What is Biofertilization?

unnamedBio fertilization is the process of improving the fertility of the land using biofertilizers. A biofertilizer is an environment friendly fertilizer that contains a carrier medium rich in live microorganisms. Bio fertilization is carried out in order to increase the organic matter in the soil and improve the growth of plants by combating diseases.

Advantages

Bio fertilization is very essential for organic farming. Here are the major advantages of the process.

High Sustainability

Bio fertilization enhances the phosphorus and nitrogen available to the plants in a natural way. This process of fertilization does not harm the soil or the environment.

Better affordability

Bio fertilization is a cost-effective method of enriching the soil with live microorganism. It reduces the dependence on chemical fertilizers.

Improvement in soil

This process of fertilization helps to restore the normal fertility of the soil. It improves the amount of organic matter or valuable nutrients in the soil.

Increment in productivity

Due to the use of bio fertilizers the plants produce an increased yield. The improvement in the quality of soil helps the plants to absorb valuable nutrients easily. Bio fertilization is effective in developing stronger root system for the plants and help them in growing in a faster and healthier manner.

Disadvantages

Bio fertilization demands special care for the storage of biofertilizers as they contain live microorganisms. The soil must contain sufficient nutrients for the microorganisms to flourish and work. This process of fertilization is not very effective for soils that are too hot or dry.

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Organic farms can sustain more species

IMG_0179Organic farms can provide long-term advantages for biodiversity. According to recent reports of researchers, the benefits of organic farms sustain over a long period of time. This quality of organic farms has proved to be one of their major advantages against conventional farms.

Organic farms can sustain more species as compared to conventional farms. They have the ability to support 34% more plants, animals and insect species. Researchers are of the opinion that such farms have a higher impact on species richness and better biodiversity if the farm land exists in an intensely farmed region instead of ‘island’ farms. The impact on species richness are more prominent in case of land having large tracts that are used for growing crops that are sown and harvested in the same agricultural year.

Though the comparative species richness is found to be 34%, this degree of richness generally varies between 26% and 43%. Such disparity can be due to several factors including regional variation in farming practices, etc. In areas covered by pesticide-laden conventional farms the organic farms provide rich habitats for several species.

Species richness can indicate how many different species there are in a farm but does not state anything about the total number of organisms. High species richness generally signifies a variety of organisms with different functions.

The support of more species by organic farms can prove to be beneficial for conservation of biodiversity. Organic methods can also be employed in industrialized nations to arrest the continuous loss of diversity.

Vermicompost and its Benefits in Organic Farming

Vermicompost is the product of composting in which worms are used to create a varied mixture of decomposing food waste, worm casting and bedding matter. Worm casting, also known as vermicast or worm humus, is the end product of the breaking down of organic material through the use of worms. Various kinds of earthworms, such as red wigglers and white worms are used for this purpose. Vermicompost contains high level of water-soluble nutrients that are useful for organic farming.

Why is vermicast more productive than compost?

Vermicast is more productive for organic agriculture than compost due to the following reasons:

  • It enriches the soil with microorganisms
  • It possesses enzymes and plant growth boosters available only in worm casting soils
  • It is richer in available nutrients
  • It enhances germination, growth rate and crop yield
  • It improves root growth
  • It aids in disease control in organic farming
  • It can hold more water
  • It causes fruits and vegetables to taste better

What are the unique benefits of vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is advantageous for organic farming as worms do several works such as:

  • Turn the material like a tiny plough
  • Improve aeration by adding oxygen for all the helpful microorganisms
  • Enrich the pile by mixing various organisms and nutrients
  • Convert the pile into a rich soil product by eating the bedding matter and the feed
  • Control pathogen by ingesting
  • Work faster as worms can eat one-half of their weight each day

Are the Fruits We Eat Really Healthy?

organic foodWe all are aware of the benefits of eating fruits. As part of our daily diet fruits can be immensely helpful for our health. But do you know that along with fruits various pesticides are also becoming a part of your regular diet? Most of the common fruits are overloaded with harmful pesticides. Let us take a look at some such fruits.

Apple: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But apple is one of those fruits that are found to have pesticides way above the permissible limits.

Orange: Tangy oranges are favored for their taste and health benefits. But they contain banned pesticides at 140% above the permissible limits.

Cucumber: Cucumber is preferred for keeping the body hydrated and eliminating toxins from it. But even this fruit is known to be laden with several pesticides.

