Before the advent of synthetic fertilisers and chemical pesticides, all farming was organic. Booming populations required increased food production, and this drove Man to improve on Mother Nature. This resulted in the widespread use of chemicals in farming- not just the production of food grains but livestock rearing as well.
Organic farming shuns the use of these chemicals. It also rejects genetically modified organisms and seeds, and the use of antibiotics and hormones.
However, this is not the sum total of what the practice entails. It is a holistic system which treats the soil and farming as a living entity; the principal goal is sustainable and harmonious practices which make the human race one with their environment.
The advantages of organic farming are innumerable:
There is a whole world of living organisms and ‘societies’ in the soil and underground. Organic farming aims to protect all this to prevent degradation of soil. For example, though nitrogen makes up 78.09% of air, it is not available to plants unless it is fixed in the soil. Limited soil nitrogen is a big factor curbing food production the world over. Organic farming uses leguminous plants, like peanut, and their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria to achieve this.
The interdependence of crops to soil organisms is delicate and the harsh use of chemicals destroys this delicate, ecological balance and destroys the soil. Organic methods of farming ensure the wellbeing of the whole.
Material that was considered waste like crop residue and farmyard manure, and fish by- products is used to nourish the soil and the crops. This has the two-pronged benefit of being an environmentally safe waste disposal system as well as limiting the production of greenhouse gases unlike synthetic fertilisers and their detrimental contribution to global warming.
Maintaining biological diversity
Food production is big business today. Unfortunately, when multi -billion dollar corporations peddle their genetically modified ware, they promote homogeneity and monocultures on a gigantic scale. Experts feel that this results in increased vulnerability of crops to climate change, pests and disease. The policy for fitness in nature has always been to adapt and survive.
The other frightening downside to genetic meddling is that the devoted use of a single kind of pesticide that these modified crops encourage might also encourage the development of sinister superbugs and superweeds. This is already a matter of concern.
Livestock health is indeed wealth
An organic livestock farmer must integrate systems that accommodate the natural behaviour and health of the animal. This includes access to the outdoors including fresh air, sunlight, and pasture for ruminants like cows and buffaloes, shade, and shelter.
Livestock feed must be organic too. The manure produced must be managed and recycled to make the most of the nutrients.