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Health and Environmental Benefits of Organic Farming

What are the benefits of organic farming?

1. Organic agriculture aims to sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.

2. It is receiving world-wide attention as well.

3. It does not use harmful pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers which are known to cause some human health hazards.

4. They are more nutritious and higher in antioxidants because they are grown on more nutrient-rich, nutrient balanced and healthy soils.

5. Eating organically grown fruits and vegetables could increase body antioxidant intake by around 20-40%.

6. Organic farming ensures that food grains, fruits and vegetables are not subjected to any harmful human interventions or genetic modifications.

7. Diseases, pests and weeds are managed through good soil health for natural plant resistance, selection for stronger plants, crop rotations, natural predators and beneficial insects.

8. A decade of research at the Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal showed that the application of various organic manures (cattle manure, poultry manure, vermicompost) resulted in improvement of seed/grain quality of soybean, chickpea and wheat grains.

Why is conventional farming harmful for the environment?

1. Conventional agriculture relies mostly on synthetic fertilizers, especially nitrogenous fertilizers.

2. Half of two-thirds of this nitrogen finds its way into rivers and water bodies, affecting both freshwater and marine environments.

3. This leads to dead zones such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico which interferes with fishing.

4. There are 146 dead zones around the world and nitrogen fertilizer run off from agricultural lands is largely responsible for most of these.

5. It uses antibiotics or hormones in raising livestock.

Which methods help in improvement of soil?

1. Using biological means of nutrient supply through composts, animal manures and legumes in a rotation and as cover crops builds soil organic matter under organic farming.

2. This increases soil water retention capacity and supports more active soil microbial communities that fix nitrogen and retain it in soil organic matter.

3. Organic farming fosters above and below ground soil biodiversity.

4. Increased soil organic matter contributes to greater soil resilience under the influence of different environmental stresses like droughts and floods.

Where is the way ahead?

1. Out of 18 environmental impact indicators studied (floral diversity, faunal diversity, habitat diversity, landscape, soil organic matter, soil biological activity etc.), organic farming systems performed significantly better in 12 and performed worse in none.

2. Global climate change and disturbed environment is affecting crops and water availability causing hunger, malnutrition and social unrest.

3. Under organic farming, the primary strategy to mitigate climate change is by increasing carbon sequestration in soil.

4. This can be done by the use of organic manures and other organic inputs.