Organic Farming: Inevitable for Conservation of Natural Resources and Maintenance of Ecological Stability

Organic Farming

Organic Farming

Inevitable for Conservation of Natural Resources and Maintenance of Ecological Stability 

-Dr. Arvind Singh

Organic farming is a system of farming that does not use any form of chemical fertilizer or other agro-chemicals and is dependent entirely on organic sources for crop nutrition and crop husbandry. The main objective of organic farming is to develop a sustainable agriculture system, which maintains soil fertility, conserves the environment and ensures adequate food production. 

Organic farming is also known as ‘Eco-farming’ and ‘Natural farming’. In this farming system, the maintenance of soil fertility and the control of pests and diseases are achieved through the enhancement of biological processes and ecological interaction.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) organic agriculture is a "holistic production management system, which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystems health including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity”. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs taking into account that regional conditions require locally adopted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological and mechanical methods as opposed to using synthetic materials to fulfil any specific function within the system."

Biologically active soil is the foundation of organic farming. Plants grown in healthy soil are naturally more resistant to pests and diseases. The fertility of the soil in organic farming is maintained through the use of farmyard manure, green manure, compost, vermin-compost, plant residues, and bio-fertilizers. Therefore, in organic farming, the cultivation cost is low compared to conventional farming. In organic farming, diseases and pests are controlled through cultural and biological methods and also through practicing crop rotation. Thus the ecology in organic farming is stable.

Organic farming has several advantages over modern farming. This system of farming reduces pollution hazard and less energy is used. Since no chemical pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics are used, residues from these substances are no longer a danger for human health. Organic food fetches more prices than the product obtained from modern agriculture. Furthermore, organic farming is less mechanized than modern farming.

What are the principles of organic farming?

Organic farming practices are governed by a number of principles which are as follows:

(1) To maintain soil fertility in the long term without any effect on flora and fauna. 

(2) To ensure the production of food of high nutritional quality without pesticide residues. 

(3) To conserve soil and water resources. 

(4) To promote and enhance the use of renewable sources in farming practices. 

(5) To mitigate environmental pollution arising owing to fertilizer and pesticide-based conventional farming system. 

(6) To ensure the protection and conservation of biological diversity. (7) To sustain the genetic diversity of the agricultural system including the protection of plant, livestock, and wildlife habitat. 

(8) To encourage and enhance biological cycles including microorganisms. 

(9) To promote sustainable production and cultivation process in the long run; and 

(10) To maintain ecological stability. 

Why organic farming has become inevitable?

Modern farming practices heavily based on the the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides have created problems of land degradation, environmental pollution, deforestation, biodiversity depletion, seepage,, and water logging, lowering of ground water tables, inter crop disparities, the emergence of several diseases, pest multiplication, pest resurgence and resistance.

Modern agricultural practices are the major cause of soil, water and air pollution. Chemical fertilizers crowd out useful minerals naturally present in the topsoil. The microbes like bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, worms, etc. in top soil enrich the humus and help to produce nutrients to be taken up by the plants and later by animals. However, fertilizer enriched soil is unable to support microbial life and hence there are less humus and fewer nutrients and the soil easily becomes poor and eroded by rain and wind.

Excessive uses of nitrogenous fertilizer in modern farming decreases the potassium content of crops. Similarly excessive potash treatment decreases valuable nutrients in foods, such as ascorbic acid and carotene. The use of superphosphate leads to copper and zinc deficiency in crop plants. Nitrate fertilizer increases the crop yield (carbohydrate) but at the expense of proteins. Excessive fertilizer use produces over-sized fruits and vegetables, which are prone to insects and other pests.

The fertilizers used to raise the crop yield are drained by rain water to the adjacent fresh water bodies like rivers, lakes, and ponds causing nutrient enrichment (especially nitrate and phosphate) of the aquatic bodies. This phenomenon is called ‘eutrophication’, which triggers the luxuriant growth of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). The algal growth forms floating scums or blankets of algae called algal blooms. Blooms of algae are generally not utilized by zooplanktons. The algal blooms compete for light for photosynthesis with other aquatic plants. Thus oxygen is depleted. 

These blooms also release some toxic chemicals, which deteriorate the water quality. The decomposition of blooms also leads to oxygen depletion in the water. Thus in poorly oxygenated water with higher carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, fishes and other animals begin to die and clean water is turned into a stinking drain. The drinking of nitrate and nitrite contaminated water causes the disease ‘methemoglobinaemia’ in children, which interferes with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. This leads to various disorders like damage to the respiratory and vascular system, blue coloration of the skin and even cancer.

The pesticides moving from crop fields to aquatic bodies affect the aquatic flora and fauna. Many of non-biodegradable pesticides (Chlorinated hydrocarbons) like D.D.T (Dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane), B.H.C (Benzene hexachloride), etc. enter the food chain and reach the human body causing a harmful effect to human health. 

The concentration of pesticides increases with increasing food chain and the phenomenon is known as biological magnification. India's daily diet is reported to contain 270 µg of D.D.T and the level of accumulated D.D.T in the body tissue of an average Indian is highest in the world varying between 13 to 31.0 ppm (parts per million). 

Cases of cancer, deformities, hepatic diseases and neurological disorders from pesticide poisoning have been reported from cotton growing areas of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Pesticide endosulfan used in aerial spray by Plantation Corporation of Kerala over the areas of Kasaragod and Rajapuram cashew plantation lead to severe cases of child blindness, physical retardation, and cancer in these areas.

The excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizers causes acidification of soil, resulting in the loss of soil fertility. The indiscriminate use of pesticides to control pests kills several useful flora and fauna of the soil, which promotes soil fertility. Besides the targeted insects, useful insects promoting cross and self-pollination are also killed. This leads to a decline in crop productivity owing to the reduced rate of pollination accomplished by insects.

Microbial action on nitrogenous fertilizer in the soil leads to formation of nitrous oxide, which causes the thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer. The latter is a protective shield filtering harmful ultraviolet radiation emanating from the sun. Excessive use of water for irrigation in modern agriculture leads to water logging which causes an anaerobic conditions in the soil resulting in the production of methane gas by methanogenic bacteria. Methane (CH4) is a potent green house gas causing global warming is increasing at the rate of 1% per annum.

In modern farming practices, there is the constant use of some high yielding varieties of the crops in place of nutritive indigenous varieties resulting in uniformity in biodiversity. This poses threat to the loss of biodiversity. The gradual loss of variability in the cultivated forms and in their wild relatives is referred to as ‘genetic erosion’. This variability arose in nature over an extremely long period of time, and if lost would not be reproduced during a short time period. In modern farming, the loss of biological diversity is enhanced due to overexploitation of natural resources, excessive use of pesticides and environmental pollution.

The various aforesaid side effects of expensive modern farming on soil, crops and human health have compelled to look for an alternative in the form of organic farming. The latter is inexpensive, sound, safe and sustainable in the long run without any adverse impact on the environment. Therefore, organic farming has become inevitable to tackle with the problem of land degradation, environmental pollution, biodiversity depletion and contamination of food grains from pesticide residues.

How management practices in organic farming does differs from those of modern farming?

The management practices for organic farming differ from those of modern farming. The important steps in this type of farming are conservation of soil and genetic resources, integrated nutrient management, integrated weed management, and integrated pest management.

Tillage practices in organic farming aim at reducing soil degradation. Therefore, conservational tillage is adopted in place of conventional tillage. Conservational tillage is disturbing the soil to the minimum extent necessary and leaving crop residues on the soil. Zero tillage and minimum tillage are the types of conservational tillage which reduce soil loss up to 99% over conventional tillage. In most cases, conservation tillage reduces soil loss by 50% over conventional tillage. Moreover, conservational tillage maintains the organic matter content of the soil and prevents the removal of nutrients from the soil through rainwater. Conservational tillage also causes an increase in microbial and earthworms population in the soil.

Organic farming emphasizes the cultivation of different indigenous nutritive local varieties of crops in place of few high yielding hybrid varieties only.

In organic farming, besides manure, green manure, compost and vermi-compost, oil cakes and oil meals play a key role as natural fertilizers. The commonly used organic nitrogenous fertilizers include rapeseed, mustard, neem, castor, mahua, karanja, and linseed cakes. In addition to these, cakes from sal, groundnut, and soyabean are also used in various combinations to increase yield and control pests.

Organic fertilizers have a slower action but they supply available nitrogen over a longer period of time. Besides, they protect useful flora and fauna of the soil; ameliorate yields and quality of products. Since there is increase in soil fertility, the biological activity is maintained intact.

In organic farming nitrogenous bio-fertilizers like Azolla pinnata (Pteridophyte), Anabaena, Aulosira, Nostoc, Scytonema, Tolypothrix, Cylinderospermum, Camptylonema, Westiellopsis (Blue green algae) and Azorhizobium, Bradyrhizobium, Mesorhizobium, Rhizobium, Sinorhizobium, Azotobacter Azospirillum and (Bacteria) are used to raise the fertility of soil. Furthermore, the fungi Aspergillus, Penicillium and Trichoderma are used as cellulolytic bio-fertilizers to enhance the rate of organic matter decomposition for the quick release of nutrients in the soil. The bacteria Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas putida, and Pseudomonas fluorescens are used as phosphatic bio-fertilizers to solubilize phosphate.

The application of bio-fertilizers like Azospirillum makes the plant hardier by producing certain phenolic substances and eventually provides resistance to pests and diseases. Blue green algae not only fix atmospheric nitrogen but also excrete vitamin B12, ascorbic acid, and auxins, which improve the growth of crop plants. They also possess the properties of solubilizing the bound phosphate of the soil.

In organic farming, the weeds are controlled by the employment of physical, cultural and biological method. Insect pests are controlled by a combination of cultural and biological methods and at the same time use of resistant crop varieties.

Crop rotation practices are key to the success of organic farming. Crop rotation is not only important for soil fertility management but is also helpful in weed, insects and disease control. Legumes are essential in rotation practices for nitrogen supplement to the soil. The practice of mixed cropping increases the crop yield and avoids the chances of disease occurrence and pest infestation.


It can be concluded that modern farming heavily based on chemical fertilizers and pesticides has led to the problem of environmental deterioration, depletion of natural resources, and loss of biodiversity and pest resurgence. Organic farming, which strictly avoids the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and growth hormones conserves the environment and natural resources and checks the loss of biological diversity. The food grains produced through organic farming are free from pesticide residues and are of high nutritional quality. Therefore, organic farming is inevitable for the conservation of natural resources and the maintenance of ecological stability.
Dr. Arvind Singh is M. Sc. and Ph. D. in Botany with area of specialization in Ecology. He is an dedicated Researcher having more than four dozen of published Research Papers in the Journals of National and International repute. His main area of Research is Restoration of Mined Lands. However, he has also conducted Research on the Vascular Flora of Banaras Hindu University Main Campus, India.

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