Lesson 3: Organic farming techniques

Water scarcity is a widespread problem for agricultural purposes in numerous nations. While some areas rely on irrigation to cultivate crops, even regions with high rainfall may experience droughts. Organic farming, on the other hand, emphasizes the optimization of on-farm and natural resources in a sustainable manner. For organic farmers, practices like active water retention, water harvesting, and water storage are critical, as they prioritize improving water retention and the infiltration of water into the soil.

How to keep the water in the soil?
  1. Keep soil moisture
  2. Reduce evaporation
  3. Better use of season’s rainfall

Crop rotation, a practice widely utilized by farmers is primarily based on varying crop type in the same location over certain time periods. Rotating of crops allows for different nutrients to be distributed throughout the same plot of land from year to year, helping to balance the chemical composition of the soil. At the same time, by removing plants that host certain pests or can introduce a possibility for attracting pathogens the following season, you can help break the cycle and avoid infecting new plants of the same family or variety. Crop rotation is not a one-size-fits-all solution for maintaining soil quality or ridding a garden of its diseases and pests. It’s most effective when used in combination with other applications. But there is growing evidence to support that crop rotation helps with soil health and crop yields.

Divide your plants into groups by category or by plant family. Rotating By Category (recommended for beginners or those working with a smaller space)
  1. legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, lentils, green peas, chickpeas and soybeans)
  2. roots (carrots, turnips, onions, beets, radishes and garlic)
  3. crops that bear fruit (cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, melons and corn + potatoes because they are susceptible to the same diseases as tomatoes)
  4. leafy greens (such as kale and Swiss chard, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts, herbs)

Source: https://modernfarmer.com/2022/03/crop-rotation-guide/

Is the controlled decomposition of organic material such as yard trimmings, kitchen scraps, wood shavings, cardboard and paper. It is a means of reuse of organic matter by conversion into compost, which can be used for soil improvement or as a fertilizer. In general, two types of composting can be distinguished, industrial composting and home composting.

Home composting is an opportunity for managing a part of the domestic biodegradable waste stream. There are environmental benefits to residential composting, even if there’s no immediate use case for the product. In home composting, organic materials are piled up in order to form a compost heap, though simply constructed boxes can make a residential compost pile easier to set up and maintain.

Most home composting is undertaken in a “slow-stack” technique whereby the user gradually adds organic matter to the vessel and over time this will naturally decompose to form compost. As with industrial composting, it is important to maintain a carbon to nitrogen ratio in the range of 25-30 to 1. This is achieved by mixing carbon rich materials such as straw, leaves, hedge trimmings and cardboard with nitrogen rich materials such as grass cuttings, nettles, raw fruit and vegetables. Depending on weather conditions, the addition of water to the material may be necessary. Aerobic conditions are sustained, and decomposition is faster than would naturally occur if the yard trimmings or organic wastes were left on the ground.

The complete stabilization and production of finished compost can take from four months to two years with longer times resulting from colder climates and little or no turning. Residents can produce compost at a higher rate by more frequently stirring the contents and moving the material through a series of containers.

Source: Fact Sheet (2015) Home Composting, European Bioplastics (https://docs.european-bioplastics.org/publications/bp/EUBP_BP_Home_composting.pdf)

Christopher Paquette (https://www.european-bioplastics.org/revised-mandate-for-home-composting-standard/)

Pests have always affected agriculture. Unwanted organisms eat crops and/or cause disease, in both ways reducing yields. For a time, pesticides were effective. However, in many cases pest species have evolved resistance. In that case, use of such chemicals causes environmental pollution and food safety concerns for no benefit.

An alternative is biological control, a method of restricting effects of harmful animals, pathogens and plants using other useful organisms, e.g. microorganisms, insects and plants that inhibit the harmful organisms.

The method takes advantage of basic ecological interactions between organisms, such as predation, parasitism, pathogenicity and competition. Today, biological control is used primarily for controlling pests in crop cultivation.

Advantages of biological control
  • low cost, effective, environment friendly,
Examples of organisms used in biological control
  • bacteria, insects and arachnids, nematods, fungi

https://discover.hubpages.com/food/The-Benefits-of-Biological-Pest-Control-in-Agriculture

Agroforestry is a practice combining the planting of trees with crops to exploit the ecological and economic interactions of the different components.

  • The technique is widely recognized as an environmentally friendly method due to its potential to mitigate climate change, adapt to its effects, increase crop productivity, and improve food security.
  • Agroforestry enhances soil organic matter (SOM), agriculture productivity, carbon sequestration, water retention, agrobiodiversity and farmers’ income.
  • The presence of trees in agricultural fields serves as windbreaks and shelter belts, helping to alleviate the severity of extreme weather conditions like floods, hurricanes, and tropical storms.
  • Agroforestry is a worldwide practice as a land-use management system but widespread in tropical regions.
  • Dehesa system of Spain is a traditional agroforestry system with animal components. In this system, area under forest canopy is cleared by grazing to use it as cropland.
  • Incorporating animals into agricultural practices not only yields milk and meat, but also contributes to the recycling of their feed as manure, which can improve the sequestration of carbon.

Source: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40974-017-0074-7

  • Cover cropping
  • Green manures
  • Animal manures
  • Integrated Weed Management
  • Livestock Management