BROAD CONCEPT

Organic agriculture is one among the broad spectrum of production methods that are supportive of the environment. Organic production systems are based on specific standards precisely formulated for food production and aim at achieving agro ecosystems, which are socially and ecologically sustainable. It is based on minimizing the use of external inputs through use of onfarm resources efficiently compared to industrial agriculture. Thus the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is avoided.

The international Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements has formulated four broad principles of organic farming, which are the basic rules for organic agricultural growth and development in a global context.

1. PRINCIPLE OF HEALTH

Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plants, animals, humans and planet as one indivisible unit. Health is the wholeness and integrity of the living system. It is not simply the absence of illness, but the maintenance of physical, mental, social and ecological well-being. Immunity resilience and regeneration are key characteristics of health. In particular, organic agriculture is meant to produce high quality, nutritious food that can contribute to preventive health care and well being.

2. PRINCIPLE OF ECOLOGY

Organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help to sustain them. Organic agriculture should attain ecological balance through the design of farming systems, establishment of habitats and maintenance of genetic and agricultural diversity. Those who produce, process, trade or consume organic products should protect and benefit the common environment including the landscapes, climate, habitat, biodiversity, air and water.

3. PRINCIPLE OF FAIRNESS

Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities. Fairness is characterized by equity, respect, justice, stewardship of the shared world, both among people and in their relations to other living beings. Fairness requires systems of production, distribution and trade that are open and equitable and account for real environmental and social cost.

4. PRINCIPLE OF CARE

Organic agriculture should be managed in precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and wellbeing of current and future generations and the environment. It should prevent significant risk by adopting appropriate technologies and rejecting unpredictable ones, such as genetic engineering. Decisions should reflect the value and needs of all who mught be affected, through transparent participatory process.* (Source: IFOA)

DEFINITIONS PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES

Many definitions have been proposed for organic agriculture. Ethical issues such as fair labour practices and animal ethics have also been included in organic agriculture definitions. All these however primarily focus on ecological principles as the basis for crop production and animal husbandry.

Codex Almentarius Commission, a joint body of FAO/WHO framed certain guidelines for the production, processing, labeling and marketing of organically produced foods, with a view to facilitate trade and prevent misleading claims.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission defines organic agriculture as a holistic food production management systems which promotes and enchances agro ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activities. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account the regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system.

  • Organic farming is often understood as a form of agriculture with use of only organic inputs for the supply of nutrients and management of pests and diseases. In fact, it is a specialised form of diversified agriculture, where in problems of farming are managed using local resources alone. The term organic does not explicitly mean the type of inputs used; rather it refers to the concept of farm as an organism.

  • Organic farming systems rely on the management of soil organic matter to enhance the chemical, biological and physical properties of the soil. One of the basic principles of soil fertility management in organic systems is that plant nutrition depends on ‘biologically-derived nutrients’ instead of using readily soulble forms of nutrients, less available forms of nutrients such as those in bulky organic materials are used. This requires release of nutrients to the plant via the activity of soil microbes and soil animals. Improved soil biological activity is also known to play a key role in suppressing weeds, pests and diseases.

  • Animal dung, crop resideues, green manure, biofertilizers and bio-solids from agroindustries and food processing wastes are some of the potential sources of nutrients of organic farming. While animal dung has competitive uses as fuels, it is extensively used in the form of farmyard manure. Development of several compost production technologies like vermicompositing, phosphocomposting, N-enriched phosphocomposting, etc. improves the quality of composts through enrichment with nutrient-bearing minerals and other additives. These manures have the capacity to fulfil nutrient demand of crops adequately and promote the activity of beneficial macro-and micro-flora in the soil.

  • The basic requirement in organic farming is to increase input use efficiency at each step of the farm operations. This is achieved partly through reducing losses and adoption of new technologies for enrichment of nutrient content in manure. Technologies to enrich the nutrient supply potential from manure, including farmyard manure three to four times are being widely used in organic farms. According to a conservative estimate, around 600 to 700 million tonnes (mt) of agricultual waste is available in the country every year, but most of it is not used properly. We must convert our filth into wealth by mobilizing all the biomass in the rural and urban areas into bioenergy to supply required nutrients to our starved soil and fuel to farmers.

  • Organic farms and food production systems are quite distinct from conventional farms in terms of nutrient management strategies. Organic systems adopt management options with the primary aim to develop whole farms, like a living organism with balanced growth, in both crops and livestock holding. Thus nutrient cycle is closed as far as possible. Crop residues burning is prohibited; so also the unscientific storage of animal wastes and its application in the fields. It is, therefore, considered more environment friendly and sustainable than the conventional system.

  • Crop rotations and varieties are selected to suit to local conditions having the potential to sufficiently balance the nitrogen demand of crops. Requirements for phosphor sulphur and micronutrients are met with local, preferably renewable resources. Organic agriculture is, therefore, often termed as knowledge-based rather than input-based agriculture. Furthermore, organic farms aim to optimize the crop productivity under a given set of farm conditions. This is in contrast to concept of yield maximization through the intensive use of agrochemicals, irrigation water and other off-farm inputs. There are ample evidences to show the agrochemical-based, high-input agriculture is not sustainable for long periods due to gradual decline in factor productivity with adverse impact on soil health and quality.

  • The impact of organic agriculture on natural resources favour interactions within the agroecosystem that are vital for both agricultural production and nature conservation. Ecological services derived include soil forming and conditioning, soil stabilization, waste recycling, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, predation, pollination and habitats.