Organic farming

Organic farming

Overview
Organic farming is the form of agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 that relies on techniques such as crop rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

, green manure
Green manure
In agriculture, a green manure is a type of cover crop grown primarily to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Typically, a green manure crop is grown for a specific period of time , and then plowed under and incorporated into the soil while green or shortly after flowering...

, compost
Compost
Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. At its most essential, the process of composting requires simply piling up waste outdoors and waiting for the materials to break down from anywhere...

 and biological pest control
Biological pest control
Biological control of pests in agriculture is a method of controlling pests that relies on predation, parasitism, herbivory, or other natural mechanisms...

 to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm
Farm
A farm is an area of land, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food , fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single...

. Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured(synthetic) fertilizers, pesticide
Pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

s (which include herbicide
Herbicide
Herbicides, also commonly known as weedkillers, are pesticides used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic "imitations" of plant...

s, insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

s and fungicide
Fungicide
Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores. Fungi can cause serious damage in agriculture, resulting in critical losses of yield, quality and profit. Fungicides are used both in agriculture and to fight fungal infections in animals...

s), plant growth regulators such as hormone
Hormone
A hormone is a chemical released by a cell or a gland in one part of the body that sends out messages that affect cells in other parts of the organism. Only a small amount of hormone is required to alter cell metabolism. In essence, it is a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one...

s, livestock antibiotics, food additive
Food additive
Food additives are substances added to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste and appearance.Some additives have been used for centuries; for example, preserving food by pickling , salting, as with bacon, preserving sweets or using sulfur dioxide as in some wines...

s, and genetically modified organism
Genetically modified organism
A genetically modified organism or genetically engineered organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one...

s.

Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements is the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic agriculture movement, uniting more than 750 member organizations in 108 countries...

 (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization
Umbrella organization
An umbrella organization is an association of institutions, who work together formally to coordinate activities or pool resources. In business, political, or other environments, one group, the umbrella organization, provides resources and often an identity to the smaller organizations...

 for organic farming organizations established in 1972.
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Encyclopedia
Organic farming is the form of agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 that relies on techniques such as crop rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

, green manure
Green manure
In agriculture, a green manure is a type of cover crop grown primarily to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Typically, a green manure crop is grown for a specific period of time , and then plowed under and incorporated into the soil while green or shortly after flowering...

, compost
Compost
Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. At its most essential, the process of composting requires simply piling up waste outdoors and waiting for the materials to break down from anywhere...

 and biological pest control
Biological pest control
Biological control of pests in agriculture is a method of controlling pests that relies on predation, parasitism, herbivory, or other natural mechanisms...

 to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm
Farm
A farm is an area of land, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food , fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single...

. Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured(synthetic) fertilizers, pesticide
Pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

s (which include herbicide
Herbicide
Herbicides, also commonly known as weedkillers, are pesticides used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic "imitations" of plant...

s, insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

s and fungicide
Fungicide
Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores. Fungi can cause serious damage in agriculture, resulting in critical losses of yield, quality and profit. Fungicides are used both in agriculture and to fight fungal infections in animals...

s), plant growth regulators such as hormone
Hormone
A hormone is a chemical released by a cell or a gland in one part of the body that sends out messages that affect cells in other parts of the organism. Only a small amount of hormone is required to alter cell metabolism. In essence, it is a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one...

s, livestock antibiotics, food additive
Food additive
Food additives are substances added to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste and appearance.Some additives have been used for centuries; for example, preserving food by pickling , salting, as with bacon, preserving sweets or using sulfur dioxide as in some wines...

s, and genetically modified organism
Genetically modified organism
A genetically modified organism or genetically engineered organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one...

s.

Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements is the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic agriculture movement, uniting more than 750 member organizations in 108 countries...

 (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization
Umbrella organization
An umbrella organization is an association of institutions, who work together formally to coordinate activities or pool resources. In business, political, or other environments, one group, the umbrella organization, provides resources and often an identity to the smaller organizations...

 for organic farming organizations established in 1972. IFOAM defines the overarching goal of organic farming as:
Since 1990, the market for organic products has grown from nothing, reaching $55 billion in 2009 according to Organic Monitor (www.organicmonitor.com). This demand has driven a similar increase in organically managed farmland. Approximately 37000000 hectares (91,428,910.3 acre) worldwide are now farmed organically, representing approximately 0.9 percent of total world farmland (2009) (see Willer/Kilcher 2011).

History



Organic farming (of many particular kinds) was the original type of agriculture, and has been practiced for thousands of years. After the industrial revolution had introduced inorganic methods, some of which were not well developed and had serious side effects, an organic movement
Organic movement
The organic movement broadly refers to the organizations and individuals involved worldwide in the promotion of organic farming, which is a more sustainable mode of agriculture...

 began in the 1940s as a reaction to agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

's growing reliance on synthetic fertilizers. Artificial fertilizers had been created during the 18th century, initially with superphosphates and then ammonia
Ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

-based fertilizers mass-produced using the Haber-Bosch process developed during World War I. These early fertilizers were cheap, powerful, and easy to transport in bulk. Similar advances occurred in chemical pesticides in the 1940s, leading to the decade being referred to as the 'pesticide era'.

Although organic farming is prehistoric in the widest sense, Sir Albert Howard
Albert Howard
Sir Albert Howard was an English botanist, an organic farming pioneer, and a principal figure in the early organic movement. He is considered by many in the English-speaking world as the father of modern organic agriculture....

 is widely considered to be the "father of organic farming" in the sense that he was a key founder of the post-industrial-revolution organic movement. Further work was done by J.I. Rodale
Jerome Irving Rodale
Jerome Irving Rodale , was a playwright, editor, author, and founder of Rodale, Inc....

 in the United States, Lady Eve Balfour
Lady Eve Balfour
Lady Evelyn Barbara "Eve" Balfour was an English farmer, educator, organic farming pioneer, and a founding figure in the organic movement. She was one of the first women to study agriculture at an English university, graduating from the University of Reading.The daughter of the second Earl of...

 in the United Kingdom, and many others across the world. The modern organic movement is a revival movement in the sense that it seeks to restore balance that was lost when technology grew rapidly in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Modern organic farming has made up only a fraction of total agricultural output from its beginning until today. Increasing environmental awareness in the general population has transformed the originally supply-driven movement to a demand-driven one. Premium prices and some government subsidies attracted farmers. In the developing world, many producers farm
Farm
A farm is an area of land, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food , fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single...

 according to traditional methods which are comparable to organic farming but are not certified. In other cases, farmers in the developing world have converted for economic reasons.

Methods




Soil management


Plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

s need nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

, phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

, and potassium
Potassium
Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

, as well as micronutrient
Micronutrient
Micronutrients are nutrients required by humans and other living things throughout life in small quantities to orchestrate a whole range of physiological functions, but which the organism itself cannot produce. For people, they include dietary trace minerals in amounts generally less than 100...

s and symbiotic relationships with fungi and other organisms to flourish, but getting enough nitrogen, and particularly synchronization so that plants get enough nitrogen at the right time (when plants need it most), is likely the greatest challenge for organic farmers. Crop rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

 and green manure
Green manure
In agriculture, a green manure is a type of cover crop grown primarily to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Typically, a green manure crop is grown for a specific period of time , and then plowed under and incorporated into the soil while green or shortly after flowering...

