If you're planning begin using organic techniques to grow vegetables, it's important to make sure you understand some of the most common problems that occur when organic farming.
Transitional Problems that Occur When Organic Farming
When changing from using conventional farming techniques to organic methods, it can take a while for the soil to adjust to the loss of chemical nourishment. Soil goes through both biological and chemical changes when the transition from chemical to organic fertilizer is made, and it can take the soil quite a while to adjust.
Because of this, plants often go through a few cycles of poor yields before producing at peak capacity when transitioning from chemical based fertilizers to organic nutrition.
The best way to mitigate problems that might arise is to follow a sound nutrient management program. It's important to think about proper soil nutrition and the effects of changing from chemical to organic plant nutrition long before crop production season arrives.
When transitioning away from depending on specially formulated chemical fertilizers for plant nutrition, it's necessary for farmers to focus attention on making sure their crops get the nutrients they need to survive, grow, and flourish.
Soil testing can be the best way to learn exactly the types of nourishment necessary for your particular plot of land. Testing the soil at least once each year provides valuable information that can help you decide exactly what type of fertilizer should be added in order to produce the desired results.
Additional nutrient management techniques include:
- Crop rotation
- Work manure into soil a season in advance of crop production
- Plant cover crops between growing seasons
- Implement measures to reduce water runoff
- Take steps to limit the occurrence of erosion
Using "green" manure as a fertilizer can result in the transmission of various types of diseases into the food supply. E.coli and other pathogens are often present in manure. When fresh manure containing disease-causing bacteria is used to fertilize plants, the pathogens can be transmitted to the plants and the crops they produce. It is essential to make sure manure ages sufficiently before using it as plant food.
Using green manure to fertilize plants isn't the only way pathogens can be transmitted to the food supply. For example, if runoff from fresh manure finds its way into the water used for irrigation, cross-contamination is highly likely. Poor hand washing habits among those who work in all aspects of farming and harvesting can also lead to the transfer of pathogens to produce.
Manure and Compost Storage
When it comes to problems that occur when organic farming, issues that arise related to the manner in which organic fertilizers are stored are among the most common. Compost and manure are major parts of any effort to grow crops organically. It is not unusual for organic farmers to store manure from their livestock or to create their own compost.
If manure and compost piles are stored on soil that has not been properly prepared, many of the nutrients that make them function effectively as fertilizers are leached away through the soil, ending up in groundwater supplies rather than being available for crop nutrition. Manure and compost should be stored only on soil that has been compacted or cemented, and any sloping should be carefully considered to prevent contaminated water from running off.
Organic Farming Success
Even though there are a number of problems that occur when organic farming, the benefits of moving away from using chemical crop nutrition stand on their own merits. When you're ready to transition to organic farming techniques, it's important to understand the risks and take steps to avoid them.