Dr Ashu Sharma
Conventional farming systems have increased yield per area while reducing labor requirements. Factors responsible for yield increases include the use of new plant varieties that use fertilizers more efficiently, cultural practices (i.e. food quality and safety are two vital factors that have captured the constant attention of ordinary people Conventional practices contribute to the depletion of non-renewable energy resources to produce pesticides, fertilizers and to power mechanized equipment, air, water and health risks as well as reducing soil quality Increasing the frequency of tillage without adding organic amendments has led to reduced soil organic carbon and increased soil erosion Increasing environmental awareness and several food hazards have significantly reduced consumer confidence in food quality over the past decades.For these reasons, co Consumers are looking for safer, higher quality food produced by local systems.
Organic food and food products are believed to meet these requirements. In recent years, organic farming as a cultivation process is gaining popularity. Organically grown foods have become one of the best choices for consumers and farmers and are going to be part of the green lifestyle. Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of non-agricultural inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. Organic farming and food processing practices are very varied and require the development of a socially, ecologically and economically sustainable food production system. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has proposed the four basic principles of organic agriculture, namely the principle of health, ecology, equity and care. The main principles and practices of organic food production are to inspire and enhance biological cycles in the farming system, to maintain and enhance deep soil fertility, to reduce all types of pollution, to avoid application of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, to conserve genetic diversity in food, to take into account the broad socio-ecological impact of food production and to produce high quality food in sufficient quantity.
Organic farming is considered an environmentally friendly and consumer-oriented approach to food production. Some conventional growers see the need to switch to organic farming for a variety of reasons. Some consider organic farming to be a profitable system. Others are attracted because they feel it is for personal satisfaction or an ecological and healthier alternative to conventional agriculture. In general, motivations for organic farming are either farm-related or personal. Farm-related motivations include animal husbandry (eg past problems with conventional production) or financial factors (eg higher prices for fresh organic produce). Personal motivations include personal health, availability of food grown by local small family farms, and religious, philosophical, political, and environmental beliefs. Conversion from a conventional farming system to an organic farming system requires a transition period of 3 years before products can be certified organic. During the transition to organic production systems, growers experience a period of suppressed yields, followed by a return to yields close to or equal to those obtained with conventional production. This transition effect has been attributed to the time required for changes in the chemical, physical and biological properties of the soil necessary to improve nutrient cycling, plant growth and the development of biological pest control within the system. .
Nutritional benefits and health security
The growing demand for fresh produce from organic farming has sparked interest among both consumers and producers in the nutritional value of foods from organic and conventional agriculture. Organically grown foods, especially leafy greens and tubers, have higher dry matter than conventionally grown foods. Although organic cereals and their products contain less protein than conventional cereals, they have higher quality protein with better amino acid scores. Organic fruits and vegetables contain 27% more vitamin C than conventional fruits and vegetables. These secondary metabolites have substantial regulatory effects at the cellular level and have therefore been shown to be protective against certain diseases such as cancers, chronic inflammations and other diseases. Therefore, organic foods provide better nutritional benefits and improved food safety.
Organic farming has a protective role in preserving the environment. Organic farming is believed to be less harmful to the environment as it does not allow synthetic pesticides, most of which are potentially harmful to water, soil and local terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. In addition, organic farming improves the physico-biological properties of the soil consisting of more organic matter, biomass, better soil stability, better water percolation, retention capacities, less water and wind erosion. compared to conventional agricultural soils.
Organic farming requires a higher level of labor and therefore produces more income-generating jobs per farm. An organic product typically costs 10% to 40% more than similar conventional crops and it depends on several factors both in the input and output arms. Organic farming is today a booming economic sector due to the profits generated by organic products and thus leading to a growing inclination towards organic farming by farmers.
The concept of sustainable agriculture integrates three main objectives: environmental health, economic profitability and social and economic equity. The concept of sustainability is based on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Long-term economic viability can only be achieved through organic farming and due to its high market price, organic farming is more profitable.
(The author is a scientist at KVK Kathua, SKUAST Jammu)