 ("cover crop
Cover crop
Cover crops are crops planted primarily to manage soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in agroecosystems , ecological systems managed and largely shaped by humans across a range of intensities to produce food, feed, or fiber.Cover crops are of...

s") help to provide nitrogen through legumes (more precisely, the Fabaceae
Fabaceae
The Fabaceae or Leguminosae, commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family, is a large and economically important family of flowering plants. The group is the third largest land plant family, behind only the Orchidaceae and Asteraceae, with 730 genera and over 19,400 species...

family) which fix nitrogen from the atmosphere through symbiosis with rhizobia
Rhizobia
Rhizobia are soil bacteria that fix nitrogen after becoming established inside root nodules of legumes . Rhizobia require a plant host; they cannot independently fix nitrogen...

l bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

. Intercropping
Intercropping
Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more crops in proximity. The most common goal of intercropping is to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land by making use of resources that would otherwise not be utilized by a single crop. Careful planning is required, taking into account...

, which is sometimes used for insect and disease control, can also increase soil nutrients, but the competition between the legume and the crop can be problematic and wider spacing between crop rows is required. Crop residue
Crop residue
There are two types of agricultural crop residues:Field residues are materials left in an agricultural field or orchard after the crop has been harvested. These residues include stalks and stubble , leaves, and seed pods...

s can be plough
Plough
The plough or plow is a tool used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, and represents one of the major advances in agriculture...

ed back into the soil, and different plants leave different amounts of nitrogen, potentially aiding synchronization. Organic farmers also use animal manure
Manure
Manure is organic matter used as organic fertilizer in agriculture. Manures contribute to the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients, such as nitrogen, that are trapped by bacteria in the soil...

, certain processed fertilizers such as seed meal and various mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

 powders such as rock phosphate and greensand
Greensand
Greensand or Green sand is either a sand or sandstone, which has a greenish color. This term is specifically applied to shallow marine sediment, that contains noticeable quantities of rounded greenish grains. These grains are called glauconies and consist of a mixture of mixed-layer clay...

, a naturally occurring form of potash
Potash
Potash is the common name for various mined and manufactured salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form. In some rare cases, potash can be formed with traces of organic materials such as plant remains, and this was the major historical source for it before the industrial era...

 which provides potassium. Together these methods help to control erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

. In some cases pH
PH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 may need to be amended. Natural pH amendments include lime
Agricultural lime
Agricultural lime, also called aglime, agricultural limestone, garden lime or liming, is a soil additive made from pulverized limestone or chalk. The primary active component is calcium carbonate...

 and sulfur
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

, but in the U.S. some compounds such as iron sulfate
Iron(II) sulfate
Iron sulfate or ferrous sulfate is the chemical compound with the formula FeSO4. Known since ancient times as copperas and as green vitriol, the blue-green heptahydrate is the most common form of this material...

, aluminum sulfate, magnesium sulfate
Magnesium sulfate
Magnesium sulfate is a chemical compound containing magnesium, sulfur and oxygen, with the formula MgSO4. It is often encountered as the heptahydrate epsomite , commonly called Epsom salt, from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, where the salt was distilled from the springs that arise where the...

, and soluble boron
Boron
Boron is the chemical element with atomic number 5 and the chemical symbol B. Boron is a metalloid. Because boron is not produced by stellar nucleosynthesis, it is a low-abundance element in both the solar system and the Earth's crust. However, boron is concentrated on Earth by the...

 products are allowed in organic farming.

Mixed farms with both livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 and crops
Tillage
Tillage is the agricultural preparation of the soil by mechanical agitation of various types, such as digging, stirring, and overturning. Examples of human-powered tilling methods using hand tools include shovelling, picking, mattock work, hoeing, and raking...

 can operate as ley farms
Ley farming
Ley farming is an agricultural system where the field is alternately seeded for grain and left fallow. Other name for the method is "alternate husbandry"....

, whereby the land gathers fertility through growing nitrogen-fixing forage
Forage
Forage is plant material eaten by grazing livestock.Historically the term forage has meant only plants eaten by the animals directly as pasture, crop residue, or immature cereal crops, but it is also used more loosely to include similar plants cut for fodder and carried to the animals, especially...

 grasses such as white clover
White clover
Trifolium repens, the white clover , is a species of clover native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia...

 or alfalfa
Alfalfa
Alfalfa is a flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae cultivated as an important forage crop in the US, Canada, Argentina, France, Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, and many other countries. It is known as lucerne in the UK, France, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, and known as...

 and grows cash crop
Cash crop
In agriculture, a cash crop is a crop which is grown for profit.The term is used to differentiate from subsistence crops, which are those fed to the producer's own livestock or grown as food for the producer's family...

s or cereal
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

s when fertility is established. Farms without livestock ("stockless") may find it more difficult to maintain fertility, and may rely more on external inputs such as imported manure
Manure
Manure is organic matter used as organic fertilizer in agriculture. Manures contribute to the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients, such as nitrogen, that are trapped by bacteria in the soil...

 as well as grain legumes and green manures, although grain legumes may fix limited nitrogen because they are harvested. Horticultural
Horticulture
Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation including the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers, or cuttings. Horticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of plant propagation and cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic...

 farms growing fruits and vegetables which operate in protected conditions are often even more reliant upon external inputs.

Biological research on soil and soil organisms has proven beneficial to organic farming. Varieties of bacteria and fungi break down chemicals, plant matter and animal waste into productive soil nutrients. In turn, they produce benefits of healthier yields and more productive soil for future crops. Fields with less or no manure display significantly lower yields, due to decreased soil microbe community, providing a healthier, more arable soil system.

Weed management


Organic weed
Weed
A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-controlled settings, especially farm fields and gardens, but also lawns, parks, woods, and other areas. More specifically, the term is often used to...

 management promotes weed suppression, rather than weed elimination, by enhancing crop competition and phytotoxic effects on weeds. Organic farmers integrate cultural, biological, mechanical, physical and chemical tactics to manage weeds without synthetic herbicides.

Organic standards require rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

 of annual crops, meaning that a single crop cannot be grown in the same location without a different, intervening crop. Organic crop rotations frequently include weed-suppressive cover crop
Cover crop
Cover crops are crops planted primarily to manage soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in agroecosystems , ecological systems managed and largely shaped by humans across a range of intensities to produce food, feed, or fiber.Cover crops are of...

s and crops with dissimilar life cycles to discourage weeds associated with a particular crop. Organic farmers strive to increase soil organic matter
Soil organic matter
Organic matter is matter that has come from a once-living organism; is capable of decay, or the product of decay; or is composed of organic compounds...

 content, which can support microorganisms that destroy common weed seeds.

Other cultural practices used to enhance crop competitiveness and reduce weed pressure include selection of competitive crop varieties, high-density planting, tight row spacing, and late planting into warm soil to encourage rapid crop germination
Germination
Germination is the process in which a plant or fungus emerges from a seed or spore, respectively, and begins growth. The most common example of germination is the sprouting of a seedling from a seed of an angiosperm or gymnosperm. However the growth of a sporeling from a spore, for example the...

