most alarming issues concerning the use of pesticides in agriculture is the degradation of water health. The chemicals and pesticides used in the chemically treated farming field get blended with water and flows away to the water reservoirs. And, people use water collected from these reservoirs for household uses. Besides, the biodiversity of watery places is greatly hampered with such poisonous water. On the contrary, organic farming is free from such harmful chemical compounds and the water remains contamination free. Consequently, it improves water health.
Reduced growth of algal blooms
There are many reasons behind the growth of algal blooms in water. A major human-made cause is the application of petroleum-based fertilizers during conventional farming. Algal blooms have negative impacts on marine animals, organisms, and tourists. Organic farming can reduce the growth of algal blooms.
Improved quality of life for household animals and wildlife
All kinds of animals that somehow comes closer to human habitat areas are affected by the actions of humans. Birds, insects, fish, and other household animals live happily in farmland and water. If that grazing area or water get contaminated with poisonous pesticides, the household animals and wildlife have a hard time to survive conveniently. If we practice organic agriculture, these household and wildlife animals will be exposed to a clean, healthy and chemical-free environment to live on.
Supports for biodiversity and pollination
Organic farming is eco-friendly and doesn’t harm the ecological balance. This ultimately results in the conservation of biodiversity. The more biodiversity is present on a farm, the more suitable the farm is for cultivating. Healthy biodiversity helps the farm endure issues like diseases, pests and adverse weather. Besides, a safe place for different insects and animals means that there are more scopes to promote pollination. Especially, bees, butterflies and such other pollinators will visit an organic field more often than a chemical field. Synthetic agriculture chemicals are harmful to these pollinators. So, organic farming along with several other factors supports biodiversity and pollination by reducing the use of synthetic chemicals.
Advantages of organic farming for human health
Human life is benefitted with the use of organic fertilizers and biological pest control in agriculture. Increased nutrition values, enhanced tastes, production of contamination and poison free foods are the major organic farming benefits for human health.
Increased nutrition values
Organic farming doesn’t use chemicals that increase the production of crops drastically defying the natural conditions for growth. The healthy soil life offers the crops with suitable conditions and mechanisms and that ultimately result in conservation of natural vitamin and mineral content. Organic farming increases the nutrition values of the food.
The techniques and use of organic compounds provide the crops with the required time to develop naturally. As the crops get ample time to grow and mature, they taste better than the foods cultivated in the conventional farming method.
Production of foods nearly free of contamination and poison
Different pesticides and insecticides are used frequently in conventional farming techniques. These pesticides get transferred to the crops in minimal amount. Thus, conventional farming contaminates foods. Organic farming produces foods nearly free of contamination and poison.
Economic benefits of organic farming
There are many economic benefits of organic farming. It increases interest in export sectors, reduces vulnerability to fluctuations in the financial market, vitalizes rural economy, reduces input costs and demands for investing in specialized farming lands.
Increasing interest in export sectors
The advancement of organic farming has been successful to draw the attention of several European nations, Japan and other developed countries have expressed their interest to export organic foods. The export sector has increasing interest to export these foods even at a premium price.
Reduced vulnerability to fluctuations in the financial markets
Conventional farming comprises the use of fossil fuels, expensive chemicals, synthetic fertilizers. Even, some framers have to take a loan from the bank to produce crops in the conventional method. Thus, it is vulnerable to fluctuations in the financial markets. On the other hand, organic farming is free from these hassles.
Reduced input costs
Foods that are grown in conventional farming is cheaper than organic foods. That doesn’t mean organic farming is more costly. They are costlier due to the less production in a given period of time compared to the production in conventional farming. Actually, organic farming costs less than conventional farming as it requires little chemicals and irrigation.
Vitalization of rural economy
New organic farming projects are creating jobs and business sector for the rural communities. If the investment in the rural economy gets increased that will eventually result in the improvement of the rural economy. New entrepreneurs are coming up with new ideas to promote organic farming. Thus, organic farming vitalizes the rural economy.
Reduced demands for investing in specialized farming lands
Cultivating in conventional methods with the help of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides sometimes need specialized farming lands to withstand the adverse effects of chemicals and grown crops efficiently. The demand for specialized farming lands was increasing before the idea of organic foods became popular. Organic farming doesn’t need investment in specialized farming lands.
Organic farming benefits for the community that does it
People are becoming more aware of the harmful consequences of ingesting contaminated foods that have been in conventional farming. That’s why the demand for organic foods is increasing day by day. And customers are willingly purchasing organic foods despite the high price. It has created an opportunity for the community that performs organic farming to get higher financial returns. Besides, this economic solvency is influencing other farmers to adopt organic farming techniques. It is creating a self-reliant community who are creating employment sectors. Moreover, the environment and quality of food are topnotch in organic farming. This also benefits the community that does organic farming.