Banana: This staple fruit in our diet comes with a lot of health benefits like providing energy and sustaining blood sugar. But it also packs a lot of pesticides in our diet.

Strawberry: The delicious strawberry is popular as a high fiber and low calorie fruit with a number of other benefits. But the presence of pesticides on it has been found to exceed permissible limits by several degrees.

Pesticides can prove to be fatal if consumed for a long time. One way to continue enjoying the benefits of fruits is to switch over to produces of organic farming. Organic fruits are free from chemical pesticides and hence, are beneficial for our health.

Mulching Sheets in Organic Agriculture – Procedure and Advantages

unnamedThe use of mulching sheets is a technique of organic agriculture that tries to imitate natural forests’ processes. This agricultural process follows no-dig gardening or non-cultivation method. This technique is used to produce healthy and prolific ecosystems that require low maintenance.

Procedure

The technique of using sheet mulching involves the following steps:

  • The selected area is flattened through trimming or chopping down of existing vegetation.
  • The soil is examined and if required, its pH (measure of acidity or basicity) or mineral amendments is adjusted.
  • The soil is soaked in water to assist the natural process of decomposition.
  • The soil is covered by an organic weed barrier (a thin layer of slow decomposing material). This is done to restrain the weeds by blocking out sunlight. As weeds decay quickly under the barrier, they become nutrients for the soil and enhance the stability of the growing medium.
  • A layer of around 10 cm thick, rich in nutrients and weed-free soil is added on top of the weed barrier to create a soil horizon.
  • A layer of around 15 cm thick woody, weed-free and leafy matter is added to imitate the forest floor. The soil is now all set to receive plant seeds.

Advantages

There are several advantages of using sheet mulching in organic agriculture. They are as follows:

  • Improvement of plant health, vigour and productivity
  • Enhancement of soil structure
  • Retention of nutrients and water in soil
  • Prevention of soil erosion
  • Suppression of weed growth
  • Avoidance of dangerous pesticides and herbicides
  • Reduction of maintenance cost

How to Prepare Organic Pesticide at Home

say to pesticidesPests are very harmful for the growth of plants. They can cause severe damage to the flowers, fruits and vegetables. Using chemical pesticides is not the best option as they cause harm to the environment. They also leave behind pesticide residues on the fruits and vegetables, rendering them unsafe for healthy as well as for human consumption.

However, there are many organic pesticides that can be prepared at home to control the menace of pests. Let us read about one such home-made pesticide.

An easy way to prepare organic pesticide at home is by using vegetables.

  • Take 113 grams (1/2 cup) of hot peppers with 113 grams of onions or garlic cloves.
  • Chop the vegetables and blend them together in an electric blender to form a thick, chunky paste.
  • Warm 500 millilitres (2 cups) of water and add the vegetable paste to the water.
  • Mix the ingredients thoroughly and transfer the contents to a glass or plastic container.
  • Allow the solution to stand undisturbed in a sunny location for the next 24 hours.
  • Strain the mixture with the help of a strainer and collect the water of the solution in a neat container. This vegetable-induced water is the pesticide.
  • Transfer the pesticide into a clean spray bottle.
  • Spray your plants with this organic pesticide once in five days.

This pesticide generally causes the pests to scatter after using it for three to four times on them and prevents them from returning during the rest of the season.

How Pesticides are Slowly Killing Rural India

Happy Organic FarmerRural India is facing deadly diseases or death itself, thanks to the residue of harmful chemicals like Endosulphan in the soil and water. This often happens wherever these chemicals are used as pesticides or fertilizers in farmlands. The residue is even affecting the babies who are not yet born. The seeds of cancer, kidney malfunction and nervous disorders are already sown even before life begins.  Researches done by the European Union proves that pesticides used on fruits, vegetables and cereals can have extremely harmful effect on fetuses and young kids.

Children with long term exposure to pesticides might develop serious shortcomings with brain development. This fate often reaches the children of poor farmers in rural India more than any other children who do not have bigger risk of exposure to chemicals. Traces of lindane, heptachlor, benzene hexachloride, aldrin and endrin were found even in the breast milk of mothers in these regions. Pediatricians suggest that the toxic effects of pesticides will adversely affect the nervous systems in children. Exposure to pesticides is also considered to be a key reason to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorders in children.

The only possible way out to save our children is to promote and support organic farming. Studies conducted among school children proved that when the kids switched to organic produce, the effect was drastic and immediate in the urine samples collected. The level of pesticides were reduced considerably right after the shift to organic foods.

