As our population started to grow, we looked for ways to feed ourselves. The introduction of chemicals in farming was one such initiative. At first, things seemed fine; we got lots of yields. Then, slowly, it turned out to be a curse in disguise. It harmed the environment and public health, leading to risks of many diseases including cancer, reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, asthma, and many others. After seeing these harmful effects, people were convinced to revert to natural ways. This is where organic farming comes into the picture, as it uses biological materials. Even when pesticides and fertilizers are used, it is ensured that they are produced naturally. With this overview done, let’s delve into the advantages and disadvantages of organic farming.
Advantages of organic farming
Switching to natural ways for growing crops will give better-tasting food products. Here are some of the other benefits of organic farming:
Various studies have observed that there are higher levels of nutrients in organic food products. They have antioxidant properties, making them a healthy option. Additionally, the organic grains have significantly lower levels of cadmium – the toxic material present in the soil. There is also lower pesticide residue in organic crops compared to those produced through chemical farming. In organic farming, the health of the soil is given a priority. So, crops grown on healthy soils are naturally healthy, making them more nutritious.
2. Healthier soil
We just mentioned healthy soil produces healthier food. Now, let’s understand how organic farming improves soil health. This kind of farming uses organic materials that reach deeper layers of soil. This further improves its health, allowing it to hold more air and water and thus produce higher yields. Additionally, organic methods preserve nitrogen and carbon in the soil. This way, the soil gets nutrients, eliminating the need for adding other substances.
3. Supports pollinators
The use of toxic pesticides has resulted in the decline of the pollinator population. Since most of the crops rely on them, we have lost billions of dollars worth of crops. The undeniable solution to this problem is organic farming. It not only reduces the risks but also actively supports pollinators. It provides them with nutritional food sources and habitat, allowing them to support their hives. Therefore, organic farming practices are pollinator-friendly. Crop rotation is one such practice of organic farming that provides nourishment to the pollinators.
In organic farming, the use of non-renewable energy is reduced. The farming practices such as integration of nitrogen-fixing legumes and minimum tillage aims at sequestering carbon in the soil. This way, the effect of greenhouse gases is mitigated. The researchers are hopeful that, in the long run, it can slow down the climate change process. Also, this type of farming doesn’t use chemicals otherwise harmful to the environment. Instead, natural fertilizers are used in place of synthetic ones that conserve energy.
5. Natural fertilizers
Only organic inputs are entertained in non-chemical farming. A few of the organic fertilizers are as follows:
Farmers who are into farming as well as rearing livestock can easily use manure as organic fertilizer. Most of the manure comes from either cow or chicken. This practice improves the soil structure along with maintaining its nutrient balance. Moreover, it reduces soil erosion and improves soil fertility.
Compost is one of the most used organic fertilizers and is thus easily available. It introduces organisms to the soil, further aerating it i.e., creating small holes that allow nutrients to reach the plants’ roots. At the same time, its use repels several plant diseases.
Fish emulsion has nutrients that promote the growth of soil microorganisms, resulting in healthier yields. Also, in cooler climates, manure can take more time to break down, but with fish emulsion, the decomposition is faster.
Disadvantages of organic farming
To complete our discussion, let’s explore the flip side of natural farming. Here are several drawbacks of organic farming:
Organic farming requires farmers to invest a lot of resources and time, so it’s a no-brainer this farming type is costly. Since only natural fertilizers are used, they can be difficult to procure. The livestock employed in organic agriculture is also frequently provided with the best living conditions. This includes giving nutritious food, spacious living quarters, and clean water, which requires a lot of effort and money. Also, the organic farming market is comparatively smaller than the conventional one. Thus, demand plays an important role. Overall, the higher production cost and limited demand make organic food production expensive.
2. Shorter shelf life
Organic food products have a shorter shelf life compared to conventional ones. Therefore, if you do not get the chance to consume it within this timeframe, you might just end up wasting it along with your hard-earned money. The chemicals are not sprayed on organic food products for health and safety purposes. But the absence of antibacterial chemicals increases the chances of bacteria spoiling food products faster. To sum up, adding preservatives and additives can improve shelf life. Since it leads to health concerns, this practice is skipped in organic food products.
3. Unsuitable for large-scale application
Organic farming may seem a better option at first but isn’t suitable for large-scale utilization. In conventional farming, the chemicals are sprayed to protect the crops. In organic farming, the farmers must take care of crops without the use of chemicals, insecticides, and herbicides. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to a lot of uncertainty and hardships in practice. Natural farming is especially inadequate for regions with dense populations, as the supply of organic food products cannot keep up with the rising demand.
4. Requires skills
Conventional farming uses synthetic substances, eliminating the need of having prior knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for natural farming. Along with good physical health, organic farmers should have agricultural knowledge alongside skills such as organization, management, and organic integrity.
5. Certification costs
In this type of farming, just claiming ‘organic’ is not enough. The farmers need to get their organic certifications, which can be a lengthy process, incurring extra costs. Additionally, there are other expenses associated with inspection, assessment, travel, and annual renewal. Overall, the higher certification costs discourage farmers from stepping into the world of organic farming.