Healthy organic soil and water can be achieved through organic methods of growing.
Organic farming methods are based on scientific knowledge of ecology. They combine modern technology with traditional farming practices in that they work with naturally occurring biological processes.
Healthy Organic Soil
Organic growers talk about “living soil”. This refers to the interrelated web comprising a diversity of fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms that are found in healthy soil. All of these living elements break down organic matter that produces valuable nutrients for plants to use.
Our soil health is dependent on the correct balance in the components of this web. (Click here to read about the soil food web in more detail.)
Organic growing methods ensure that this web is supported. Soil is built and maintained through crop rotations, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations, cover crops, organic inputs and minimum tillage. These applications also prevent soil erosion, as they offer protection from wind and heavy rains.
Living soil is also more effective at carbon retention.
Organic inputs include animal manure, green manure, biostimulants, compost and organic fertiliser.
Manure consists of organic matter, which helps the soil’s water holding capacity, as well as bacteria and microorganisms that provide nutrients to the soil. (To learn more about the different manures click here.) A green manure is a crop specifically produced to be incorporated into the soil while still green.
A biostimulant uses small quantities of natural resources to stimulate natural processes in the plant or around the roots to enhance nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, increased tolerance to abiotic stress, and crop quality, vigour and yield.
There are different types of compost, all of which are a rich source of organic matter, which is vital for air, nutrient and moisture retention.
There is a misconception that organic growers do not use fertiliser. While it is true that they do not use chemical fertiliser, they do make use of organic fertiliser.
For a manufacturer to be able to call their fertiliser organic, they must have been certified by a recognised third party.
The Talborne Organics range of fertilisers, for example, is certified by Control Union (EU & NOP-USDA), as well as being GlobalGAP compliant. These fertilisers supply a complete feed of N, P, K and minor/micro-nutrients. Another advantage is that they provide a sustained release of nutrients, so that they are available for uptake as the plants need them.
Organic fertilisers come in pellet and liquid form.
Water Protection and Conservation
Where conventional methods of agriculture are practised, there is a danger of pollution of groundwater courses with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic techniques only make use of natural ingredients, avoiding the possibility of water pollution.
Healthy, living soil facilitates the retention of water. This means that less water is needed. Rain is absorbed and little is lost in runoff.
Greater Biodiversity on the Organic Plot
Organic farmers are encouraged to surround their fields with areas of natural vegetation. This provides protection, habitat and food sources for a wide variety of insects, birds, reptiles and small mammals. It also supports wild grasses and other flora.
Research has shown that organic land is important to migratory birds as well. These practices also have a positive effect on ground-breeding bird populations.
Organic pest control attracts natural predators. Obviously the lack of chemical pesticides and herbicides will also encourage greater biodiversity.
This is part three of a series on organic growing methods. For more, click here.