Organic growing will optimize growth, yields and profits for the farmer and optimize variety and pleasure for the home gardener. To read more on Organic growing or if you wish to convert to organic Farming practices read Botany The Science of Plants Chapter 33 on The Organic Way.
Organic agriculture or growing is about making the work easier and working with nature and about being sustainable, using what is available locally. Your organic practices must focus on applying inputs that work in a symbiotic relationship with nature to improve the soil biological activity that uses scientific approaches to increase soil fertility in a harmonious relationship between the crops grown and the surrounding environment.
Organic practices reduce and eventually eliminate the need for toxic chemicals while at the same time the results of good farming practices improves yields, uniformities and quality of produce.
The ultimate size, shape, colour and health of your produce will improve without any interference from humans.
The most significant aspect of growing organically will be realized in soil moisture content. The improved water carrying capacity of the soil with lower input costs financially and environmentally as a result.
Improved soil structure will also lead to less run off which means less nutrient loss in times of high rainfall with microorganisms responding and returning the soil to its original healthy state far sooner. This means less contamination of our waterways and the need to replenish hazardous chemical fertilizers.
Synthetic fertilizers add significantly to soil acidification and salinity especially acid sulphate soils. Carbon based soils have a strong buffering affect against salinity and chloride accumulation. Better soil structures are directly proportional to healthier, stronger root growth resulting in healthier plants overall.
Tests prove over and over again that organic soils are high in microbe activity with dramatic increases being achieved within 12 months which suppresses harmful plant pathogens.
Plants grown organically have shown remarkably greater tolerances to heat and cold stress. (This was especially noticeable on our orchard where after the third year we had no collar deaths from grafts separating; as a result of freezing, where as near by orchards still experienced the set backs with young trees despite faster growth in the initial years.)
If you think this is a ranting organic farmer pushing his own barrow let’s look at some real life cases on real farms where people have to make a living and how organics work where the research has been undertaken by government research station.
Biological Chemical Transfer:
These are the reactions in nature where in less than under ideal conditions nature can and will produce the missing chemicals in the soil or make up the differences of what is taken up so a trend towards a balance remains in the soil. How this is done is a complete mystery to scientists and is not understood. What we do know is it really does occur. Most people at this stage will not believe that nature can transfer one element to another.
Let’s look at uranium. We all know that uranium has a half life and during that period uranium changes to lead.
We all know that Hydrogen forms Helium under tremendous energy in the suns outer corona so why can’t chemicals change from one form to another using energy forms here on earth that we are yet to discover or even have the ability to fully understand at this time in life?
We all know that legumes can mobilize nitrogen N2 as a gas and change it to a new water soluble compound ammonium or water soluble nitrates. A simple chemical reaction that scientists fully understand. Recently it has been noticed that some fungi actually have higher levels of phosphorous around their mycorrhizal than the surrounding soil yet there is no depletion of phosphorous in the surrounding soil or surrounding the fungus so where did the extra phosphate molecules originate from?
For abstract purposes my figures are purely making the point and are not to be quoted as fact. Let’s take an egg an ordinary chicken’s egg. The egg weighs just 50 grams. There is 5 grams of calcium in the shell, album and yoke. Add heat from the mother’s body or an incubator and in three weeks a chicken hatches where the feathers contain calcium, the blood contains calcium and the bones contain calcium. The shell is still present but now we have in total, over twice the amount of calcium. Irrespective of whether the mother hatched the egg or it was hatched in an incubator. The question remains where has the extra calcium come from?
Let’s take a close look at observations done in Victoria by the Primary Industries department on adjacent 20 adjacent farms. We will specifically look at two dairy farms for the purpose of arousing discussion but the results were repeated not just on one pair but 20 isolated pairs. One was organic and the other was using dare I say it synthetic fertilizers. The dairies were adjacent to each other and had similar aspects, soils and outputs. The differences were the outputs. The soil chemical analysis was carried out where the calcium content was measured along with leaf tissue analysis of the pastures. Both farms had very similar readings at the beginning. After 8 years of continual observation and management where the organic farmer used no lime, dolomite or gypsum while his neighbour used a variety of measures to continually correct the pH imbalances caused by the adding of synthetic sulfer base nitrogenous fertilizers to the soil. Both farmers were removing calcium through the process of milk from their milking cows. TEight years later the Calcium remained fairly consitant to the results taken 8 years earlier.
The question again arises, where did the extra calcium and other nutrients come from? I assume the organic farmer’s milk still contained calcium and it was being removed at a similar rate as the non organic farmer’s dairy milk.
It doesn’t stop there if you think there was a conspiracy let’s take a look at two identical apple orchards in Greece on adjacent properties. The nutrient levels of the soil and trees including carbon and selenium were measured.
