|Chosen papers on organic farming
Multifunctionality of organic farming
In the last few years the range of the agro industrial sector products has been extending, thanks to the abandoning in the market of the conception of Organic Agriculture as a niche and its consequential large-scale presence.
In general terms Organic sector is considered as a proper philosophy, which fulfil itself working compatibly with ecosystem, avoiding waste, and improving environment, animals and people. It also preserves and enhances biodiversity in agricultural landscapes: birds, insects and plants usually showed an increased species richness in organic farming systems. That is externalised by the establishment of farms working in line with natural cycles without use of chemosynthetic fertilisers, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and genetically modified organisms. It usually subscribes to the principles of sustainable agriculture and its theoretical basis puts an emphasis on soil health. Each farm develops its own organic production system, determined by factors like climate, crop selection, local regulations, and the preferences of the individual farmer. However, all organic systems share common goals and practices of this non-conventional system. First of all crops are protected previously, choosing resistant species and using suitable methods. For example they apply rotation of crops: they don’t cultivate always the same crops, hindering settle in of parasites and using soil nourishment in a more rational and less intensive way. They often apply polyculture because planting a variety of vegetable crops also supports a wider range of beneficial insects, soil microorganisms, and other factors that add up to overall farm health. They plant hedges and trees, recreating landscape, offering natural parasite predators hospitality and acting as physical barrier to possible external pollution.
And finally they use “Consociation”, that is to say cultivating in parallel plant that doesn’t please the parasites of the other one next to it. Organic farms relies heavily on the natural breakdown of organic matter in fact fertilisers are natural, such as manure after composting. In conventional agriculture it is considered a waste material and it represents an enormous problem because there is no soil enough to dispose it, while in Organic Agriculture it is an irreplaceable soil wealth. They also use other composed organic substances (moving, etc) and the green manure, that is to say the seeding of herbaceous plants (pulse but also graminaoeous or crucifers) and afterwards their internet in order to fertilize soil for the next crop with the green mass. This is to replace nutrients taken from the soil by previous crops.
In the chemical farms the repeated use of insecticides and herbicides encourages the rapid natural selection of resistant insects, plants and other organisms, necessitating increased use o new and more powerful controls. Opposite Organic farms, if necessary (they allow for an acceptable level of pest damage), protect crops with animal, mineral or vegetal substances: plant extract, for example the pyrethrum, or helpful insects that prey upon parasites but it requires a thorough understanding of pest life cycle and interactions.
A traditional and complementary farming activity is raising livestock and poultry for meat, daiy and eggs. Organic farms attempt to provide animals with "natural" living conditions (ample, free-ranging outdoor access, for grazing and exercise) and feed (organically grown feed, and drugs, antibiotics and hormones, used to optimise certain characteristics, are not used).
Organic products also offer a best organoleptic quality thanks to the observance of seasonal cycles that implies a lower water concentration so a bigger dry weight. Therefore a lot of consumers prefer organic products even if some people wonder why they have a weak over price. That is due to its aim that is, as we said before, to oversee natural requirement and temporal progress. Indeed it prefers, for example, the rotation of crops to repose to monoculture and also doesn’t dig deep and tries to maintain integral the soil as much as possible, slowing down production.
Furthermore on a more abstract economic level, we can underline that the hidden costs of conventional agriculture are seldom addressed in productivity calculations. In fact it is based on importing energy, particularly in the form of fertilizer and other agrochemicals, machinery and fuel, and long-distance transport, while the full cost of these inputs are not recognized. So it is argued that the cost of the side effects of chemical agriculture, like health care and environmental clean up, should be included in the cost of doing agribusiness. Instead, these hidden costs are paid by the public in other ways, such as through taxation to fund services like pollution control measures, and increased health care costs.
Moreover Organic system, with its non-invasive techniques, permits to have less refined products, like wholemeal cereals, richer in nourishing substances. It also allows preservation of common use excluded crop, such as millet, buckwheat or quinoa that in the conventional farming are considered not popular and profitable. This fact is in line with the new pursuit of food quality and the rediscovery of naturality, typicality and genuine tastes. Furthermore organic products can permit celiacs, vegetarians, vegans or people who have allergies to have a richer diet in a society where wheat, dairy products and meat stand out everywhere.
We have to keep in mind that Organic Agriculture wasn’t born yesterday but it draws on ancient systems, balanced with nature. Unfortunately it was abandoned and replaced with conventional and intensive agriculture. That was dued to the simultaneous advances biochemistry and engineering that rapidly and profoundly changed farming. The introduction of gasoline internal combustion engine ushered in the era of the tractor, and made possible hundreds of mechanized farm implements. Research in plant breedling led to the commercialization of hybrid seed and a new manufacturing process made nitrogen fertilizer, first synthesized in the middle 1800s, affordably abundant. During the first decades of the Twentieth century these ideas were resumed by a lot of thinkers whose one of the most important was Rudolf Steiner and his Biodynamic Agriculture, probably the first comprehensive organic farming system. The coinage of the term “Organic Farming” is usually credited to Lord Northbourn, in his book, “Look to the Land” (1940), wherein he described a holistic, ecologically-balanced approach to farming. In Europe we had a normative context only in the last nineties. In fact the Reg. Ce 2092/1991 decrees on production methods, completated in 1999 with Reg. CE 1804/1999 about zootechny. So Organic Agriculture is based on European control system and it often undergoes controls and inspections.
Anyway, though now Organic farming isn’t a niche, its small-scale encourages local economies, and provides social and employment alternatives to concentrated, energy-dependent urban and it doesn’t put small, independent farmers out of business. So it doesn’t destroy rural communities in the process and doesn’t cause the lost of the art of farming, as the conventional agrobusiness, but it improves the quality of life for everyone.
We can say that Organic Agriculture puts multifunctionality into practise, increasing biodiversity, animal welfare, alimentar security, production, rural development and fare trade. This is at the center of most organic farming issues, against the conventional method that produces food destroying rapidly the capacity for continued production and excludes everything not involved in its own profit.
So Organic world can’t be reduced to an “interesting” sector but carried out as much as possible because it is the righter instrument with whom we can organize the territory and the human risources so we have to support it with a persevering commitment.