.

Mechanical and physical weed control practices used on organic farms can be broadly grouped as:
  • Tillage
    Tillage
    Tillage is the agricultural preparation of the soil by mechanical agitation of various types, such as digging, stirring, and overturning. Examples of human-powered tilling methods using hand tools include shovelling, picking, mattock work, hoeing, and raking...

     - Turning the soil between crops to incorporate crop residues and soil amendments; remove existing weed growth and prepare a seedbed for planting;
  • Cultivation
    Cultivator
    A cultivator is any of several types of farm implement used for secondary tillage. One sense of the name refers to frames with teeth that pierce the soil as they are dragged through it linearly. Another sense refers to machines that use rotary motion of disks or teeth to accomplish a similar result...

     - Disturbing the soil after seeding;
  • Mowing and cutting - Removing top growth of weeds;
  • Flame weeding and thermal weeding - Using heat to kill weeds; and
  • Mulching - Blocking weed emergence with organic materials, plastic films, or landscape fabric.


Some naturally sourced chemicals are allowed for herbicidal use. These include certain formulations of acetic acid
Acetic acid
Acetic acid is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3CO2H . It is a colourless liquid that when undiluted is also called glacial acetic acid. Acetic acid is the main component of vinegar , and has a distinctive sour taste and pungent smell...

 (concentrated vinegar
Vinegar
Vinegar is a liquid substance consisting mainly of acetic acid and water, the acetic acid being produced through the fermentation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria. Commercial vinegar is produced either by fast or slow fermentation processes. Slow methods generally are used with traditional...

), corn gluten meal
Corn gluten meal
Corn gluten meal is a byproduct of corn processing that has historically been used as an animal feed. It can also be used as an organic herbicide.- Herbicide :...

, and essential oils. A few selective bioherbicide
Bioherbicide
A bioherbicide is a biologically based control agent for weeds. Among the three major types of pesticides herbicides are used to control weeds, or undesirable plants. A bioherbicide is a biologically based control agent for weeds. Among the three major types of pesticides (agricultural...

s based on fungal pathogen
Pathogen
A pathogen gignomai "I give birth to") or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ — is a microbe or microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus that causes disease in its animal or plant host...

s have also been developed. At this time, however, organic herbicides and bioherbicide
Bioherbicide
A bioherbicide is a biologically based control agent for weeds. Among the three major types of pesticides herbicides are used to control weeds, or undesirable plants. A bioherbicide is a biologically based control agent for weeds. Among the three major types of pesticides (agricultural...

s play a minor role in the organic weed control toolbox.

Weeds can be controlled by grazing. For example, geese have been used successfully to weed a range of organic crops including cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

, strawberries
Garden Strawberry
The garden strawberry, Fragaria × ananassa, is a hybrid species that is cultivated worldwide for its fruit, the strawberry. The fruit is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness...

, tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

, and corn
Corn
Corn is the name used in the United States, Canada, and Australia for the grain maize.In much of the English-speaking world, the term "corn" is a generic term for cereal crops, such as* Barley* Oats* Wheat* Rye- Places :...

, reviving the practice of keeping cotton patch geese
Cotton Patch Goose
The Cotton Patch Goose is a breed of domestic goose originating in the Southern United States. It is so named because it traditionally was used to weed fields of cotton, corn, and other crops.-History:...

, common in the southern U.S. before the 1950s. Similarly, some rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 farmers introduce duck
Duck
Duck is the common name for a large number of species in the Anatidae family of birds, which also includes swans and geese. The ducks are divided among several subfamilies in the Anatidae family; they do not represent a monophyletic group but a form taxon, since swans and geese are not considered...

s and fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 to wet paddy field
Paddy field
A paddy field is a flooded parcel of arable land used for growing rice and other semiaquatic crops. Paddy fields are a typical feature of rice farming in east, south and southeast Asia. Paddies can be built into steep hillsides as terraces and adjacent to depressed or steeply sloped features such...

s to eat both weeds and insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s.

Controlling other organisms



Organisms aside from weeds that cause problems on organic farms include arthropod
Arthropod
An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton , a segmented body, and jointed appendages. Arthropods are members of the phylum Arthropoda , and include the insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and others...

s (e.g., insects, mite
Mite
Mites, along with ticks, are small arthropods belonging to the subclass Acari and the class Arachnida. The scientific discipline devoted to the study of ticks and mites is called acarology.-Diversity and systematics:...

s), nematode
Nematode
The nematodes or roundworms are the most diverse phylum of pseudocoelomates, and one of the most diverse of all animals. Nematode species are very difficult to distinguish; over 28,000 have been described, of which over 16,000 are parasitic. It has been estimated that the total number of nematode...

s, fungi and bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

. Organic farmers use a wide range of Integrated Pest Management
Integrated Pest Management
Integrated pest management is an ecological approach to agricultural pest control that integrates pesticides/herbicides into a management system incorporating a range of practices for economic control of a pest...

 practices to prevent pests and diseases. These include, but are not limited to, crop rotation and nutrient management; sanitation to remove pest habitat; provision of habitat for beneficial organisms; selection of pest-resistant crops and animals; crop protection using physical barriers, such as row cover
Row cover
In horticulture, row cover is any material used as a protective covering to shield plants, usually vegetables, primarily from the undesirable effects of cold and wind, and also from insect damage....

s; and crop diversification through companion planting
Companion planting
Companion planting is the planting of different crops in proximity , on the theory that they assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary to increasing crop productivity...

 or establishment of polyculture
Polyculture
Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture...

s.

Organic farmers often depend on biological pest control
Biological pest control
Biological control of pests in agriculture is a method of controlling pests that relies on predation, parasitism, herbivory, or other natural mechanisms...

, the use of beneficial organisms to reduce pest populations. Examples of beneficial insects include minute pirate bugs
Orius (bug)
The genus Orius consists of omnivorous bugs in the family Anthocoridae . Adults are 2–5 mm long and feed mostly on spider mites, thrips, and their eggs, but will also feed on pollen and vascular sap .These predators are common in gardens and landscapes...

, big-eyed bugs
Geocoris
Geocoris is a genus of insects in the family Lygaeidae . Commonly known as the big-eyed bug, Geocoris is a beneficial predator often confused with the true chinch bug, which is a pest.Big-eyed bugs are true bugs in the order Hemiptera...

, and to a lesser extent ladybugs
Coccinellidae
Coccinellidae is a family of beetles, known variously as ladybirds , or ladybugs . Scientists increasingly prefer the names ladybird beetles or lady beetles as these insects are not true bugs...

 (which tend to fly away), all of which eat a wide range of pests. Lacewings
Neuroptera
The insect order Neuroptera, or net-winged insects, includes the lacewings, mantidflies, antlions, and their relatives. The order contains some 6,010 species...

 are also effective, but tend to fly away. Praying mantis tend to move more slowly and eat less heavily. Parasitoid wasps tend to be effective for their selected prey, but like all small insects can be less effective outdoors because the wind controls their movement. Predatory mites are effective for controlling other mites.

