AgroWiki : Online Agriculture Library: Organic Farming Vs Conventional Farming

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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Organic Farming Vs Conventional Farming

Organic Farming

Organic farming is the traditional method of farming which has been practiced in India since ancient times , organic farming primarily aims at  cultivating the land and raising crops in such a way, as to keep the soil alive and in good health by use of organic wastes  and other biological materials along with beneficial microbes to release nutrients to crops for increased sustainable production in an eco-friendly pollution free environment. The main advantage of organic farming is it conserves the soil health by soil erosion, encouraging soil microbial activity and enables the farmers to use the soil for a long time.

Definitions of Organic Farming

Organic farming is also called natural farming, chemical free farming.

Definition by FAOOrganic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs”.

Definition by US Dept of Agriculture : organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc) and to the maximum extent feasible rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection.

General Definition: In general Organic Farming can be defined as an integrated farming system that strives for sustainability, the enhancement of soil fertility and biological diversity whilst, with rare exceptions, prohibiting synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and growth hormones.

Advantages of Organic Farming:

  • Organic Farming reduces the cost of cultivation up to 30 percent since the cost incurred on the fertilizers and plant protection chemicals can be omitted, besides organic farming is proven to be more profitable than conventional farming when adopted the right farming practice.
  • Organic Farming conserves soil fertility for a long time by maintaining organic matter levels, encouraging soil biological activity and thus enabling the farmer to use the soil for a long time.
  • Organic farming promotes ecological balance as it has a positive effect on ecosystem supporting the wildlife apart from providing safe pasture lands for grazing.
  • Organic Farming is not only beneficial for farmers but it has also proved useful for the dairy industry. Cattle feed from organic farmlands have been found to be less prone to diseases and they yield more milk. These are definitely good signs for a consumer of these dairy products from the health perspective and for a dairy organization from the profit perspective. 
  • Products or foodstuff produced from organic farming neither contain any sort of artificial flavor or preservatives nor do they contain any harmful chemicals and the food produced from organic farming are found to be tastier than conventional farming.
  • The original nutritional content of food is preserved due to the absence of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
  • The soil is the most important component in farming and organic farming preserves soil by reducing soil erosion up to a large extent.
  • Consumption of products obtained from organic farming minimizes the risk of physical ailments such as heart attacks. Scientific studies have proven that organic foods are healthier than the inorganic ones.

Disadvantages of Organic Farming
  • Yields obtained by Organic farming are found to be relatively lower when compared to the yields of Conventional farming.
  • The products of Organic farming are relatively more expensive than the products of Conventional farming.
  • Organic Farming is Labour Intensive Farming.

Conventional Farming

As of now, there is no definite definition for conventional farming. In General conventional farming can be described as an external input oriented and input intensive type of farming which mainly concentrates on increasing the productivity of a given land by application of artificial fertilizers and plant protection chemicals. 
Conventional farming was not practiced until the mid-nineteenth century, the main cause for the widespread of conventional farming was the Green Revolution which was initiated by Dr. Norman Ernest Borlaug.

Advantages of Conventional Farming 

  • The yields obtained through conventional farming are high compared to organic farming hence conventional farming is  helpful in feeding the growing population.
  • Conventional farming is less labor intensive.
  • Products of Conventional farming are cheaper when compared to Organic Farming.

Disadvantages of  Conventional Farming

  • Land Exhaustion: Constant application of Chemical fertilizers gradually reduces the fertility of land and thereby reducing the productive capacity of the soils also due to the indiscriminate use chemical fertilizers, the natural fertility of the soil is lost.
  • Continuous use of Chemicals on the soils results in soil compaction, soil erosion, salinization, decrease in the water holding capacity of soils which affects the overall productive capacity of soils.
  • Overuse of the chemicals also causes the death of the beneficial microorganisms in the soil and thereby decreasing the natural soil biological activities.
  • Application of pesticides also kills beneficial insects which help plants in many ways like pollination etc.
  • Another major disadvantage of conventional farming is that conventional farming is hazardous to the environment, Animals and humans as it is associated with environmental pollution.

Organic Farming or Conventional Farming

As of the present situation, the primary emphasis has to be given to the productivity of the lands since it is the only possible means by which we can meet the food requirements of our growing population. A number of cultivable lands are degrading gradually and lands are losing fertility and we are unable to full fill the hunger of the growing populous of the globe. This inverse relation between the Population growth and Food production gives rise to a dilemma, that is, increasing food production per unit land in a given time is the only way through which we can meet the food requirements of all the people of the world, But this is not possible through Organic Farming  since the yield obtained under organic Farming is found to be much lesser than Conventional farming. the productivity of a given land can only be increased by following conventional farming.
This situation where we are stuck between two choices is the Dilemma we are facing.

→ If we go for Organic farming, we will not be able to meet the food requirements of the globe but we can maintain ecological balance as well a strive towards maintaining a healthy sustainable future.

→ If we choose Conventional farming, then we might be able to full fill the food requirements of the globe up to a certain extent. But there is a big list of the ill effects caused by Conventional farming on the Soil, Environment, Animals, and Humans.

So the final question before is Organic Farming or Conventional Farming:

We have listed some possible answers for the question above:

1. If you choose Conventional Farming: 
  • Limited use of the fertilizers and plant protection chemicals or use of the chemicals according to the recommended dosages might help in reducing the ill effects of the chemicals on the environment.
  • Decreasing the intensity of any resource that is used in production process while trying to make the efficient utilization of the available resources.
  • We can also try integrating Organic and Conventional farming so as to minimize the pollution and at the same time maximize the food production.

2. If you choose Organic Farming

  • Try to intensify the farming practices by applying more organic fertilizers and following right cropping Systems (cropping pattern + management). Following crop rotation, cultivate legumes after cereals, intercropping crops which are beneficial to each other or less competitive towards each other.
  • Incorporate  more biofertilizers like Azotobacter, Azospirullum.
  • Timely and efficient management of events and available resources. Example: 
  1. Taking up sowing and weeding operations at right times. Ex: sowing of Boro Paddy must be done during December-January.
  2. If only one irrigation is available then irrigation should be given during the most critical stage of irrigation of the particular crop. Ex: In the case of Wheat the most critical stage of irrigation is the Crown Root initiation stage which is after 21 days after sowing. So if only one irrigation is available then, irrigation must be given during CRI stage in case of Wheat.
By following these steps the yields can be increased up to a certain extent if not up to expected level but this can be covered by the positive effects of organic farming on the Soil and environment.
In addition to these, studies conducted by researchers from a few reputed universities have found that organic farming has outyielded conventional farming.

In this context, Sikkim has inspired the whole nation to go back to its roots by becoming the first fully organic state in India and also have managed to successfully expand its Agrarian economy.

Conclusion: Organic Farming holds Key to a Healthy Sustainable future.