Organic farming isn’t essentially free of its disadvantages and obstacles
You already know that organic farming is loaded with many benefits, now its time to learn the disadvantages of it. there are many cons of organic farming. It yields little crops, requires more time and expertise, undergoes rigorous certification procedures and many more. Go through the following sections to know all the demerits.
Smaller yields with the likelihood of diminished productivity
The repetition of cultivation decreases the fertility of the soil. At one point, it doesn’t contain enough compounds to convert the humus into soil fertility. But you will not be able to give the land a break from the cultivation process due to the demand for crops. That’s when people need to add synthetic chemicals to enhance the fertility of the soil. Otherwise, if you continue following organic techniques, the lands will yield fewer crops and grow the likelihood of diminished productivity.
More time required
As organic farming deals with the pests, insects, and weeds naturally, it consumes more time. Besides, an organic cultivator will not use any chemicals to boost the growth of the crops. So, it takes more time to develop and mature. One must have patience and commitment to grow crops organically.
Specialized skills required
Compared to organic methods, conventional farming uses heavy machinery and chemicals to ease and promote the cultivation process. But organic farming doesn’t include this machinery and chemicals depending only on manual skills and observation. You must use your specialized skills as an alternative to mechanized or chemical techniques to get valuable and high productivity.
Expensive end products
Organic foods are more expensive than those produced in conventional farming. Because the production is less in more time. For this reason, some customers aren’t keen to buy organic foods. But this situation is changing now as people have started to understand the necessity to eat contamination-free foods and conservation of biodiversity.
Limitations while utilizing GMO benefits
The philosophy of organic farming restricts itself from taking any advantage of genetic engineering. Utilizing GMO benefits will be regarded as conventional farming. For this reason, organic growers are deprived of the amazing inventions of genetic technologies.
No subsidies available for the majority of organic farmers
Most of the industrialized countries offer financial help to the farmers to encourage them in farming. But organic growers aren’t provided with such subsidies in most cases. That makes it hard to continue farming in organic methods. Without subsidies, it’s difficult to fight adversity such as weather changes or a devastating crop failure.
Unique marketing challenges
Once the crops are harvested, the real challenge is to market them properly. The market for organic foods is a bit different than other food products. Besides, the price of organic foods is higher than other kinds of foods’. Thus, organic farmers are exposed to a unique marketing challenge where they need to compete with both organic crops and other crops. To fight this issue, many communities are applying a prepaid service for organic foods. The customers can book the crops prior to the cultivation and get organic foods after the harvesting season.
Rigorous certification procedures
In the United States, an organic grower has to undergo rigorous certification and particular QA (Quality Assurance) standards to claim his products as organic. The USDA accredited certifying agents must approve the products prior to the marketing activity. If a farm or product processor produces crops that earn less than $5,000 in gross income are not included in this certification process. The organic certifying agent will examine if the methods of farming are organic or conventional and verify that. Moreover, the farmers may have to pay as high as $1500 fee every year to renew the validity. This amount depends on the total production value of a farm.
Tricky permission for different levels of “organic”
One must maintain well-defined standards to label his/her products as “organic”. It will be labeled as “100% organic” if every ingredient of that particular product grows in an organic farming environment. It will be labeled as “organic” if 5% of the components of the product is non-organic. And the label “made with organic” refers to the inclusion of 30% inclusion of non-organic products. If any product contains non-organic compounds of more than 30%, that will be considered as non-organic products.
Organic foods are not treated with any kind of wax or preservative to prevent them from spoiling. For this reason, organic foods spoil faster than other foods. If the product arrivals or shipments are delayed for any reason, an entire shipment of products may spoil and never make it to the marketplaces. Besides, we can’t grow crops of one season in other seasons using organic farming techniques. You can’t even preserve the fruits and crops to consume them during the off-season. You have to store them in a freezer.
Is organic farming really capable of feeding the growing world population?
There is an ongoing debate about the ability of organic farming to ensure food security to the growing world population. Food security refers to four combined ideas such as food availability, food access, food stability, and food utilization. It’s not possible to solve food insecurity for agriculture alone. Be it organic agriculture or conventional farming, there should be an all-out effort of every department of every country to feed the growing world population.
FAO organized an International Conference to discuss food security issues with the concerned personnel’s. food security isn’t all about producing foods, it’s about making the food available to those who need it the most. We already grow the foods we need to feed the growing population, but the proper distribution of the food is the toughest thing to do.
The condition of our environment is deteriorating day by day. The increasing use of chemicals and emission of carbon dioxide are threatening for the planet we live in. Organic farming could be our savior to reduce this problem in the agriculture sector. But it loses the feasibility due to some underlying issues. We have figured out these issues along with the pros and cons of organic farming in the above discussion. If we can address and solve these problems, it will yield a better future for the next generations. People should be more aware of the conservation of nature and biodiversity and support organic farming as much as possible from their ends.