When these practices are insufficient to prevent or control pests an organic farmer may apply a pesticide
Pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

. With some exceptions, naturally occurring pesticides are allowed for use on organic farms, and synthetic substances are prohibited. Pesticides with different modes of action should be rotated to minimize development of pesticide resistance
Pesticide resistance
Pesticide resistance is the adaptation of pest population targeted by a pesticide resulting in decreased susceptibility to that chemical. In other words, pests develop a resistance to a chemical through natural selection: the most resistant organisms are the ones to survive and pass on their...

.

Naturally derived insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

s allowed for use on organic farms use include Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis is a Gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacterium, commonly used as a biological pesticide; alternatively, the Cry toxin may be extracted and used as a pesticide. B...

(a bacterial toxin), pyrethrum
Pyrethrum
Pyrethrum refers to several Old World plants of the genus Chrysanthemum which are cultivated as ornamentals for their showy flower heads. Pyrethrum is also the name of a natural insecticide made from the dried flower heads of C. cinerariifolium and C...

 (a chrysanthemum extract), spinosad
Spinosad
Spinosad is a new chemical class of insecticides that are registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency‎ to control a variety of insects...

 (a bacterial metabolite), neem
Neem
Azadirachta indica is a tree in the mahogany family Meliaceae. It is one of two species in the genus Azadirachta, and is native to India growing in tropical and semi-tropical regions. Its fruits and seeds are the source of neem oil...

 (a tree extract) and rotenone
Rotenone
Rotenone is an odorless chemical that is used as a broad-spectrum insecticide, piscicide, and pesticide. It occurs naturally in the roots and stems of several plants such as the jicama vine plant...

 (a legume root extract). These are sometimes called green pesticides because they are generally, but not necessarily, safer and more environmentally friendly than synthetic pesticides. Rotenone
Rotenone
Rotenone is an odorless chemical that is used as a broad-spectrum insecticide, piscicide, and pesticide. It occurs naturally in the roots and stems of several plants such as the jicama vine plant...

 and pyrethrum
Pyrethrum
Pyrethrum refers to several Old World plants of the genus Chrysanthemum which are cultivated as ornamentals for their showy flower heads. Pyrethrum is also the name of a natural insecticide made from the dried flower heads of C. cinerariifolium and C...

 are particularly controversial because they work by attacking the nervous system, like most conventional insecticides. Fewer than 10% of organic farmers use these pesticides regularly; one survey found that only 5.3% of vegetable growers in California use rotenone
Rotenone
Rotenone is an odorless chemical that is used as a broad-spectrum insecticide, piscicide, and pesticide. It occurs naturally in the roots and stems of several plants such as the jicama vine plant...

 while 1.7% use pyrethrum
Pyrethrum
Pyrethrum refers to several Old World plants of the genus Chrysanthemum which are cultivated as ornamentals for their showy flower heads. Pyrethrum is also the name of a natural insecticide made from the dried flower heads of C. cinerariifolium and C...

 (Lotter 2003:26).

Naturally derived fungicide
Fungicide
Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores. Fungi can cause serious damage in agriculture, resulting in critical losses of yield, quality and profit. Fungicides are used both in agriculture and to fight fungal infections in animals...

s allowed for use on organic farms include the bacteria Bacillus subtilis
Bacillus subtilis
Bacillus subtilis, known also as the hay bacillus or grass bacillus, is a Gram-positive, catalase-positive bacterium commonly found in soil. A member of the genus Bacillus, B. subtilis is rod-shaped, and has the ability to form a tough, protective endospore, allowing the organism to tolerate...

and Bacillus pumilus; and the fungus Trichoderma harzianum
Trichoderma harzianum
Trichoderma harzianum is a fungus that is also used as a fungicide. It is used for foliar application, seed treatment and soil treatment for suppression of various disease causing fungal pathogens. Commercial biotechnological products such as 3Tac have been useful for treatment of Botrytis,...

. These are mainly effective for diseases affecting roots. Agricultural Research Service
Agricultural Research Service
The Agricultural Research Service is the principal in-house research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture . ARS is one of four agencies in USDA's Research, Education and Economics mission area...

 scientists have found that caprylic acid
Caprylic acid
Caprylic acid is the common name for the eight-carbon saturated fatty acid known by the systematic name octanoic acid. It is found naturally in the milk of various mammals, and it is a minor constituent of coconut oil and palm kernel oil...

, a naturally occurring fatty acid
Fatty acid
In chemistry, especially biochemistry, a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long unbranched aliphatic tail , which is either saturated or unsaturated. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of an even number of carbon atoms, from 4 to 28. Fatty acids are usually derived from...

 in milk
Milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

 and coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

s, as well as other natural plant extracts have antimicrobial
Antimicrobial
An anti-microbial is a substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoans. Antimicrobial drugs either kill microbes or prevent the growth of microbes...

 characteristics that can help. Compost tea contains a mix of beneficial microbes, which may attack or out-compete certain plant pathogens, but variability among formulations and preparation methods may contribute to inconsistent results or even dangerous growth of toxic microbes in compost teas.

Some naturally derived pesticides are not allowed for use on organic farms. These include nicotine sulfate, arsenic
Arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

, and strychnine
Strychnine
Strychnine is a highly toxic , colorless crystalline alkaloid used as a pesticide, particularly for killing small vertebrates such as birds and rodents. Strychnine causes muscular convulsions and eventually death through asphyxia or sheer exhaustion...

.

Synthetic pesticides allowed for use on organic farms include insecticidal soap
Insecticidal soap
Insecticidal soap is defined as any of the potassium fatty acid soaps used to control many plant pests. Insecticidal soap is typically sprayed on plants in the same manner as other insecticides. Insecticidal soap works only on direct contact with the pests. The fatty acids disrupt the structure and...

s and horticultural oil
Horticultural oil
Horticultural Oils or Narrow Range Oils are lightweight oils, either petroleum or vegetable based. They are used in both horticulture and agriculture, where they are applied as a dilute spray on plant surfaces to control insects and mites...

s for insect management; and Bordeaux mixture
Bordeaux mixture
Bordeaux mixture is a mixture of copper sulfate and slaked lime used as a fungicide in vineyards. It is used mainly to control garden, vineyard, nursery and farm infestations of fungi, primarily downy mildew which can result from infections of Plasmopara viticola. It was invented in the Bordeaux...

, copper hydroxide and sodium bicarbonate
Sodium bicarbonate
Sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate is the chemical compound with the formula Na HCO3. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda . The natural mineral form is...

 for managing fungi.

Genetic modification



A key characteristic of organic farming is the rejection of genetically engineered plants and animals. On October 19, 1998, participants at IFOAM's 12th Scientific Conference issued the Mar del Plata Declaration, where more than 600 delegates from over 60 countries voted unanimously to exclude the use of genetically modified organisms in food production and agriculture.

Although opposition to the use of any transgenic technologies in organic farming is strong, agricultural researchers Luis Herrera-Estrella and Ariel Alvarez-Morales continue to advocate integration of transgenic technologies into organic farming as the optimal means to sustainable agriculture, particularly in the developing world. Similarly, some organic farmers question the rationale behind the ban on the use of genetically engineered seed because they view this kind of biotechnology
Biotechnology
Biotechnology is a field of applied biology that involves the use of living organisms and bioprocesses in engineering, technology, medicine and other fields requiring bioproducts. Biotechnology also utilizes these products for manufacturing purpose...

 consistent with organic principles.

