Nutrient Absorption

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Organic Farming Manual

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Critics are often under the illusion that organic farmers believe plants obtain all their nutrients from an organically managed soil in a chemically organic form. While a few organicists may believe that, the majority recognizes that digestion processes in the soil release minerals in forms similar to those applied as commercial fertilizers. Unfortunately, the notion that organic farmers are naïve and ignorant about basic agronomy is a red herring that has often foiled intelligent discussion about the pros and cons of the system.

Among the facts that are often obscured is that plants can and do absorb significant amounts of large organic molecules from the soil; herbicide and systemic insecticides are among these. In healthy soils they also absorb vitamins, chelated minerals, hormones, and other beneficial compounds. (16)

ents, even though the need for at least 13 soil minerals is scientifically recognized. This skewed focus is also responsible for generating imbalances in the plant.

  • Application of large amounts of soluble nutrients can stimulate certain problem weed species.
  • Soluble nutrients — especially nitrate — are prone to leaching, which can cause a number of environmental and health problems.

It is organic farming's approach to soil building and plant fertilization that is the true basis for the belief that organic food and feed has superior nutritional value, much more so than the absence of pesticide residues, which has drawn the spotlight ever since the 1960s.

Natural Pest Management

Whether conventional or organic, all farmers are concerned with pests. They spend a lot of time and resources controlling them. However, in the organic "world view," pests — whether weeds, insects or diseases — are not simply scourges. They are indicators of how far a production system has strayed from the natural ecosystems it should imitate. Certain weeds, for example, tend to predominate when soils are too acidic or too basic; some become a problem when soil structure is poor and conditions become anaerobic; others may be stimulated by excessive fertilizer or manure salts.

Organic proponents also believe that insect pests are attracted to inferior or weak plants — the result of poor crop nutrition. Their logic continues by asserting that pests are naturally repelled by vigorous, well-nourished plants. This belief is often challenged, and significant research remains to be done.

As scientific understanding has grown, insect pest outbreaks are also being understood as imbalances in the whole agroecosystem and how it is managed. In nature, massive pest outbreaks are relatively rare and short-lived, due to the presence of natural predators, parasites, and disease agents that quickly knock the pest numbers back down to a moderate level. In farming systems that inadvertently destroy or otherwise fail to support the natural control complex, pest problems are routine and, typically, worsen with time. The farmer becomes increasingly addicted to costly and extreme control methods to produce a crop.

Most organic growers consider pesticides to be a cause of agroecosystem imbalances and employ allowed natural pesticides as little as possible.

ORGANIC CROP PRODUCTION

Foundational Principles and Practices

Diversification & Integration of Biodiversity Enterprises Sustainability

Natural Plant Natural Pest Integrity Nutrition Management

Rotation Green Manure Cover Crops Animal Manure Composting Intercropping

Biocontrol Farmscaping Buffers

Rotation Animal Manure Composting Intercropping Farmscaping Mulching

Rotation Green Manure Cover Crops Intercropping

Biocontrol Farmscaping Animal Manure Composting Mulching Buffers

Rotation Green Manure Animal Manure Composting Natural Fertilizers

Foliar Fertilizers

Rotation Green Manure Cover Crops Composting Intercropping

Biocontrol Farmscaping Sanitation Tillage Fire Natural Pesticides

Buffers Records

Rotation Green Manure Cover Crops Animal Manure Composting Intercropping

Biocontrol Farmscaping Buffers

Rotation Animal Manure Composting Intercropping Farmscaping Mulching

Rotation Green Manure Cover Crops Intercropping

Biocontrol Farmscaping Animal Manure Composting Mulching Buffers

Integrity

Integrity refers to the systems in place and actions undertaken to assure that consumers of organic products get what they pay for. Consumers have a right to expect that the organic food they buy not only be raised by organic methods but be protected from contamination and from commingling with non-organic products.

While the responsibility for much of this rests with others in the organic marketing chain, many certified organic growers need to incorporate additional practices that work to assure the integrity of their products. Proper record keeping is very important in this regard, though growers are often reluctant to spend much time on it. Among the more important production practices in the field are buffer strips, which reduce chemical drift from neighboring fields and roadsides, while also serving water and soil conservation objectives.

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