Sustainability of Organic Farming
- Overview of organic farming
- Benefits of organic farming
- Conservation of soil
- Conservation of water
- Enhancing clean air and climate change
- Sustainability of the organic farming
This paper discusses the sustainability of organic farming by evaluating the economic, environmental and ecological variables. It discusses in detail the practices that make organic farming different from other farming methods. Among the distinguished practices include crop rotation that enhances soil nutrients and prevents the adverse impacts of soil-dwelling pests. Planting cover crops is the other practice that is also aimed at ensuring that the soil retains its water and nutrients. The use of organic fertilizer such as manure is the other factor that makes the method of farming different from the others. These unique practices that are encouraged by organic farming determine its economic viability, environmental responsibility and ecological aspects that promote the method of farming. The paper also highlights the benefits of organic farming and the factors that make it sustainable. It concludes by showing the connection between the variables that determine its sustainability, which includes economic, environmental and ecologic aspects.
Organic Agriculture/Farming and Sustainability
Organic agriculture refers to the type of farming that utilizes natural means of providing nutrients to the plants such as using manure and plant residues. The farming method also uses natural methods of controlling weed instead of applying synthetic agrochemicals. It is also applied in animal farming where natural methods of production are preferred instead of using genetically modified organisms, animal cloning and growth hormones. The method of agriculture aims at balancing the predator-host relationship as well as the use of crop rotation and cover crops.
The plants residues in the farming method are recycled back into the spoil, thus making it rich in nutrients. In this method of farming, there is no need to use synthetic fertilizers because the fertility of the soil is enhanced by the use of cover crops and manure. Through organic agricultural practices, farmers are able to implement effective strategies that promote soil conservation and weed management thus improving the volume of output. Among the advantages associated with the organic method of farming is improved productivity and less harm to the environment compared to the other methods of farming that uses synthetic chemicals (Kassam et al. 298). Today, the main concern in the world is on how to ensure a clean and safe environment. The degradation environment has led to adverse impacts such as floods, increase in respiratory illnesses and disruption of traffic due to industrial fog. There are various factors that have led to environmental degradation including industrial process that produce harmful chemicals to the environment. Agricultural activities also contribute to environmental pollution due to the chemicals used in enhancing the productivity of the produce. To reduce the adverse impacts of environmental pollution, there is need to adopt agricultural methods that are less harmful to the environment. This has led to the popularity of agricultural methods that use natural means of production such as organic farming. To ensure that the organic farming is effective, it is important to ensure that it is sustainable. This paper discusses the sustainability of organic farming in terms of its economic viability, environmental sustainability and ecological aspects
Overview of organic farming
Agriculture is among the most important sectors in many countries, especially those that have a subsistence economy. The main challenge faced with the countries is reduced agricultural productivity due to poor methods of farming. To enhance the productivity of their products, most farmers opt for synthetic agrochemicals that improve the fertility of soil, control pests and weeds more quickly than organic means of farming. The main disadvantage with the use of these chemicals is that they pollute the environment and over time the fertility of soil is reduced. Further the farming methods do offer natural solutions to conserve soil for example, by ensuring that there is minimal erosion. Today, the popularity of organic farming is growing by the days due to the advantages that it has on concerning environmental pollution as well as production of foods that are free of synthetic chemicals. In Oceania, the most popular method of farming is organic (Willer and Neil Sorensen 26). The main aim of organic farming is to produce agricultural products while still maintaining an ecological balance.
Benefits of organic farming
Conservation of soil
One of the benefits associated with the method of farming is conservation of soil through means such as crop rotation. Crop rotation entails the practice of farming where different crops are planted in varying sections in the farm. The primary aim of the farming method is to enhance the fertility of soil to improve the productivity of the plants. The other advantage is that it reduces soil borne diseases as well as soil-dwelling pests that may affect the crop production due to lack of rotation (Milestad and Hadatsch.3). The method of farming only allows minimum tilling, thus maintaining the soil flora and fauna that improves its fertility. The practice also improves the structure and formation of soil, thus improving its ability to retain water. The use of organic fertilizers enables the soil to retain its fertility and the ability to retain water.
Conservation of water
Among the primary environmental concerns is preservation of underground water. The use of synthetic fertilizers and other agrochemicals is among the leading causes of water pollution. However, this is controlled by the use of organic fertilizers such as animal and green manure that do not pollute the environment. The method of farming increases infiltration and retention of nutrients, thus reducing pollution of ground (Kassam et al. 293).
Enhancing clean air and climate change
Among the factors that reduce the quality of air and cause climatic changes include the use of non-renewable energy in the environment. This is the type of energy used in the production of synthetic products such as fertilizers. The main problem with the use of non-renewable energy is that it degrades the environment by contributing to greenhouse effect as well as global warming. By using organic farming, it is possible to enhance the quality of air and reduce climate change because of the ability to isolate carbon in the soil (Milestad and Hadatsch 9). The practices used in organic agriculture such as retaining crops in the soil increases the amount of carbon in the soil. The practice enables leads to high amounts of organic carbon that integrates well in the soil. The retention of high organic compounds in the soil reduces the chances of climate change.