Although GMOs are excluded from organic farming, there is concern that the pollen from genetically modified crops is increasingly penetrating organic and heirloom seed stocks, making it difficult, if not impossible, to keep these genomes from entering the organic food supply. International trade restrictions
International trade of genetically modified foods
The European Union and the United States have strong disagreements over the EU's regulation of genetically modified food. The US claims these regulations violate free trade agreements, the EU counter-position is that free trade is not truly free without informed consent.In Europe, a series of...

 limit the availability GMOs to certain countries.

The hazards that genetic modification could pose to the environment are hotly contested.

Standards



Standards regulate production methods and in some cases final output for organic agriculture. Standards may be voluntary or legislated. As early as the 1970s private associations certified organic producers. In the 1980s, governments began to produce organic production guidelines. In the 1990s, a trend toward legislated standards began, most notably with the 1991 EU-Eco-regulation
EU-Eco-regulation
The "European Union regulation N° 2092/91 of the European Council of 24 June 1991 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs" defines how agricultural products and foods that are designated as ecological products have...

 developed for European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, which set standards for 12 countries, and a 1993 UK program. The EU's program was followed by a Japanese program in 2001, and in 2002 the U.S. created the National Organic Program
National Organic Program
In the United States, the National Organic Program is the federal regulatory framework governing organic food. It is also the name of the organization in the Department of Agriculture responsible for administering and enforcing the regulatory framework. The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 In...

 (NOP). As of 2007 over 60 countries regulate organic farming (IFOAM 2007:11). In 2005 IFOAM created the Principles of Organic Agriculture
Principles of Organic Agriculture
The Principles of Organic Agriculture were established by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements in September, 2005. They embody a global vision for organic farming. The Principles were approved by the General Assembly of IFOAM on September 25, 2005.The General Assembly of...

, an international guideline for certification criteria. Typically the agencies accredit certification groups rather than individual farms.

Organic production materials used in and foods are tested independently by the Organic Materials Review Institute.

Composting


Under USDA organic standards, manure must be subjected to proper thermophilic composting and allowed to reach a sterilizing temperature. If raw animal manure is used, 120 days must pass before the crop is harvested if the final product comes into direct contact with the soil. For products which do not come into direct contact with soil, 90 days must pass prior to harvest.

Economics


The economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 of organic farming, a subfield of agricultural economics
Agricultural economics
Agricultural economics originally applied the principles of economics to the production of crops and livestock — a discipline known as agronomics. Agronomics was a branch of economics that specifically dealt with land usage. It focused on maximizing the crop yield while maintaining a good soil...

, encompasses the entire process and effects of organic farming in terms of human society, including social cost
Social cost
Social cost, in economics, is generally defined in opposition to "private cost". In economics, theorists model individual decision-making as measurement of costs and benefits...

s, opportunity cost
Opportunity cost
Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the best alternative that is not chosen . It is the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone, or group, who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices. The opportunity cost is also the...

s, unintended consequence
Unintended consequence
In the social sciences, unintended consequences are outcomes that are not the outcomes intended by a purposeful action. The concept has long existed but was named and popularised in the 20th century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton...

s, information asymmetries, and economies of scale
Economies of scale
Economies of scale, in microeconomics, refers to the cost advantages that an enterprise obtains due to expansion. There are factors that cause a producer’s average cost per unit to fall as the scale of output is increased. "Economies of scale" is a long run concept and refers to reductions in unit...

. Although the scope of economics is broad, agricultural economics tends to focus on maximizing yields and efficiency at the farm level. Economics takes an anthropocentric approach to the value of the natural world: biodiversity, for example, is considered beneficial only to the extent that it is valued by people and increases profits. Some entities such as the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 subsidize
Subsidy
A subsidy is an assistance paid to a business or economic sector. Most subsidies are made by the government to producers or distributors in an industry to prevent the decline of that industry or an increase in the prices of its products or simply to encourage it to hire more labor A subsidy (also...

 organic farming, in large part because these countries want to account for the externalities of reduced water use, reduced water contamination, reduced soil erosion, reduced carbon emissions, increased biodiversity, and assorted other benefits that result from organic farming.

Traditional organic farming is labor and knowledge-intensive whereas conventional farming is capital-intensive, requiring more energy and manufactured inputs.

Organic farmers in California have cited marketing as their greatest obstacle.

Geographic producer distribution


The markets for organic products are strongest in North America and Europe, which as of 2001 are estimated to have $6 and $8 billion respectively of the $20 billion global market (Lotter 2003:6). As of 2007 Australasia
Australasia
Australasia is a region of Oceania comprising Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. The term was coined by Charles de Brosses in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes...

 has 39% of the total organic farmland, including Australia's 1180000 hectares (2,915,840.9 acre) but 97 percent of this land is sprawling rangeland
Rangeland
Rangelands are vast natural landscapes in the form of grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, wetlands, and deserts. Types of rangelands include tallgrass and shortgrass prairies, desert grasslands and shrublands, woodlands, savannas, chaparrals, steppes, and tundras...

 (2007:35). US sales are 20x as much. (2003:7). Europe farms 23 percent of global organic farmland (6.9 million hectares), followed by Latin America with 19 percent (5.8 million hectares). Asia has 9.5 percent while North America has 7.2 percent. Africa has 3 percent.

Besides Australia, the countries with the most organic farmland are Argentina (3.1 million hectares), China (2.3 million hectares), and the United States (1.6 million hectares). Much of Argentina's organic farmland is pasture, like that of Australia (2007:42). Italy, Spain, Germany, Brazil (the world's largest agricultural exporter), Uruguay, and the UK follow the United States in the amount of organic land (2007:26).

Growth



As of 2001, the estimated market value of certified organic products was estimated to be $20 billion. By 2002 this was $23 billion and by 2007 more than $46 billion.

In recent years both Europe (2007: 7.8 million hectares, European Union: 7.2 million hectares) and North America (2007: 2.2 million hectares) have experienced strong growth in organic farmland. In the EU it grew by 21% in the period 2005 to 2008. However, this growth has occurred under different conditions. While the European Union has shifted agricultural subsidies to organic farmers due to perceived environmental benefits, the United States has not, continuing to subsidize some but not all traditional commercial crops, such as corn and sugar. As a result of this policy difference, as of 2008 4.1% percent of European Union farmland was organically managed compared to the 0.6 percent in the U.S.

IFOAM's most recent edition of The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2009 lists the countries which had the most hectares in 2007. The country with the most organic land is Australia with more than 12 million hectares, followed by Argentina, Brazil and the US. In total 32.2 million hectares were under organic management in 2007. For 1999 11 million hectares of organically managed land are reported.

As organic farming becomes a major commercial force in agriculture, it is likely to gain increasing impact on national agricultural policies and confront some of the scaling challenges faced by conventional agriculture.

Productivity and profitability


Various studies find that versus conventional agriculture, organic crops yielded 91%, or 95-100%, along with 50% lower expenditure on fertilizer and energy, and 97% less pesticides, or 100% for corn and soybean, consuming less energy and zero pesticides. The results were attributed to lower yields in average and good years but higher yields during drought years.

