Organic Farming: Can It Feed Us (Part 1)
VVH-TV News Special
Organic Farming: Can It Feed Us? Part 1
Karl Grossman Chief Investigative Reporter examines Organic Farming on Eastern Long Island.
What is organic farming?
Organic farming can be defined as an approach to agriculture where the aim is to create integrated, humane, environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural production systems. Maximum reliance is placed on locally or farm-derived renewable resources and the management of self-regulating ecological and biological processes and interactions in order to provide acceptable levels of crop, livestock and human nutrition, protection from pests and diseases, and an appropriate return to the human and other resources employed. Reliance on external inputs, whether chemical or organic, is reduced as far as possible. In many European countries, organic agriculture is known as ecological agriculture, reflecting this reliance on ecosystem management rather than external inputs.
The objective of sustainability lies at the heart of organic farming and is one of the major factors determining the acceptability or otherwise of specific production practices. The term ‘sustainable’ is used in its widest sense, to encompass not just conservation of non-renewable resources (soil, energy, minerals) but also issues of environmental, economic and social sustainability. The term ‘organic’ is best thought of as referring to the concept of the farm as an organism, in which all the component parts – the soil minerals, organic matter, micro-organisms, insects, plants, animals and humans – interact to create a coherent and stable whole.
The key characteristics of organic farming include:
protecting the long term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels, encouraging soil biological activity, and careful mechanical intervention;
providing crop nutrients indirectly using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plant by the action of soil micro-organisms;
nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes and biological nitrogen fixation, as well as effective recycling of organic materials including crop residues and livestock manures;
weed, disease and pest control relying primarily on crop rotations, natural predators, diversity, organic manuring, resistant varieties and limited (preferably minimal) thermal, biological and chemical intervention;
the extensive management of livestock, paying full regard to their evolutionary adaptations, behavioural needs and animal welfare issues with respect to nutrition, housing, health, breeding and rearing;
careful attention to the impact of the farming system on the wider environment and the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats.
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