Natural farms and organic farms are two types of farming that focus on producing food in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. However, they have some key differences:
- Natural farms: Natural farms use natural techniques and methods to produce food. They do not use synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified seeds but may not be certified organic. The focus of natural farming is on creating a self-sustaining ecosystem where crops can grow and thrive without the use of harmful chemicals.
- Organic farms: Organic farms are certified by an official organic certification organization and follow strict guidelines set by the USDA regarding producing and labeling organic products. Organic farming prohibits synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified seeds and emphasizes using natural methods to manage pests and promote soil fertility.
Both natural and organic farms aim to produce healthier and more sustainable food for the environment and the consumers who eat it. However, organic certification provides a higher level of assurance to consumers that the food they buy has been produced in a way that meets strict environmental and health protection standards.
In natural farms doing organic cultivation, the farmer relies on inter-cropping, rotation of crops, mulching, integrated pest management through biopesticides, biofertilizers like farmyard manure, organic compost, etc. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers are not used in organic farms. All these measures help restore soil health.
Natural farms with organic cultivation require less fossil fuel energy as machinery is not used in soil preparation and other farm operations.
Conventional agricultural soils are exhausted from nitrogen and other nutrients. Soil fertility must be returned to enable organic crop production to become meaningful. The first crop in such soils should be a legume like sun hemp. This species seed is broadcast cultivated. The crop is harvested just before the onset of flowering and plowed back into the soil. Most nitrogen cover crops are ready for harvest, and planting can be done in thirty to sixty days.
The additional nitrogen fixed in the soil helps build the soil structure and improve soil productivity. Organic crops cultivated on such soils may or may not require additional nitrogen supplementation. In organic cultivation, additional supplementation is done with farmyard manure and leaf compost. Scientists recommend mixing farmyard manure with water and spraying the crop as a foliar and soil feed.
A series of techniques are used to keep insect damage to a minimum in organic cultivation farms. Trap plants that are preferred food for crop-damaging insects are strategically located around the organic farm. Pests get diverted to such plants reducing pest intensity over the main crop. The choice of trap plants varies with a crop. Marigold flower plants are a preferred trap plant in Indian organic farms. Other trap plants are triticale, clover, sunflower, and the like. Trap plants are raised ahead of raising an organic crop so that these are ready in time to attract bugs away from the main crop (Hokkanen, 1991).
Other innovations adopted in natural and organic farms include using solar lamps and electric lights to attract insects at night. These on contact get killed from electric shock or heat. Stunned with a mild electric shock, insects drop in a container filled with water below the light.
Natural insecticides made from a combination of Azadirachta indica (neem), Aloe vera, red chili, and Clerodendron extract have been traditionally used by farmers in India. Such indigenous insecticidal combinations in practice by farmer communities in different parts of the world are being researched and improved to make these more effective.
Farmers have been traditionally covering vegetable crops with a dried stick shade. Stem borers attack the dried stems diverting a borer attack away from the main crop. Such innovations and best practices for organic cultivation can help improve crop productivity.
Learn more about organic cultivation and global business trends here.