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.