A 2007 study compiling research from 293 different comparisons into a single study to assess the overall efficiency of the two agricultural systems has concluded that

...organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base. (from the abstract)


Converted organic farms have lower pre-harvest yields than their conventional counterparts in developed countries (92%) but higher than their low-intensity counterparts in developing countries (132%). This is due to relatively lower adoption of fertilizers and pesticides in the developing world compared to the intensive farming of the developed world.

Organic farms withstand severe weather conditions better than conventional farms, sometimes yielding 70-90% more than conventional farms during droughts. Organic farms are more profitable in the drier states of the United States, likely due to their superior drought performance. Organic farms survive hurricane damage much better, retaining 20 to 40% more topsoil and smaller economic losses at highly significant levels than their neighbors.

Contrary to widespread belief, organic farming can build up soil organic matter better than conventional no-till farming, which suggests long-term yield benefits from organic farming. An 18-year study of organic methods on nutrient-depleted soil, concluded that conventional methods were superior for soil fertility and yield in a cold-temperate climate, arguing that much of the benefits from organic farming are derived from imported materials which could not be regarded as "self-sustaining".

Profitability


The decreased cost of synthetic fertilizer and pesticide inputs, along with the higher prices that consumers pay for organic produce, contribute to increased profits. Organic farms have been consistently found to be as or more profitable than conventional farms. Without the price premium, profitability is mixed. Organic production was more profitable in Wisconsin, given price premiums.

Sustainability (African case)


In 2008 the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development was established in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body. It is the principal organ of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with trade, investment, and development issues....

 (UNCTAD) stated that "organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long-term" and that "yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used" and that soil fertility and drought resistance improved.

Employment impact


Organic methods often require more labor than traditional farming, therefore it provides rural jobs.

Externalities


Agriculture imposes negative externalities (uncompensated costs) upon society through land and other resource use, biodiversity loss, erosion, pesticides, nutrient runoff, water usage, subsidy payments and assorted other problems. Positive externalities include self-reliance, entrepreneurship, respect for nature, and air quality. Organic methods reduce some of these costs. In 2000 uncompensated costs for 1996 reached 2,343 million British pounds or 208 pounds per hectare. In 2005 in the USA concluded that cropland costs the economy approximately 5 to 16 billion dollars ($30 to $96 per hectare), while livestock production costs 714 million dollars. Both studies recommended reducing externalities. The 2000 review included reported pesticide poisonings but did not include speculative chronic health effects of pesticides, and the 2004 review relied on a 1992 estimate of the total impact of pesticides.

It has been proposed that organic agriculture can reduce the level of some negative externalities from (conventional) agriculture. Whether the benefits are private or public depends upon the division of property rights.

Pesticides


Most organic farms largely avoid pesticides as opposed to conventional farms. Some pesticides damage the environment or with direct exposure, human health. Children exposed to pesticides are of special concern. According to the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

:
"A fundamental maxim of pediatric medicine is that children are not ‘little adults.’ Profound differences exist between children and adults. Infants and children are growing and developing. Their metabolic rates are more rapid than those of adults. There are differences in their ability to activate, detoxify, and excrete xenobiotic compounds. All these differences can affect the toxicity of pesticides in infants and children, and for these reasons the toxicity of pesticides is frequently different in children and adults.”


The five main pesticides used in organic farming are Bt
Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis is a Gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacterium, commonly used as a biological pesticide; alternatively, the Cry toxin may be extracted and used as a pesticide. B...

 (a bacterial toxin), pyrethrum
Pyrethrum
Pyrethrum refers to several Old World plants of the genus Chrysanthemum which are cultivated as ornamentals for their showy flower heads. Pyrethrum is also the name of a natural insecticide made from the dried flower heads of C. cinerariifolium and C...

, rotenone
Rotenone
Rotenone is an odorless chemical that is used as a broad-spectrum insecticide, piscicide, and pesticide. It occurs naturally in the roots and stems of several plants such as the jicama vine plant...

, copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 and sulphur. Fewer than 10% of organic vegetable farmers acknowledge using these pesticides regularly; 5.3% of vegetable growers will admit rotenone use; while 1.7% admit pyrethrum use (Lotter 2003:26). Reduction and elimination of chemical pesticide use is technically challenging. Organic pesticides often complement other pest control strategies.

Ecological concerns primarily focus around pesticide
Pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

 use, as 16% of the world's pesticides are used in the production of cotton.

Runoff is one of the most damaging effects of pesticide use. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Natural Resources Conservation Service
The Natural Resources Conservation Service , formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service , is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that provides technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners and managers.Its name was changed in 1994 during the Presidency of...

 tracks the environmental effects of water contamination and concluded, "the Nation's pesticide policies during the last twenty six years have succeeded in reducing overall environmental risk, in spite of slight increases in area planted and weight of pesticides applied. Nevertheless, there are still areas of the country where there is no evidence of progress, and areas where risk levels for protection of drinking water, fish, algae and crustaceans remain high".

Food quality and safety


Many studies have examined the relative quality and safety benefits of organic and conventional agricultural techniques. The results are diverse. Some find no significant differences. Others disagree. An example of the "no differences" school stated:
However, they also found that statistically significant
Statistical significance
In statistics, a result is called statistically significant if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance. The phrase test of significance was coined by Ronald Fisher....

 differences between the composition of organic and conventional food were present for a few substances.

"Organic products stand out as having higher levels of secondary plant compounds and vitamin C". Organic kiwifruit
Kiwifruit
The kiwifruit, often shortened to kiwi in many parts of the world, is the edible berry of a cultivar group of the woody vine Actinidia deliciosa and hybrids between this and other species in the genus Actinidia....

 had more antioxidants.

A review of potential health effects analysed eleven articles, concluding, "because of the limited and highly variable data available, and concerns over the reliability of some reported findings, there is currently no evidence of a health benefit from consuming organic compared to conventionally produced foodstuffs. It should be noted that this conclusion relates to the evidence base currently available on the nutrient content of foodstuffs, which contains limitations in the design and in the comparability of
studies."

Individual studies have considered a variety of possible impacts, including pesticide residues. Pesticide residues present a second channel for health effects. Comments include, "Organic fruits and vegetables can be expected to contain fewer agrochemical residues than conventionally grown alternatives; yet, "the significance of this difference is questionable" and "It is intuitive to assume that children whose diets consist of organic food items would have a lower probability of neurologic health risks", and pesticide exposure brought an increased risk for ADHD in one study.

Nitrate
Nitrate
The nitrate ion is a polyatomic ion with the molecular formula NO and a molecular mass of 62.0049 g/mol. It is the conjugate base of nitric acid, consisting of one central nitrogen atom surrounded by three identically-bonded oxygen atoms in a trigonal planar arrangement. The nitrate ion carries a...

 concentrations may be less, but the health impact of nitrates is debated. Lack of data has limited research on the health effects of natural plant pesticides and bacterial pathogens. Consumption of organic milk was associated with a decrease in risk for eczema
Eczema
Eczema is a form of dermatitis, or inflammation of the epidermis . In England, an estimated 5.7 million or about one in every nine people have been diagnosed with the disease by a clinician at some point in their lives.The term eczema is broadly applied to a range of persistent skin conditions...