Pesticide exposure happens even in homes and public and private gardens where any form of chemical pest control is used. Pesticides can enter the body through lungs mouth and even skin. The saddest part is that the group most affected by pesticides is little children.

Understanding Organic Fertilizers

IMG_0179Organic farming can be hard without the right fertilizers to nourish the soil. Most organic fertilizers feed the soil as well as the produce. They sustain living organisms in the soil that make the soil fertile, thus naturally replenishing the soil.

Ease of use

Most farmers presume that organic fertilizers will be harder to use than chemical fertilizers. Both forms, however are equally easy to use. Plant specific organic mixes and general fertilizers like dehydrated cow dung pellets and seaweed liquid are easy to use and spread around the farm.

Dry fertilizers

Composed either of one component like kelp or rock phosphate or a blend of many, dry fertilizers provide an array of nutrients. They can either bought as mixes or can be created according to the specific requirements of the farm.

The best method of application of the dry fertilizer is to broadcast and then rake, so it reaches the top few inches of soil. Also, the fertilizer can be added along with the transplants into the holes.

Liquid fertilizers

The best application method is to spray the plants during the growing season. The roots and leaf pores absorb the food. The best times to spray with a surfactant to ensure absorption are early morning and early evening. A drip irrigation method is also suitable for liquid fertilizers.

Organic fertilizers in essence are not very different from chemical fertilizers in their ease of use, but they nourish the plants and the soil for long term sustenance.

 

Improving Farming Prospects with Organic Certification

india organic usdaThe term organic is used widely in the context of farming. But do farmers truly understand the potential of an organic certification?

Organic certification and international markets

A simple certification can open access to international markets for farmers. Organic certification is provided by the Tamil Nadu Organic Certification Department located in Coimbatore, following strict protocol recognized by international organic certification bodies. The quality manager at TNOCD, P Palanikumar believes that awareness about the certification is slowly catching up. According to his records there is over 22877 acres of certified organic farm land in Tamil Nadu alone.

A peek at the certification process

Organic certification is proof of authenticity not only in the local markets but also in the global markets. Dr. Tom P Silas, an evaluator with TNOCD said that the organization was “one of the seven government certifying bodies in India accredited by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), which functions under the ministry of commerce and industry.”

The minimum period of conversion from a conventional farm to an organic farm according to the certification process is three years. The conversion period is closely monitored by the authorities. Crops irrigated solely through rain water and groundwater are eligible for organic certification. Adherence to the National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) guidelines is essential in order to receive certification.

The organic certification is valid for one whole year, after which it has to be renewed to maintain the international standards. The certification process includes sample and field verification amidst other procedures.

Although the certification process can be tedious and often daunting, the return on investment is significantly high. In order to help farmers, TNOCD has centers in Madurai, Vellore, Coimbatore and Madurai. The phone number for TNOCD is 0422-2435080.

Organic Farming Believed to Improve Crop Yields

Resource-conserving methods and organic farming is believed to yield better crops for small farms. A study also found that organic farming is linked to better income and food security. Although the study needs to be backed by extensive evidence, Steve Franzel, an agricultural economist working with the World Agroforestry Centre reported that, “The findings show at the farm level it [organic farming] appears to be very positive – more than many people think.”

The debate between conventional and organic farming

In an environment of rising greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs, the sustainability of the conventional farming methods is called to question. Chemical dependent farming leaves residual pesticides in the soil, reducing the biodiversity of the area and causing soil erosion.

A possible solution for this scenario would be to use sustainable farming practices including, conservation tillage, integrated pest and nutrient management, agroforestry, water harvesting, aquaculture and livestock integration.

The ORCA review

ORCA or Resource-conserving farming was reviewed through a case study that looked at 31 farms, each farm smaller than 7 hectares, in Africa and South America that switched to ORCA farming. The crop yield, food security and income rose in more than half the farms. The more mixed results came from farmers who switched from modern chemicals to organic products.

This switch from conventional to ORCA was more beneficial to farmers who had organic market access. With ORCA farming, farmers can easily adopt to the changing market and also farming conditions.

But Franzel is vary of advocating ORCA farming as he says, “What is missing is hard data on performance : there are so few case studies analyzing objectively what is going on.” While it is evident that organic farming may be holistically beneficial, the debate rages on without complete scientific data backing organic farming.