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Most organic farmers are motivated by more than economic objectives - their aim is to optimize land, animal, and plant interactions, preserve natural nutrient and energy flows, and enhance biodiversity, all of which contribute to sustainable agriculture.

They have adopted many of the soil and water protection and conservation techniques used to combat erosion, compaction, salinization and other forms of degradation. Their use of crop rotations, organic manure and mulches improves soil structure and encourages development of a vigorous population of soil micro-organisms. Mixed and relay cropping provide a more continuous soil cover and thus a shorter period when the soil is fully exposed to the erosive power of the rain, wind and sun.

Organic farmers also employ natural pest controls - eg. biological control, plants with pest control properties - rather than synthetic pesticides which, when misused, are known to kill beneficial organisms, cause pest resistance and often pollute water and land. Reduction in the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, which poison an estimated three million people each year, should lead to improved health of farm families.

Eliminating the use of synthetic nitrogenous fertilizer greatly lowers the risks of nitrogen contamination of water, while crop rotation is a widely used method of fertility maintenance and pest and disease control. Most certification programmes restrict the use of mineral fertilizers, which may instead be necessary to supplement organic manure produced on the farm. However, natural and organic fertilizers from outside the farm (e.g. rock phosphate, potash, guano, seaweed, slaughterhouse by-products, ground limestone, seaweed, wood-ash) may also used .

Finally, crop rotations encourage a diversity of food crops, fodder and under-utilized plants which, in addition to improving overall farm production and fertility, may assist in the on-farm conservation of plant genetic resources. Integrating livestock into the system adds income through organic meat, eggs and dairy products, as well as draught animal power. Tree crops and on-farm forestry integrated into the system provide shade and windbreaks while providing food, income, fuel and wood. Integrated agri-aquaculture may also be found within diverse organic agricultural systems.

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