, although no comparable benefit was found for organic fruits, vegetables, or meat.

The higher cost of organic food (ranging from 45 to 200%) could inhibit consumption of the recommended 5 servings per day of vegetables and fruits, which improve health and reduce cancer regardless of their source.

Clothing quality and safety



Recently, organic clothing
Organic clothing
Organic clothing is clothing made from materials raised or grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards. Organic clothing uses cotton, jute, silk, ramie, or wool...

 has become widely available.

Soil conservation


In Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, geomorphologist David Montgomery outlines a coming crisis from soil erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

. Agriculture relies on roughly one meter of topsoil, and that is being depleted ten times faster than it is being replaced. No-till farming, which some claim depends upon pesticides, is one way to minimize erosion. However, a recent study by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service has found that manure applications in tilled organic farming are better at building up the soil than no-till.

Climate change


Organic agriculture emphasizes closed nutrient cycles, biodiversity, and effective soil management providing the capacity to mitigate and even reverse the effects of climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

. Organic agriculture can decrease fossil fuel emissions and, like any well managed agricultural system, sequesters carbon in the soil. The elimination of synthetic nitrogen in organic systems decreases fossil fuel consumption by 33 percent and carbon sequestration takes  out of the atmosphere by putting it in the soil in the form of organic matter which is often lost in conventionally managed soils. Carbon sequestration occurs at especially high levels in organic no-till managed soil.

Agriculture has been undervalued and underestimated as a means to combat global climate change. Soil carbon data show that regenerative organic agricultural practices are among the most effective strategies for mitigating emissions.

Nutrient leaching


Excess nutrients in lakes, rivers, and groundwater can cause algal blooms, eutrophication
Eutrophication
Eutrophication or more precisely hypertrophication, is the movement of a body of water′s trophic status in the direction of increasing plant biomass, by the addition of artificial or natural substances, such as nitrates and phosphates, through fertilizers or sewage, to an aquatic system...

, and subsequent dead zones
Dead zone (ecology)
Dead zones are hypoxic areas in the world's oceans, the observed incidences of which have been increasing since oceanographers began noting them in the 1970s. These occur near inhabited coastlines, where aquatic life is most concentrated...

. In addition, nitrate
Nitrate
The nitrate ion is a polyatomic ion with the molecular formula NO and a molecular mass of 62.0049 g/mol. It is the conjugate base of nitric acid, consisting of one central nitrogen atom surrounded by three identically-bonded oxygen atoms in a trigonal planar arrangement. The nitrate ion carries a...

s are harmful to aquatic organisms by themselves. The main contributor to this pollution is nitrate fertilizers whose use is expected to "double or almost triple by 2050". Organically fertilizing fields "significantly [reduces] harmful nitrate leaching
Leaching (agriculture)
In agriculture, leaching refers to the loss of water-soluble plant nutrients from the soil, due to rain and irrigation. Soil structure, crop planting, type and application rates of fertilizers, and other factors are taken into account to avoid excessive nutrient loss.Leaching may also refer to ...

" over conventionally fertilized fields: "annual nitrate leaching was 4.4-5.6 times higher in conventional plots than organic plots".

The large dead zone
Dead zone (ecology)
Dead zones are hypoxic areas in the world's oceans, the observed incidences of which have been increasing since oceanographers began noting them in the 1970s. These occur near inhabited coastlines, where aquatic life is most concentrated...

 in the Gulf of Mexico is caused in large part by agricultural runoff: a combination of fertilizer and livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 manure. Over half of the nitrogen released into the Gulf comes from agriculture. This increases costs for fishermen, as they must travel far from the coast to find fish.

Nitrogen leaching into the Danube River was substantially lower among organic farms. The resulting externalities could be neutralized by charging 1 euro per kg of released nitrogen.

Agricultural runoff and algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 blooms are strongly linked in California.

Biodiversity


A wide range of organisms benefit from organic farming, but it is unclear whether organic methods confer greater benefits than conventional integrated agri-environmental programs. Nearly all non-crop, naturally occurring species observed in comparative farm land practice studies show a preference for organic farming both by abundance and diversity. An average of 30% more species inhabit organic farms. Birds, butterflies, soil microbes, beetles, earthworms, spiders, vegetation, and mammals are particularly affected. Lack of herbicides and pesticides improve biodiversity fitness and population density. Many weed species attract beneficial insects that improve soil qualities and forage on weed pests. Soil-bound organisms often benefit because of increased bacteria populations due to natural fertilizer such as manure, while experiencing reduced intake of herbicide
Herbicide
Herbicides, also commonly known as weedkillers, are pesticides used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic "imitations" of plant...

s and pesticides. Increased biodiversity, especially from beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizae have been proposed as an explanation for the high yields experienced by some organic plots, especially in light of the differences seen in a 21-year comparison of organic and control fields.

Biodiversity from organic farming provides capital to humans. Species found in organic farms enhance sustainability by reducing human input (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides). Farmers that produce with organic methods reduce risk of poor yields by promoting biodiversity. Common game birds such as the ring-necked pheasant and the northern bobwhite often reside in agriculture landscapes, and benefit recreational hunters.

Sales and marketing


Most sales are concentrated in developed nations. These products are what economists call credence goods in that they rely on uncertain certification. Interest in organic products dropped between 2006 and 2008, and 42% of Americans polled don't trust organic produce. 69% of Americans claim to occasionally buy organic products, down from 73% in 2005. One theory was that consumers were substituting "local" produce for "organic" produce.

Distributors


In the United States, 75% of organic farms are smaller than 2.5 hectares. In California 2% of the farms account for over half of sales.(Lotter 2003:4) Small farms join together in cooperative
Cooperative
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit...

s such as Organic Valley, Inc. to market their goods more effectively.

Most small cooperative distributors have merged or were acquired by large multinationals such as General Mills
General Mills
General Mills, Inc. is an American Fortune 500 corporation, primarily concerned with food products, which is headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. The company markets many well-known brands, such as Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Colombo, Totinos, Jeno's, Pillsbury, Green...

, Heinz
H. J. Heinz Company
The H. J. Heinz Company , commonly known as Heinz and famous for its "57 Varieties" slogan and its ketchup, is an American food company with world headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.Perhaps best known for its ketchup, the H.J...

, ConAgra, Kellogg
Kellogg Company
Kellogg Company , is a producer of cereal and convenience foods, including cookies, crackers, toaster pastries, cereal bars, fruit-flavored snacks, frozen waffles, and vegetarian foods...

, and others. In 1982 there were 28 consumer cooperative distributors, but as of 2007 only 3 remained. This consolidation has raised concerns among consumers and journalists of potential fraud and degradation in standards. Most sell their organic products through subsidiaries, under other labels.

Organic foods also can be a niche in developing nations. It would provide more money and a better opportunity to compete internationally with the huge distributors. Organic prices are much more stable than conventional foods, and the small farms can still compete and have similar prices with the much larger farms that usually take all of the profits.

Farmers' markets


Price premiums are important for the profitability of small organic farmers. Farmers selling directly to consumers at farmers' market
Farmers' market
A farmers' market consists of individual vendors—mostly farmers—who set up booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, to sell produce, meat products, fruits and sometimes prepared foods and beverages...

s have continued to achieve these higher returns. In the United States the number of farmers' markets tripled from 1,755 in 1994 to 5,274 in 2009.

