Organic farms rely on inter-cropping, rotation of crops, mulching, integrated pest management through the use of biopesticides, use of biofertilizers like farmyard manure, organic compost, etc. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers are not used in organic farms. All these measures help restore soil health.
Organic farms require less fossil fuel energy as machinery is not used in soil preparation and other farm operations.
Conventional agriculture soils are exhausted of 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 plowing back 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 supplementation of nitrogen. In organic farming 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.
To keep insect damage to the minimum in organic farms a series of techniques are used. 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 likes. 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 farms is the use of solar lamps and electric lights to attract insects in the night. These on contact get killed from electric shock or heat. Stunned with a mild electric shock, insects drop down in a container filled with water placed below the light.
Natural insecticides made from a combination of Azadirachta indica (neem), Aloe vera, red chili, 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.
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