After 11 years of similar production rates the only significant differences were in nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and copper which were higher on the conventional orchard than the organic orchard. The results were still at the “optimum” level range on the organic orchard. The Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium would have been added as synthetic fertilizers while the copper would have increased as a result of using copper based fungicides. That explanation is easy, but where did the elements come from to produce good quality organic apples over such a long time in the organic orchard?
The other significant differences on these 2 orchards was to be found in zinc, iron, manganese and carbon all of which were higher on the organically orchard. Interesting considering apples are high in zinc and manganese. The question has to be asked where did the extra zinc, copper and manganese come from to produce the organic apples for 11 years?
While there are significant variations in the results, with some conventional crops having larger quantities of some vitamins than organic crops, the overall trend is that organic fruit, vegetables and milk are more likely to have higher ratios in other chemicals and a better balance along with beneficial enzymes often lacking or at low levels in synthetically grown crops. The next step in the research is to identify the agricultural practices responsible for these trends. (Research data on the European farms is extracted from the Newcastle University web site in Europe.)
The Rodale institute in the United States of America after 30 years of side by side research stated “Organic farming is far superior to conventional farming systems when it comes to building, maintaining and replenishing the health of the soil. For soil health alone organic agriculture is more sustainable than conventional. When one considers yields, economic viability, energy usage and human health it is clear that organic is sustainable while present conventional practices are not. (Our experiences are in italics within the brackets.)
FACTS: * Organic yields match those of conventional farms and orchards. (Our orchard at Nana Glen actually showed better production rates in mandarins and lemons than near by orchards on similar soils and climatic conditions.)
* Organic out performs in years of drought. (Our orchard in Nana Glen out performed local orchards year after year in drought and years of flood. When you consider that citrus prices and dollar returns are substantially higher during drought and flood periods the farmers economic returns for work are much better. The farmer’s labour costs are also lower in years of drought and flood and workers are keener to work on organic farms because their returns are also higher.)
* Organic farms build rather than deplete the soil’s organic matter making it a more sustainable system. (We had far fewer nutrient problems than our neighbours. Once the orchard was at full production we had no adverse problems in production for over 4 years.)
* Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient. (In put costs are lower however an initial loss in production for 5 years did occur where the trees and plants need to readjust, natural chemical imbalances occur and pests become a temporary problem until a healthy balance was restored. We used fewer inputs decreasing to no inputs in the final phases; we used no fungicides for 10 years or herbicides for 12 years which saved money. Insect control was always through the purchase of parasitic wasps or carnivorous insects. The distribution of which was cheaper, quicker and easier than the use of chemicals and far safer for the handler and environment.)
* Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gasses. (In today’s world where the world’s climate patterns are being threatened Organic production makes far better sense and is and is more economically beneficial than subsidized synthetically produced crops.)
* Water consumption was less on the organic produce. (We used an estimated 80% less water than near by orchards which meant less power; buying smaller pump/s and fuel inputs and leaving more water for the environment. We used one fifth of the water that was recommended by the New South Wales Agricultural department for healthy citrus production.)
* Organic systems are more profitable than conventional systems. (This was very apparent when talking to our neighbours who continually whined at lower prices, 10% to 20% less production and higher labour cost ratios.)
(www.rodaleinstitute.org) With all this evidence available it is surprising that highly toxic synthetic fertilizers, fungicides and herbicides are still in use polluting our environments, farmers and families.
Despite what you may read Australia is the leading country in the world for organics. About 3% of Australia’s rural land is certified organic with over 1500individual farms. This is the highest proportion in the world. Around 40% of the organic produce produced in Australia is exported to Hong Kong, Japan, Germany and the United States. China is an emerging market where middle class wealth is starting to exceed most other nations. The is presently advising China’s largest vegetable oil processor in Chan Chun so that it and its supply chain can reach organic statis.
Authorities in America appear to be deliberately making the transfer to organics more and more complex to frighten prospective farmers off converting to organics and are probably supported by large multinational chemical firms who are making huge profits out of poisoning all aspects of the environment and their customers.
It is not as difficult as the web sites indicate. Talk to other organic farmers, talk to the marketers selling the produce, talk to organizations and they will all offer you friendly help. Don’t be put off by the mountains of useless paper work thrust in your face by government officers.
5 Steps to becoming an organic farmer or gardener: A detailed report and step by step guide to conversion is found in The Science of Plants, Chapter 33, “The Organic Way.”
1. Simply put conversion takes 2 to 5 years.
2. Conversion means the cessation of hazardous chemical fertilizers and the immediate, intermediate and long term use of natural fertilizers.