Capacity building


Organic agriculture can contribute to ecologically sustainable, socio-economic development, especially in poorer countries. The application of organic principles enables employment of local resources (e.g., local seed varieties, manure, etc.) and therefore cost-effectiveness. Local and international markets for organic products show tremendous growth prospects and offer creative producers and exporters excellent opportunities to improve their income and living conditions.

Organic agriculture is knowledge intensive. Globally, capacity building efforts are underway, including localized training material, to limited effect. As of 2007, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements is the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic agriculture movement, uniting more than 750 member organizations in 108 countries...

 hosted more than 170 free manuals and 75 training opportunities online.

Controversy


Norman Borlaug
Norman Borlaug
Norman Ernest Borlaug was an American agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate who has been called "the father of the Green Revolution". Borlaug was one of only six people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal...

 (father of the "Green Revolution
Green Revolution
Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....

" and a Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 laureate), Prof A. Trewavas
Anthony Trewavas
Anthony J. Trewavas is a professor at the University of Edinburgh, best known for his research in the fields of plant physiology and molecular biology....

 and other critics contested the notion that organic agricultural systems are more friendly to the environment and more sustainable than conventional farming systems. Borlaug asserts that organic farming practices can at most feed 4 billion people, after expanding cropland dramatically and destroying ecosystems in the process. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency estimated that phasing out all pesticides would result in an overall yield reduction of about 25%. Environmental and health effects were assumed but hard to assess.

In contrast, the UN Environmental Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
The United Nations Environment Programme coordinates United Nations environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its...

 concluded that organic methods greatly increase yields in Africa. A review of over two hundred crop comparisons argued that organic farming could produce enough food to sustain the current human population and that the difference in yields between organic and non-organic methods were small, with non-organic methods yielding slightly more in developed areas and organic methods yielding slightly more in developing areas.

That analysis has been criticised by Alex Avery
Alex Avery (researcher)
Alex Avery, the son of Dennis Avery, is the director of research and education with the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, where he conducts research on the environmental impacts of different farming systems. Avery is an outspoken critic of organic food and farming and has...

 of the Hudson Institute
Hudson Institute
The Hudson Institute is an American think tank founded in 1961, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, by futurist, military strategist, and systems theorist Herman Kahn and his colleagues at the RAND Corporation...

, who contends that the review claimed many non-organic studies to be organic, misreported organic yields, made false comparisons between yields of organic and non-organic studies which were not comparable, counted high organic yields several times by citing different papers which referenced the same data, and gave equal weight to studies from sources which were not impartial.

The Center for Disease Control repudiated a claim by Avery's father, Dennis Avery
Dennis Avery
For the Indiana State Representative, see Dennis Avery Dennis T. Avery is the director of the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, where he edits Global Food Quarterly....

 (also at Hudson) that the risk of E. coli infection was eight times higher when eating organic food. (Avery had cited CDC as a source.) Avery had included problems stemming from non-organic unpasteurized juice in his calculations. Epidemiologists traced the 2011 E. coli O104:H4 outbreak - which caused over 3,900 cases and 52 deaths - to an organic farm in Bienenbüttel
Bienenbüttel
Bienenbüttel is a free municipality in the district of Uelzen, in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the river Ilmenau, approx. 20 km north of Uelzen, and 13 km southeast of Lüneburg...

 in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

.

Urs Niggli, director of the FiBL Institute, contends that a global campaign against organic farming
derives mostly from Alex Avery's book The truth about organic farming.

See also

  • Organic farming by country
    Organic farming by country
    Organic farming is practised across the globe, but the markets for sale are strongest in North America and Europe.-Organic farming by continent:...


  • Agroecology
    Agroecology
    Agroecology is the application of ecological principles to the production of food, fuel, fiber, and pharmaceuticals. The term encompasses a broad range of approaches, and is considered "a science, a movement, [and] a practice."...

  • Biodynamic agriculture
    Biodynamic agriculture
    Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that emphasizes the holistic development and interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system. Biodynamic farming has much in common with other organic approaches, such as emphasizing the use of manures and composts...

  • Certified Naturally Grown
    Certified Naturally Grown
    Certified Naturally Grown is a non-profit alternate farm assurance certification program created for small-scale organic farmers, and striving to strengthen the organic movement by preserving high organic standards and removing financial barriers that tend to exclude smaller farms that are selling...

  • Industrial agriculture
    Industrial agriculture
    Industrial farming is a form of modern farming that refers to the industrialized production of livestock, poultry, fish, and crops. The methods of industrial agriculture are technoscientific, economic, and political...

  • List of organic gardening and farming topics
  • Motivations for organic agriculture
    Motivations for organic agriculture
    Within the food industry, defining the benefits of organic food is largely left to word of mouth, media coverage, and the promotional efforts of organic advocates. Major food and beverage corporations have rapidly moved to acquire significant stake in both fresh and processed organic products...

  • Organic clothing
    Organic clothing
    Organic clothing is clothing made from materials raised or grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards. Organic clothing uses cotton, jute, silk, ramie, or wool...

  • Organic food
    Organic food
    Organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.For the...

  • Organic movement
    Organic movement
    The organic movement broadly refers to the organizations and individuals involved worldwide in the promotion of organic farming, which is a more sustainable mode of agriculture...

  • Permaculture
    Permaculture
    Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that is modeled on the relationships found in nature. It is based on the ecology of how things interrelate rather than on the strictly biological concerns that form the foundation of modern agriculture...

  • Seasonal food
    Seasonal Food
    Seasonality of food refers to the times of year when a given type food is at its peak, either in terms of harvest or its flavour. This is usually the time when the item is the cheapest and the freshest on the market. The food's peak time in terms of harvest usually coincides with when its flavour...

  • Sustainable agriculture
    Sustainable agriculture
    Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment...

  • Wildculture
    Wildculture
    Wildculture is the umbrella term used to include all aspects and styles of "hunting and gathering" food harvesting. Wildculture - harvesting the bounty of nature - was the method of food gathering prior to the development of agriculture thousands of years ago...

  • Organic Farming Digest
    Organic Farming Digest
    The Organic Farming Digest was the first "organic" journal to be published by an agricultural association. The Digest was published quarterly and it included Australian, British, American, European and African authors...



Further reading

  • Avery A. (2006) The Truth About Organic Foods (Volume 1, Series 1) Henderson Communications, L.L.C. ISBN 0-9788952-0-7
  • Committee on the Role of Alternative Farming Methods in Modern Production Agriculture, National Research Council. 1989. Alternative Agriculture. National Academies Press.-An innovative program in California trains mostly immigrant workers how to succeed as organic farmers.
  • Guthman J. 2004, Agrarian Dreams: The Parodox of Organic Farming in California, Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-520-24094-0
  • Lampkin & Padel. 1994. The Economics of Organic Farming: An International Perspective. Guildford: CAB International
    CAB International
    CAB International is a not-for-profit inter-governmental organisation based in the United Kingdom....

    . ISBN 0-85198-911-X
  • OECD. (2003). Organic Agriculture: Sustainability, Markets, and Policies. CABI International. Free full-text.

External links