ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF ORGANIC FARMING
(i) Nutrition The nutritional value of food is largely a function of its vitamin and mineral content. In this regard, organically grown food is dramatically superior in mineral content to that grown by modern conventional methods. Because it fosters the life of the soil organic farming reC!psthe benefits soil life offers in greatly facilitated plant access to soil nutrients. Healthy plants mean healthy people, and such better nourished plants provide better nourishment to people and animals alike.
(Ii) Poison-free and tasty A major benefit to consumers of organic food is that it is free of contamination with health harming chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Organically grown food tastes better than that conventionally grown. The tastiness of fruit and vegetables is directly related to its sugar content, which in turn is a function of thequality of nutrition that the plant itself has enjoyed.
This quality of fruit and vegetable can be empirically measured by subjecting its juice to Brix analysis, which is a measure of its specific gravity (density). The Brix score is widely used in testing fruit and vegetables for their quality prior to export.
(iii) Food Keeps Longer Organically grown plants are nourished naturally, rendering the structural and metabolic integriry of their cellular structure superior to those conventionally grown. As a result, organically grown foods can be stored longer and do not show the latter's susceptibility to rapid mold and rotting.
Disease and Pest Resistance A healthy plant grown organically in properly balanced soil resists most diseases and insect pests.
Weed Competitiveness Weeds are nature's band-aids, placed by the wisdom of creation to heal and restore damaged soils. When farmers husband the life of the soil, as they do in organic agriculture, the improved conditions dissuade many weeds and favour their crops. The crops, being healthier, are also better able to compete with those weeds that are present.
Lower Input Costs By definition, organic farming does not incur the use of expensive agrichemicals-they are not permitted. The greater resistance of their crops to pests and the diseases save farmers significantly in expensive insecticides, fungicides and other pesticides.
Drought Resistance Organically grown plants are more drought tolerant. Since chemical fertiliser is soluble, plants are forced to imbibe it every time they are thirsty for water. They can and do enjoy good growth as long as water is readily available. As soon as water becomes limited, the soluble nutrient salts in the cells of chemically-fed plants are unable to osmotically draw sufficient water to maintain safe dilution. They soon reach toxic concentrations, and the plant stops growing, hays off and dies earlier than it otherwise would have.
Added Value There is a discerning market of consumers who recognise the greater food value of organic produce and are willing to pay premium prices for it.
Productivity Proponents of industrialised agriculture point to its superior productivity. In the short term, this yield is possible by expending massive inputs of chemicals and machinery, working over bland fields of a single crop (monoculture). However, over the longer time frame, productivity advantages dwindle.
Industrialised agriculture thrashes the land, and diminishes its soil life to the point where it can no longer function to convert available organic matter into soil fertility. Productivity begins to wane, and attempts to bolster it with increasing chemical inputs (common advice from farm consultants) has a similar effect to flogging a dead horse. Because it relies on living soil to build fertility, the benefits of organic farming for soil life is fundamental to its methods.
Organic farming benefits food production without destroying our environmental resources, ensuring sustainability for not only the current but also future generations.
Cultivation While their conventional counterparts may sow by direct drilling of seed into herbicide treated soils, organic farmers are usually at least partly dependent on cultivation to remove weeds prior to sowing. In contrast to cultivation, direct drilling does not mechanically disrupt soil structure and removes the risk of exposed soil being lost to wind or water erosion. This is a valid argument where farmers are working marginal quality soils. However, the structure of agrichemically-deadened soils is weakened by the corresponding loss of soil life and thus unable to maintain its integrity under occasional cultivation. So it is a circular argument.
Structurally sound (life-rich) soils may be cultivated regularly without significant damage, particularly if protected appropriately by windbreaks and Keyline soil conservation measures.
Even the need to cultivate may be questioned. After noticing rice thriving wild amongst weeds on roadsides, Japanese alternative agriculturalist Masanobu Fukuoka succeeded in establishing crops by broadcasting seed coated in clay onto untilled land.
GM Crops Organic growers do not use genetically modified or engineered food crops, some of which are engineered to tolerate herbicides (e.g., "Roundup Ready Canola") or resist pests (e.g., Bollworm resistant cotton).
According to a report from the Directorate-General for Agriculture of the European Commission, productivity gains attributed to GM crops are usually negligible when growing conditions, farmer experience and soil types are factored in, and are often in fact negative. The main advantage farmers using such crops gain is convenience only.
There are worrying indications that GM crops may be associated with harm to both human health and the environment. The main concern is that once they are released it is nigh impossible to "un-release" them.
Time Indeed, organic farming requires greater interaction between a farmer and his crop for observation, timely intervention and weed control for instance. It Is inherently more labour intensive than chemical/mechanical agriculture so that, naturally a single farmer can produce more crop using industrial methods than he or she could by solely organic methods.
Skill It requires considerably more skill to farm organically. However, because professional farming of any sort naturally imparts a close and observant relationship to living things. the best organic farmers are converted agrichemical farmers.
Organic farmers do not have some convenient chemical fix on the shelf for every problem they encounter. They have to engage careful observation and greater understanding in order to know how to tweak their farming system to correct the cause of the problem rather than simply putting a plaster over its effect.