We used a combination of seaweed, rock phosphate, lime, crusher dust, legumes, local organic products some of which needed to be mulched first. When I first started we used sawdust, road kills and returned yoghurt from the local factory with food scraps collected from the local green grocer.
Over 1000 cubic meters of sawdust were successfully mulched returning the basic carbon with trace elements back to the soil. It took about 2 years to decompose the 1000 cubic meters. Something the Agricultural department agriculturalists said would never work and would tie up all my nitrogen for decades.
3. Conversion means the cessation of all toxic chemical fungicides and the immediate use of naturally occurring substances like copper oxides.
4. Conversion means the cessation of all toxic insecticides and the immediate replacement with beneficial insects while attracting and harbouring them with the use of target remedies. They are easier, safer and cheaper than spraying toxic chemicals.
5. Conversion means working with nature to promote sustainability with higher profits in the mid to long term.
Conversion to organic farming is a long-term process. There are no fixed methods for converting to organic farming. Each farm unit is an individual system and successful conversion requires a careful assessment of the resources available and the interactions between components in that system.
Simplicity of conversion is largely dependent on what you start with. If you start with a degraded resource base then it will take longer and may be more problematic than if the land was already left fallow for many years.
Economic pressures resulting from previous activities can be the biggest constraint to successful conversion. More specialized and more intensive farmed farms will generally take longer to convert. These systems require more time and effort to reintroduce diversity and to reduce the scale of dependence. Organic soils are pure where as the chemically induced soils are akin to someone on drugs. Easing them off the hard stuff and back onto a wholesome life style can have many set backs fraught with danger of returning to the drug or in this case the poison bottle.
The conversion process requires a high level of commitment to succeed and often entails some financial risk in the short term but no more than in chemical induced farming. Furthermore, there is little in the way of detailed information and advice to help you step by step through the process.
Where do I start?
Primarily, the conversion process begins with the personal decision and commitment towards a cleaner better environment with better sustainable agricultural practices and the chance to run a healthy profitable farm business.
Secondly, talk to other organic farmers particularly those in your industry. This is the best source of information and like the old adage “It comes straight from the horses mouth,” there is no “Bull Shit” and don’t be afraid to go back to the source with follow up questions. Most people will feel flattered that you came to them for advice and organic farmers are more responsive to help than chemical farmers.
At the same time it is important to gather as much information about your organic farming products as possible and to be committed. A good understanding of the term organics and understanding of the relevant standards in your sector with compliance of the standards is necessary to gain and maintain certification along with the standards required by other operators that may handle your produce.
Some sources of information include: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__…/Conversion-and-certification-for-organic-far..
* Australian Standard AS 6000–2009. Organic and biodynamic products;
* The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce (Export);
* organic certifiers standards;
* organic farmers;
* conventional and organic advisory services;
* organic farming publications and journals;
* conferences and field days, and
* the internet.
Nutritional values of Organic foods:
We all know that organic farms have more biodiversity, respect the environment, don’t use hazardous and toxic chemicals or synthetic fertilizers but are organic foods any better for us?
To answer this question I investigated several independent research companies for the answers.
The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
Conclusion to exhaustive tests summary is as follows “The multi-billion dollar organic food industry is fueled by consumer perception that organic food is healthier; greater nutritional value and fewer toxic chemicals.
Studies of the nutrient content in organic foods vary in results due to differences in the ground cover and maturity of the organic farming operation. Nutrient content also varies from farmer to farmer and year to year.
However, reviews of multiple studies show that organic varieties do provide significantly greater levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than non-organic varieties of the same foods. While being higher in these nutrients, they are also significantly lower in nitrates and pesticide residues.
In addition, with the exception of wheat, oats, and wine, organic foods typically provide greater levels of a number of important antioxidant phytochemicals (anthocyanins, flavonoids, and carotenoids).
Although in vitro studies of organic fruits and vegetables consistently demonstrate that organic foods have greater antioxidant activity, are more potent suppressors of the mutagenic action of toxic compounds, and inhibit the proliferation of certain cancer cell lines, in vivo studies of antioxidant activity in humans have failed to demonstrate additional benefit.
Clear health benefits from consuming organic dairy products have been demonstrated in regard to allergic dermatitis.”
The American Chemical Society the worlds’s largest science body answered this way “Organic farming provides the highest quality foods without risk to the public health or the environment.”
“While organic oranges were generally smaller they contained 30% more vitamin C.” (This is strange because the one problem my agent continually had with my produce at Nana Glen on our orchard was our oranges were always too large. Sweet juicy and of excellent flavour but too large which meant we secured a lower price than other organic orange growers. On the other hand we received the highest prices year after year for our mandarins and lemons.)
