How Organic Farming is Beneficial for Biodiversity

Compared to conventional farming, the organic farms studied have showed an empirical 12 percent rise in biodiversity. Not only there are more plant and floral diversity, the land also showed an increase of butterflies, earthworms and insects. The bird population had also risen.

Long term sustainability

Majority of changes observed in environment tend to be long term. They occur slowly over the course of time. When organic farming is done, there are both medium term and long term effects on the agricultural ecosystem. The aim is to produce food and simultaneously establish the necessary ecological balance to prevent pest or soil fertility problems. A proactive approach is taken in the case of organic agriculture.

Soil

Organic practices involve soil building activities like crop rotations, cover crops, minimum tillage, inter-cropping, organic fertilizers and symbiotic associations. Flora and soil fauna are encouraged. Soil formation is improved and stable systems built. There is an increase in energy and nutrient cycling, and the ability of the soil to retain water and nutrients also get enhanced. These compensates for the absence of mineral fertilizers. These management techniques play a vital role in controlling soil erosion. The amount of time of the soil being exposed to the erosivea forces decrease, and soil biodiversity thus increases. There is also a reduction in nutrient losses, and soil productivity is increased.

Use of water

Many agriculture areas see ground water pollution due to addition of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In organic culture, the use of such substances is forbidden. Organic fertilizers are used as substitutes. There is also increased biodiversity, resulting in an enhanced soil structure along with water infiltration. Since organic systems have better retentive capabilities when it comes to nutrients, the groundwater pollution risk is greatly reduced. In a few areas where pollution can pose problems, the conversion to organic culture gets encouraged. It functions as restorative measures.

Change in the climate

The practice of organic farming reduces the use of non-renewable energy by the reduction of agrochemical needs. The greenhouse effect is mitigated by organic farming. Global warming is also reduced by the latter’s ability to sequester carbon in soil. A number of organic farming practices increase carbon return to soil. This favors carbon storage and productivity is raised. The greater the organic carbon gets retained in the soil, the more the agricultural mitigation potential against the climate change.

Biodiversity

The organic farmers can be regarded both as users and custodians of biodiversity. This is applicable at across all levels. The gene level sees adapted and traditional breeds and seeds are preferred for their resilience towards climatic stress and disease resistance. When one comes to the species level, the large combinations of animals and plants optimize energy and nutrient cycling for production of agriculture. The ecosystem level sees natural areas’ maintenance both around and within organic fields. The absence of any chemical additions creates perfectly suitable habitats for the wild-life. Maximum use of the underutilized species reduces agro-diversity erosion. This results in a much healthier and robust gene pool. It becomes the basis for any future adaptation. Pest predators and pollinators play an important role.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Organic farming practices do not allow GMOs at any stage of food production by organic means. It should not be used in handling or processing stages as well. Organic farming encourages natural biodiversity. The organic label thus offers and assurance of GMOs being used intentionally in processing and production of organic products. The mention of GMO in labelling has not enforced in most countries.

Nutritional differences between organic and conventional farming

It is believed that consumers who opt for organically grown foods over conventional ones do for a number of reasons. These include health and environmental concerns over fertilizer and pesticide use in conventional practice. There is also the perceived superior nutritional value of the organic foods. Due to this reason, organic foods are more expensive than their conventional counterparts.

 

Organic agriculture compared to conventional agriculture

Conventional agriculture and organic culture are two different ethos. The basic difference between the two can be summarized as follows:

 

Organic farming

  • Decentralized
  • Community
  • Diversity
  • Independence
  • Harmony with nature
  • Restraint

 

Conventional farming

  • Centralization
  • Competition
  • Specialization
  • Dependence
  • Domination of nature
  • Exploitation

 

Description of organic farming

Organic farming is believed to improve the fertility of soil. This cannot be achieved by conventional farming techniques even if it done following a few ecological principles. Organic farming employs a number of methods like crop rotation, crops integration, inter-cropping, double-digging and mulching. The unique nature of organic agriculture is that there is a near complete prohibition of synthetic input and there is a compulsory rotation of soil building crops.

However, there can be exceptions on the use of synthetics in organic farming. All natural inputs may also not be tolerated. The latter may not only cause harm to human health but also to the environment. A prime example of this is arsenic. A few synthetic inputs can be regarded as essential  and also consistent with the philosophy of organic farming. Insect pheromone is one such example. Even though many farmers only use natural products, this factor would not solely led the crops to be termed organic.

 

Conventional farming

Modern farms have less use of skilled husbandry that was once the guiding principle of making any land a productive one. Stress is laid on productivity. Chemicals are literally poured in to the soil for high productivity and consequent monetary returns. Both of them tend to reduce over period of time. The all important considerations of what will happen to the land, food it produces, individuals who consume it and communities losing out, are overlooked.

Proponents of organic farming have consistently reported a number of beneficial findings like reduced nitrate content, greater amounts of Vitamin C, and also more mineral content like calcium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron in the organically produced foods. Same findings are reported for green leafy vegetables, strawberries, pears, wheat, peaches and apples.

The problem with comparing organically grown and conventionally produced crops is variability. Innumerable studies were conducted and conflicting results found. This happened due to the variability of the way these studies were designed and then executed. It is thus almost impossible to compare the findings.

The studies have found the presence of more mineral content like calcium, sodium, magnesium and iron in organic foods compared to the conventional foods. This study must be read in light of the fact that a majority of consumers purchase from supermarkets. A lot of variability exists in such conditions. Details like growing conditions, freshness, cultivar and even harvest maturity are ignored. Produces for sale in commercial environments are usually harvested at varying times, stored differently and shipped differently too. All of them affect the nutritional factors of the food meant for consumption.

The result of using fertilizers is an extremely common method of finding the superior quality of organic foods. Manure based and synthetic fertilizers are examined and the crops produced with their help are also taken into account. Use of manure results in greater presence of Vitamin A, C and B12 in a number of crops. It is seen that the phytochemical content in organic produce is also much greater compared to conventionally grown crops.