Organic farming promotes biodiversity because it uses the traditional seeds, thus leading to the preservation of a wide range of crops. The traditional seeds are known to be more resistant to diseases and they are resilience to climatic stress. At the species level, the organic farming method combines different species of organisms that results in cycling of energy (Hole et al. 125). At the ecosystem level, the method of farming encourages preservation of habitats that ensures a habitat for wildlife. Strategies such as crop rotation, minimal tilling and the use of cover crops ensure that there is minimal soil erosion and may also translate to erosion of biodiversity. As a result, there is creation of a pool of healthy genes that allows for future adaptation.
Sustainability of the organic farming
Sustainability in agriculture is a term used to describe a system of farming that is economically viable, ecologically sound, and one that shows social responsibility. It is one that enhances the productivity of agricultural products while ensuring that the environment remains safe. The economic, ecological and social factors that determine the sustainability of farming methods are interrelated in the sense that one aspect affects the other. To ensure that the farming methods are sustainable, it is important to understand the interaction of organisms and the environment. This is the basis of sustainable farming as it ensures that practices adopted are long lasting.
The quality of soil is among the factors that promote the sustainability of agricultural practices. It is determined by the amount of nutrients in the soil, which promotes the productivity of the plants. The farming methods applied in agriculture determine the quality of soil in terms of nutrient and water retention. Practices such as excessive tilling, use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals as well as lack of cover crops are responsible for the inability of the soil to retain its nutrients and water. The practices affect the economic viability of the projects due to poor productivity with time.
In terms of the ability to improve and maintain high quality of soil, organic farming is seen as a sustainable method of farming. This is because it encourages farmers to apply methods that conserve the soil such as planting of cover crops, crop rotation, use of manure and minimal tilling of the land (Vasilikiotis 4). For a farming method to be sustainable, it must consider the economic, ecological and environmental impacts of the practices used. From an economic perspective, organic farming is sustainable because it ensures that farmers use cheaper methods of farming. The inputs used in organic farming are not expensive compared to the other farming methods as most of the products are naturally made such as manure. Further, the organic method of farming involves practices such as crop rotation that are important in controlling pests. The practice is economical as it reduces the amount of money that farmers incur in buying agrochemicals to control pests. The reduced cost of input in the farming method makes it sustainable as the farmers can continue with the practice for a long time, still making significant profits.
From an environmental point of view, organic farming is sustainable because it reduces the amount of green house gases in the atmosphere. The practice enhances the absorption of carbon elements in the soil to form organic carbon that does not pollute the environment. The release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results to environmental degradation due to the increase in the green house gases in the atmosphere. This results in adverse environmental effects such as global warming (Vasilikiotis 6). Using organic methods of farming is therefore an effective way of ensuring that the environment is safe. With reduced rate of climate change that may result from environmental degradation, it is possible to maintain the productivity of agriculture for long. This proves that organic farming is sustainable from an environmental perspective.
Organic farming is also sustainable from an ecological point of view that defines the link between organisms and the environment. This is the basis of organic agriculture as it considers the impact of agricultural practices on the environment, which is comprised of a wide range of organisms. The farming method considers the symbiotic relationship between plants and organisms in the soil. The remains of these organisms have a high nutritional value to the soil and this enhances the volume of output. To preserve the remains of these organisms, organic farming encourages minimal tilling and planting of cover crops that prevent the erosion of these nutrients (Lynch 623). The farming method helps in preserving different species in the environment by using the traditional forms of an organism. This is unlike the other methods of farming that modify the products genetically and this may lead to extinction of some species. For organic farming the use of traditional form of an organism in generating offspring is meant to improve the quality of breed produced. Traditional breeds are strong in terms of resistance to climatic changes as well as diseases. The ecological aspect of the farming method ensures that the species of different organisms are preserved thus ensuring the continuity of the symbiotic relationship among the organism and between them and the environment. The sustainability of the farming method in terms of ecology is enhanced by the fact that the relationship between the different organisms is likely to last long, thus enhancing productivity.
It is evident that organic farming is sustainable from the economical, environmental and ecological perspectives. For a farming method to be sustainable the three variables must be interrelated and this is evident in the case of organic farming. The economical aspect is determined by the fact that the cost of inputs is low. This is influenced by the fact that the farming method does not have a negative impact on the environment that would otherwise lead to uncertainty in agriculture due to factors such as change of climate. The environmental aspect is enhanced by the fact that organic farming considers the relationship between the organisms and the environment. The farming practices encouraged by the organic method promote preservation of biodiversity thus making the environment a suitable place for both plants and animals to thrive. It is clear that the economic, environmental and ecological factors in organic farming are interrelated and they affect the sustainability of the agricultural practice.
Hole, D. G., et al. “Does organic farming benefit biodiversity?.” Biological conservation 122.1 (2005): 113-130.
Kassam, Amir, et al. “The spread of conservation agriculture: justification, sustainability and uptake.” International journal of agricultural sustainability7.4 (2009): 292-320.
Lynch, Derek. “Environmental impacts of organic agriculture: A Canadian perspective.” Canadian Journal of Plant Science 89.4 (2009): 621-628.
Milestad, Rebecka, and Sonja Hadatsch. “Organic farming and social-ecological resilience: the alpine valleys of Sölktäler, Austria.” Ecology and society 8.1 (2003): 3-10.
Vasilikiotis, Christos. “Can organic farming “Feed the World”.” University of California, Berkeley ESPM-Division of Insect Biology 201 (2000).
Willer, Helga, Minou Yussefi, and Neil Sorensen. The world of organic agriculture: statistics and emerging trends 2008. Earthscan, 2010.