“Organic tomatoes had higher levels of sugars, 40% more vitamin C and pigment molecules like lycopene, an anti-oxidant compound.”
“Wheat grown organically was tested and found to have minimal if any advantages over chemically produced wheat but the agriculture is at least an alternative to conventional agriculture, noting that it uses less fertilizer and no herbicides or pesticides, while providing the same nutritional quality.”
The Alternative Medicine Organization in Europe had some vegetables tested on their behalf of.
All figures were % compared to chemically grown fresh foods.
Open Access found Organic strawberries had 8.5% more antioxidants, 9.7% more Vitamin C 9.7% and 10.5% more phenolic acids.
Benbrook released a review in 2005 of the research comparing antioxidant levels in chemically grown and organically grown foods.
“On average, antioxidant levels in organic produce were 30 percent higher.”
To follow on chemically grown food quality is in fact getting worse; it is becoming mere water and nitrates in cellulose wrapping.
Donald R. Davis, a research associate with the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas, Austin, recently analyzed data gathered by the USDA in 1950 and 1999 on the nutrient content of 43 fruit and vegetable crops. He found that six out of 13 nutrients had declined in these crops over the 50-year period (the seven other nutrients showed no significant, reliable changes). Three minerals, phosphorous, iron and calcium, declined between 9 percent and 16 percent. Protein declined 6 percent. Riboflavin declined 38 percent and ascorbic acid (a precursor of vitamin C) declined 15 percent.
It is also interesting to notate that Nitrate levels increased 12% in the 44 years while organic foods were at the pre 1950 levels. Nitrates are not a vitamin or mineral which is beneficial to animal health. It is a bi product of highly soluble nitrogenous fertilizers in the soil.
Nitrate toxicosis can occur through enterohepatic metabolism of nitrate to nitrite being an intermediate. The Merck Veterinary Manual.
Nitrites oxidize the iron atoms in hemoglobin from ferrous iron (2+) to ferric iron (3+), rendering it unable to carry oxygen. Kim-shapiro, D. B. Gladwin, M. T. Patel, R. P. Hogg, (2005). Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry.
This process can lead to generalized lack of oxygen in organ tissue and a dangerous condition called methemoglobinemia. Although nitrite converts to ammonia , if there is more nitrite than can be converted, the animal slowly suffers from a lack of oxygen. Stoltenow, Charlie and Greg Lardy (2008). “Nitrate Poisoning of Livestock” . North Dakota State University
However, nitrate exposure may also occur if eating, for instance, vegetables containing high levels of nitrate. Lettuce may contain elevated nitrate under growth conditions such as reduced sunlight, undersupply of the essential micronutrients molybdenum (Mo) and iron (Fe), or high concentrations of nitrate due to reduced assimilation of nitrate in the plant. High levels of nitrate fertilization also contribute to elevated levels of nitrate in the harvested plant. Marschner H 1999 Mineral nutrition of higher plants.
In conclusion it is safe to say that organic food is better for you and your family because they contain more vitamins and minerals and are safer because they contain no hazardous chemicals, pesticides, fungicides and insecticides to harm you and your family’s health.
Is there really a difference in the vitamin and mineral content of organically-grown food? New Terra Foods in Cananda set out to check the facts.
“An analysis of organic food nutrition clearly shows that ‘natural’ is naturally better!
First, a little bit of history; studies have shown that the overall nutritional level in food has declined over the last 40 years. Based on a comparison of published USDA figures, fruits and vegetables in the U.S. have about half the vitamin content as was present in the 1960’s. (This could be in part that more food is being grown hydroponically which is pure synthetically grown food. It is also noticeable that I was unable to find a site that could give me the nutritional analysis of Hydroponically grown food. So comparing it to chemically grown soil produce and organics could not be done. Why is there an apparent industry shyness on delivering such analysis for comparison?)
This period coincides with the rise of agri-business and the trend toward factory farming following WWII. Big farms were growing more food (‘better living through chemistry’), but the food evidently was less nutritional.
How does organic food nutrition compare? In one test in the U.S. samples were taken from organic and conventional apples, potatoes, pears, wheat and sweet corn. The following list shows the results:
calcium . . . 63 % higher in organic sample
iron . . . . 73 % higher in organic sample
zinc . . . . 60 % higher in organic sample
potassium . . 125 % higher in organic sample
phosphorus . . 91 % higher in organic sample
molybdenum . . 178 % higher in organic sample
magnesium . . 118 % higher in organic sample
Bonus, the organic food was on average 29 percent lower in mercury than the conventionally raised food (see also Organic Food Safety ).
Other studies have shown that corn and strawberries raised organically have significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods.”
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