Guide for organic crop production

Guide for Organic Crop Production

We are already known that organic agriculture is a farming system that sustains the health of humans, plants, animals, and soil. This is also known as ecological agriculture (organic farming considers the well-being of the environment and it is an environmentally friendly system) and sustainable agriculture (share the resources among all stakeholders and keep resources for next-generation). Crop production, animal husbandry, aquaculture, wild harvesting, and beekeeping are the key areas in organic farming. This article includes some important practices regarding organic crop production which will be a guide for organic crop producers.

Selection of Planting Materials, Crop Varieties for Organic Crop Production

When selecting planting material or crop variety for organic cultivation system, mainly consider the compliance to local climatic and soil conditions. Also, think about the resistance against pests and diseases. However, it is better to select organic planting or propagation material: if those are available. Sometimes, the required variety/species may be unavailable in satisfactory quality or amount. In such a situation, growers/farmers can use in-conversion planting materials. If farmers are unable to find organic or in-conversion planting materials as they required, they can use conventional planting materials. But, these should not be treated by unauthorized chemicals(sometimes, the seeds are treated for phytosanitary purposes).

Some guidelines exist to produce organic planting materials. For annual crops, one generation should manage under organic practices and for perennial crops, two growing periods or desired period (such as 18 months) should manage under organic practices. Apart from seeds, tubers, bulbs, bulbils, husks, scales, rhizomes, layer shoots, graft shoots, and meristem culture like vegetative materials can use as planting material in organic agriculture. The important thing is all farm practices should be organic.

Soil Fertility and Fertilization in Organic Crop Production

When harvesting, cultivation removes nutrients from the soil. Therefore, it is important to return these nutrients to maintain or improve the fertility of the soil. Fertilizer materials can be plant or animal or microbial origin(compost, green manure). Also, these materials may be from on-farm or off-farm. However, those materials should produce according to organic guidelines to assure organic integrity. When applying fertilizer materials, it should not adversary affect on soil, water, and local biodiversity. So, balance nutrient application is important. Otherwise, heavy metals/phosphorous/or other pollutants may accumulate in the soil, eutrophication of water bodies, and loss of soil organisms can occur.

Farm manure, urine, blood meal, bone meal, crop residues, mulch, straw, guano, vermicompost, sawdust, wood ash, peat, by-products, and minerals(limestone, gypsum, sulfur, clay, etc) are some of the materials that can use as organic fertilizer(there are many such materials). Mineral materials apply for long-term nutrient requirements with other approaches(such as legume crop cultivation, green manure, crop rotation, etc). Synthetic fertilizers (including urea) are prohibited to use in organic agriculture. In organic farming, the plants should spend their lives in the soil(may except seedling stages). Hence, hydroponic like systems may not include in the organic farming category. Generally, it is forbidden to remove soil (except harvesting like practices) from the farm. Because organic farming tries to maintain living soil and our fertilization programs target to maintain or improve the soil condition.

Pest, Disease and Weed Management in Organic Crop Production

Within organic crop production, we try to maintain healthy soil(through balance nutrient application) and select crops that suitable to local climatic conditions, soil conditions, and resistance to pests and diseases. So, farmers can maintain healthy and vigorous plants that are more tolerant of pests and diseases. Pest, disease, and weed management mainly depend on biological, cultural, and mechanical practices. Such as the selection of suitable varieties, crop rotation, companion planting, balanced nutrient application, conservation of natural enemies(by providing favorable habitats: hedges, buffer zones, nesting sites, etc), sanitary measures, elimination of pest habitats, mulching, mowing, traps, barriers and grazing by animals.

Sometimes these methods may not sufficient to control pest, disease, and weed problems. So, farmers can use allowable preparations that include acceptable active ingredients(caustic soda, caustic potash, lime, formic/lactic/acetic/oxalic acids, etc). Thermal sterilization of soil is forbidden in organic farming (however, can use in severe pest or disease attack incidents to protect crops) but the farmers can apply heat as a physical pest control method. Also, increasing plant diversity helps to reduce pests, disease, and weed problems on the farm. Crop rotation is a good practice that helps to increase diversity. When practicing crop rotation, better to use legumes, green manure plants, or deep-rooting plant types.

Conversion Period for Organic Crop Production

The conversion period gives time to farmers to implement organic crop production practices on their farms. During this period farmers can build-up soil fertility and soil health. The conversion period calculated from the last date that applies prohibited substances. Usually, this conversion period is 36 months. Therefore, crops that harvest before 36 months (after application of a prohibited input into soil r crops) can not be sold as an organic product. But, the product can be sold as “in-conversion” after completed 12 months of the conversion period.

Actions to Prevent Contamination in Organic Crop Production

The farmer need to take necessary actions to prevent contamination of soil, crops, water, inputs, and final product. Contamination may occur due to prohibited substances or environmental contaminants. Barriers, buffer zones, irrigation ditches, and crop-free areas can use to avoid or minimize contaminations. As well as, farmers should clean the equipment before use in organic activities (should clean thoroughly if those tools used in conventional activities). The farmers can use synthetic mulches, covering materials, silage warpings, and insect nettings (that made from polyethylene or polypropylene or other polycarbonates, and biodegradable materials) but should not bury or burn in the farm. Those materials should remove from the soil after use.

Can Use Protected Culture Technique on Organic Farming

Farmers can use protected systems to cultivate the organic crop. The only thing is farmers should follow the organic crop production guidelines. Therefore, soil fertility management, pest/disease/weed management, plant diversity management, conversion period, etc should practice according to the organic farming requirements. Protected culture use to provide a better climatic condition for crops. So, it controls light, air, humidity, heat, cool, and other climatic parameters by using the energy. This energy should get from renewable sources and energy consumption should be low. Also, day length can extend up to 16 hours by using artificial light. Farmer should monitor these things carefully and should keep records.

Overview

This article includes management practices that need to build an organic crop production system. Regarding that aspect,  we highlighted some key things regarding the crop variety selection, pest/disease/weed management, soil fertilization, etc. Hence, we believe this article will be a guide for organic crop producers. Not only that but also, we would interest to inform you about organic animal husbandry practices too. Let’s grow more and more. Join with us.

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Source : https://www.ifoam.bio

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